Earlier this month, the crisis in Iran sparked speculation about the possibility of a new world war that could result in a draft, and the Selective Service and international relations since have become popular subjects. In order to better understand this issue, Generation Next interviewed four people — one from an anti-war organization and three veterans. Answers have been edited for length and style.

Chrissy Kupferschmidt

Chrissy Kupferschmidt is a New Mexico Medicaid Program Manager and former president of Women Veterans of New Mexico. Kupferschmidt served in Fort Hood, Texas; southern Germany; and Fort Drum, N.Y., in the active-duty Army and Army National Guard. She also worked out of a palace in Mosul, Iraq. During service, her highest rank was E-5, a sergeant. At the time of 9/11, she said, she was one of three women in the Light Infantry Brigade of about a hundred foot soldiers.

Question: What motivated you to join the military?

Answer: I wanted a way to pay for college, to travel the world and avoid a boring job. I was only 17 and, despite my somewhat immature motivation, it paid off well.

Question: What was your primary job after training?

Answer: 31U, signal support supply specialist. This is a deceptive title, as it means maintaining and operating anything related to communications, such as phones, radios, computers and video teleconferencing.

Question: How do your military experiences affect your life today?

Answer: They’ve widened my perspective and understanding of the world. Also, because of my veteran status, I have many benefits, like education and hiring preferences, that make my life better.

Question: What are your general feelings on war? Do you think war is inevitable or necessary?

Answer: If you review military history, at least more recent military history, there is some level of a conflict/significant event every decade. Military conflicts are inevitable however and help prevent full-blown war.

Jim Schmidt

Jim Schmidt is a retired veteran who was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. He enjoys speaking about his experiences with high schools across the country. During service, he spent the majority of his time in the jungle outside Hue in Vietnam as an infantry rifleman.

Question: Can you tell me a little about your time in boot camp?

Answer: Basic training was challenging, both physically and mentally. The Army essentially tears the person you were down and rebuilds a new person — one who is more suited to their mission.

Question: How does your military experience affect your life today?

Answer: I struggle with the memories

of my year in Vietnam. All these years later,

I deal with anxiety, nightmares and depression. I jump when I hear a helicopter or a loud noise. I have to be sedated in order to sleep when fireworks are going off around me. I hate what was done to me and work hard to prevent it from happening to others in the future.

Question: What are your general feelings on war? Do you think war is inevitable or necessary?

Answer: Only if politicians and generals are too stupid or lazy to explore alternatives. Many countries and societies survive without resorting to huge defense budgets and costly wars. We are barbarians by comparison.

Question: Do you think the draft is necessary? Inevitable?

Answer: It is politically so unpopular that to even suggest it would be the end of that politician’s career. So, no, we won’t have a draft again.

Question: What are your thoughts on speculation about World War III?

Answer: A war that encompasses large parts of the world? I think it is unlikely. It is more likely that an unstable leader, like the U.S. has right now, would be goaded into unleashing nuclear weapons. If that starts, it would not end well for humanity.

John Ketwig

John Ketwig is a Vietnam War veteran and a published author who has written two books relating to his experiences and his thoughts about war. In his free time, he enjoys writing and playing the drums, and he participates in a local sports car club.

Question: How did you join the military?

Answer: Very much against my will. If you were drafted, your chances of being in Vietnam and in the infantry were much higher. I wanted to avoid that, so I enlisted. If you enlisted, you served for three years; if you were drafted, you served for two. But things didn’t work out as planned. While training as a tank and truck mechanic, I received my draft notice. Despite efforts to avoid war, I had to go to Vietnam — and because I had enlisted, I had to do the extra year anyway. Like so many others, I was just 19 when I arrived in Vietnam.

Question: Would you say the majority of the other people around you were also there against their will?

Answer: I would say about 90 percent were forced into it. Very few people wanted to be there. The most tragic piece of it is: Most people who were wounded or killed were so young, with so much life left to live.

Question: Can you tell me a little about your boot camp?

