The Future of Our Military Starts with “Americanism”The number of American citizens who qualify to join the military under current standards is quickly decreasing as the country faces the longest period of armed conflict in its history. As a consequence, service members must go on multiple deployments as the attrition rate rises faster than recruitment, forcing too many units to rely on unfit, unstable, and unprepared service members who put themselves, their comrades, and our country at risk.
When the United States ended the draft after the war in Vietnam, many assumed that American citizens would raise their right hand, take the oath to protect the country, and serve in uniform out of a sense of patriotism. After the Twin Towers were attacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001, this assumption was put to the test — and the result remains a disappointing reality as less than 1 percent of the U.S. population has answered the call.
Despite the shortage of qualified and willing talent, wars in the Middle East and parts of Africa have placed demands on the military like never before, threatening morale, discipline and effectiveness. Examples include multiple suboptimal policy changes such the provision of waivers to enlist high school dropouts, felons and others normally not qualified; increasing soldiers’ deployments from 12 to 15 months; and “stop loss” orders that froze discharges and kept families apart for longer periods.
So what can be done? Will Congress bring back the draft? Highly unlikely, and unlikely to work even if it did. The Department of Defense estimates that 71 percent of the roughly 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States today would fail to qualify based on the current enlistment criteria because of physical or mental health issues, low education scores, or negative background checks. Among those who are qualified, many young people choose not to join or feel no obligation to serve in uniform. This has to change, and AMVETS has made it its mission to do so, starting with outreach to primary, middle, and high school students through the AMVETS Americanism program.
Inspiring a sense of patriotism in American children of all ages and walks of life is the best recruiting strategy for our future military and national defense.
What is the AMVETS Americanism Program?
The AMVETS Americanism Program is a patriotic program the organization offers schools and youth organizations as a resource for teaching children in kindergarten through 12th grade about their American heritage, civics and citizenship. The program includes flag drawing, poster and essay contests that are grade specific and age appropriate.
Who is eligible?
All school age children, K-12. They may attend public, private, parochial schools or may be home schooled. Participants may also come through any youth group such as Scouting or from Church Sunday schools. Students in kindergarten–1st grade can enter the Flag Drawing contest. Students in 2nd–5th grades can enter the Poster contest. Students in 6th–12th grades can enter the Essay Writing contest
How does a child or young adult participate?
Teachers or youth group leaders hopefully will take the initiative to involve their students. The program addresses learning standards in civics and presents excellent topics for writing and art assignments, which teachers can incorporate into their classes.Teachers may also contact a local AMVETS post or department to invite veterans to visit their classes. Students whose teachers or schools are not participating in the program can still enter the contest specific to their grade as a take-home or after-school project. Parents may contact a local AMVETS post or department, on behalf of their children, to submit entries or contact the AMVETS National Programs Department at 301-683-4031.
How do I enter?
Entry forms (PDF files) with contest rules, including the “themes” can be downloaded by clicking on the link below:
Americanism Contest Packet – PDF file (1.23 MB)
The 2018-2019 Americanism theme is “Why should you say ‘Thank you’ to a Veteran?”
Our future themes are:
2019-2020: “What does freedom mean to me?”
2020-2021: “What do I think of when I see the American flag?”
2021-2022: “Why should we honor and respect our Veterans?”
Click here to see a list of the 2019 winners.
AMVETS is a member of the Citizens Flag Alliance
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