Column Date 2007-04-15

Letís raise the enlistment age to 65

We live in America. We’re at war.  We should all sacrifice.

And I don’t mean President Bush’s idea of sacrifice. He told Jim Lehrer on PBS that “(Americans) sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night.”

It’s about time that all patriotic Americans get involved in this war --  particularly our older patriotic Americans who have more time on their hands.

I therefore propose that the maximum age for enlisting in the U.S. Army should be immediately raised to 65. Or more.

Now I know this “Senior Citizen Army” is a tough sell, but remember that our country has a long history of underestimating the abilities of older people.

In early America, you were over the hill when you hit 40. Then, more recently, the AARP decided that you were a “senior” at age 55.  Which meant that life was essentially over – society said you were supposed to move to Florida and play golf.

Don’t get me wrong: we still need strong, young bodies to carry 50-lb backpacks on ten-mile patrols, to dig foxholes and latrines quickly, to engage in hand-to-hand combat, etc.

But I think that brigades of senior citizens can help America win this war – the same way that women stepped up to the plate in WWII.

The elderly could fills lots of jobs in the army.

I think any 65-year-old, for instance, could easily handle the job of “Administrative Specialist,” whose duties, the Army tells us, include “typing and employing basic principles of grammar and proofreading.”

Or how about “Band Member,“ who must not only have a knowledge of jazz, ethnic and popular music, but classical music, as well?  (Having to play classical music should, by itself, leave the field wide open for seniors.)

“Watercraft Operator” sounds a little tougher, since you need to “dock and undock vessels, and drop and weigh the vessel’s anchor.” But any senior citizen who can navigate the Intracoastal Waterway down to Florida in his unwieldy, floating McMansion, can master that job.

Becoming a “Psychological Operations Specialist” should be a no-brainer for many of my older friends, some of whom have been in psychoanalysis for fifteen or twenty years.

There are financial advantages, too. Seniors whose pensions have vanished on Wall Street would relish army pay to supplement their meager incomes. And since they’d now be in the care of army doctors, the Medicare crisis would vanish.

Of course, the army would have to make some changes to basic training. Crawling under barbed wire could be discomforting to many seniors, to say the least. Target practice might need larger targets. And many older volunteers would have to be posted close to bathrooms. But these are minor hurdles.

And if this “Senior Citizen Army” idea catches on in Iraq, perhaps they’ll get lots of elderly Shi’ites and Sunnis involved who won’t be able to remember why they hate each other in the first place.

©2007 Peter Tannen