Answer: It was brutal. My boot camp was at Fort Dix, N.J., where it was very cold. One morning, after we got about 10 inches of snow, we were told our uniform for the day was our combat boots and our boxer shorts, nothing else. We were handed dustpans and told to shovel the parking lots in the early morning so that when the sergeants and the staff came to work they would have a nice, clean place to park their cars. A lot of guys got pneumonia, but if you tried to go home sick or get medical help, you were punished for it. Everyone just wanted to survive and get out of there. It was very disturbing, very depressing.

Question: What are your general feelings on war? Is it necessary? Inevitable?

Answer: I’ve resented war all my life. The military contradicted everything I’d been taught about right and wrong. It was terrible to see the utter contempt that the military had for people, for Vietnam. It was atrocious. There’s no room for that, but unfortunately that’s what America stands for.

Question: Do you think the draft is necessary? Inevitable?

Answer: No, not at all. I think it’s the easy way out. In my mind, it defies the very idea of freedom that our military is supposed to be defending.

Question: What do you say to the speculation on a potential World War III?

Answer: I hope that doesn’t happen. I think one of the best ways to avoid war is to downsize our military, and other countries’ too, but ours is by far the largest and most active. We need to pull back, bring all those troops home, close all those bases, cut our spending in half and put that funding in education, health care, infrastructure, taking care of our environment. We need to stop trying to dominate the world.

Rivera Sun

Rivera Sun is a Taos-based member of Code Pink, a women-led anti-war organization, and author of The Dandelion Insurrection, which she describes as a novel “about ordinary people rising up for extraordinary change using nonviolent action.” She is also editor of Nonviolence News, a weekly publication that collects and shares stories of nonviolent actions around the world. Sun represented Code Pink in testifying to the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, and she believes some of the best ways to serve the country are through peace and demilitarization.

Question: Can you talk about how you testified to the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service?

The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is Congress appointed and court ordered. They were originally told to investigate women joining the draft after an Obama-era court ruling that opened all military positions to all genders. Myself and six other anti-war and draft activists were called to a special session to comment on the anti-draft perspective. I was asked to talk about why Code Pink is against the draft for all people and to talk about how involuntary service in any capacity is slavery. Voluntary service is very commendable and very worthy, but requiring people to join the military actually violates our sense of freedom and liberty — the very things that we as a country are defending.

Question: What are your thoughts on increasing concern and speculation about World War III and the women’s draft that many say will accompany this war?

Answer: They should be rightly concerned. We had this mythology coming out of the Vietnam War efforts that the use of a draft would stop or slow wars, but history has shown us this is not necessarily true.

As for my thoughts on war, those of us who want to see peace in our world, who want to see demilitarization and want to see it invested in other programs such as the college education aspect for young people, no one should have to go into the military to pay for college. If we can afford to send them to the military, we can afford to send them to school, period. For those who are concerned about this, we don’t want to enable whatever administration to be able to call war. We want to be able to draw a line in the sand and say, “That’s enough.” When do we stop, when do we demilitarize, when do we actually pull out of war zones? The men’s-only draft is unconstitutional and it discriminates, but why should anyone have to join the draft? Why isn’t there simply a voluntary reserve pool sign up? The draft shouldn’t be extended to women, it should be abolished. It takes people against their will and forces them to support a system they may not agree with whatsoever.

Question: Is the draft or war inevitable?

Answer: For the draft, no, a draft is not inevitable and that’s why it’s so important to talk about that right now. The former director of the Selective Service actually went on record to the National Commission and said that he believes that the military draft should be ended. Abolishing the draft is actually very possible, and that’s why it’s so important for those who don’t want to be in the draft to speak out.

As for the war part, no, war is not inevitable. There’s an enormous and robust field of peace studies proving effective and being used around the world. We could be using it to de-escalate wars and prevent wars. Actually, there’s a whole number of things we could graciously afford to do if we spent less on our military.

Niveditha Bala is a junior at Mandela International Magnet School. Contact her at niveditha.bala@mandelainternationalschool.us.

Lincoln Byrd is a junior at Santa Fe High. Contact him at lincbyrd@gmail.com.

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