Cloud of draft hangs over head of 18 year old males

Shrija Shandilya | The Chronicle

Seniors Ryan Abbot and Nick Brady do not want to go to war. 

Chances are the Mason High School seniors do not have anything to worry about because the draft has not been used since 1973, however, all males who are United States citizens must sign up for the selective service, more commonly referred to as the draft. 

The draft was instituted in 1940 to fill wartime manpower needs prior to the United States’ entry into World War II.

Currently, selective service is more of a precaution and up until 2022, was a requirement for college aid services such as Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA, although initially intended for veterans, has now become an opportunity for all students to apply for financial aid and nearly 20 million students apply today.

Abbot turned 18 in August. He registered with Selective Service when he believed it was a requirement for FAFSA. When he started filling out the selective service application he started to realize the impact of registering for the draft. 

“It’s scary,” Abbot said. “The thought that just at any moment, it could be me, out fighting wars for America.”

The idea of actually going to war is foreign to many post-Millennial generations. For Abbot, registering for the selective service emphasizes the feeling of adulthood and sudden responsibility.

“In high school, you’re surrounded by all these people who aren’t 18, who haven’t begun their adult life yet,” Abbot said. “But here I am, 18 and signing up for selective service and basically saying I have to be ready to serve the nation.”

Nearly 50 years ago the draft was last used to fill vacancies in the Armed Forces. The Selective Service program serves as a list of names from which to draw if similar conditions are met again. Now, however, many are only aware it is still in use due to its connection to financial aid programs and college. 

“Everyone just kind of forgets about it now, but it’s very real,” Abbot said. “I have no idea what it affects because the possibility of war is not a conscious thought in my head, the draft is more just because I have to sign up for FAFSA.”

Since Abbott is now eligible to be drafted, he said that the idea of fighting in war has become more of a reality. Currently, there are 27 armed conflicts globally. In some countries young men are being required to serve in the military, on September 22nd, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted a decree that has led to over 200,000 men being drafted in response to their controversial war with Ukraine. Abbot said conflicts such as this add to preexisting anxiety over registering for the draft. 

“That’s what scares me,” Abbot said. “Right now there are many opportunities in which a draft could be used, which makes the fear very, very, real. ”

Abbot said that the concept of the draft can put some in a situation where they are obligated to partake in something that goes against their beliefs. 

“No one wants to think they’re going to have to be in the military and risk their life for something that they potentially don’t believe in,” Abbot said. “I don’t think anyone should be forced into a position like that.”

Senior Nick Brady initially had an interest in becoming a field medic in the military. After thinking about registering for selective service, Brady realized that the career was altering his college plan.

“When I had wanted to join the military, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about my future with college,” Brady said. “For me, having to do military service would take away from my college plan of going to regular college and then doing further education after that.”

Despite no longer wanting to enlist, Brady was still required to register for selective service. If he chose not to sign up, it could result in a $250,000 fine or up to 5 years in jail.

“It puts this kind of weight that you know that you have to even if you don’t want to,” Brady said. “There are very few ways for men to not have to sign up because it will really hurt you in the long run if you don’t.” 

While signing up for the draft could present a burden, Brady said the requirements to warrant a draft will likely not be met. It would only be used in a situation where the all-volunteer military would not be adequate to defend themselves. 

“There’s not really a good reason for them to engage in the draft again unless there are dire circumstances like listed on their website,” Brady said. “They don’t see a future of needing the draft, but they still have it just in case they need it.”

Regardless of the likelihood of another draft occurring, Brady said that simply signing up for the draft marks a coming of age for seniors and sheds light on the true impact of being an adult.

“Turning 18 and having to sign up for the draft is like a stepping stone,” Brady said. “You’re starting to make your own decisions and you have to do things for yourself.”

Illustration by Allison Droege