Friday, March 28, 2008

The Vietnam War vs. the War in Iraq -- Who Should Serve?

I received an email sent to the Alliance of Women Directors about a woman director’s film opening nationwide today – writer/director Kimberly Peirce’s STOP-LOSS. (She previously wrote and directed BOYS DON’T CRY.)

According to the forwarded article by Peter Clines in “Creative Screenwriting” online magazine, Army Staff Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) goes AWOL. He does so because he’s served two tours of combat duty and now he’s getting out of the army. Except that due to the policy of stop-loss, he’s not getting out even though he’s completed his service.

“A moment of instinctive reactions sends him running,” Clines writes. And now he’s AWOL – absent without leave.

Joanne Kaufman in her review of the movie in today’s Wall Street Journal says about that moment – “decides that hell no, he won’t go.” (A slightly paraphrased slogan of one chanted by anti-Vietnam War protesters – “Hell no, we won’t go.”)

During the Vietnam War – against which the background of my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT: A SHARON GOLD NOVEL is set, young men who received their draft notices sometimes fled to Canada rather than serve in the army. This was a drastic decision because, at the time, they could never return to the United States without the risk of being arrested.

In the novel, Sharon’s husband asks Sharon if she thinks her brother would go to Canada if he were drafted. Sharon replies that she doesn’t know what her brother would do at that pivotal moment.

The wars are different – a Vietnam-era drafted army vs. an Iraq and Afghanistan-era all-volunteer army. Yet there are still questions being raised about who should serve.

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