Sunday, November 06, 2005



Recently released Pentagon figures reveal what many analysts have long known-many military recruits come from rural, poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. According to an article in the Washington Post, “Youths in Rural US are Drawn to Military[i], nearly two-thirds of 2004 Army recruits came from counties in which the median household income is below the US median household income. Simply put, these youth, facing more limited economic prospects in their poor rural counties, are observed to join the military to improve their economic prospects.


The Author generally believes that there are often several options to escape limited financial or personal opportunities. But it would be naïve to suggest that there is not a strong link between limited financial opportunities and military enlistment.


The top 20 counties with the highest recruitment rates are confined to the South, and Midwest, with a concentration in Montana. A county from the Author’s original home state, Indiana, is Benton County at number 11. Benton County is a sparsely populated rural county. Many counties in Indiana have high rates of Army recruitment. Some of these counties appear to be more urban counties with greater economic opportunities, so some of this concentration may be due to cultural or political factors that promote interest in military enlistment. And it has long been noted that the strong military tradition in the South promotes disproportionate enlistment figures.

The all voluntary military has been in place for more than 30 years and military officials believe that this force functions more effectively than a military of young conscripts. But when we look at today’s military demographics and correlate this with casualties incurred, it is an inescapable conclusion that the rural poor are incurring disproportionate casualties.


A 19-year old solder from Noble County, Indiana, the Author’s birthplace, was recently killed in Iraq. Below is the poem “Dulce Et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen, a World War I solder poet. Wilfred Owen was killed on November 4th 1918, only seven days before the Armistice to end the “War to End all Wars” was signed. The poem is dedicated to this soldier and to the other casualties in Iraq.

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!-
An ecstasy of fumbling,Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
-My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum estPro patria mori.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori: How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country--an old Latin saying very popular on military gravestones.