Posted: Monday, March 07, 2011 by Travis Cody in

Last week my blog pal Pam asked a really significant question in the comments for my post commemorating the passing of Frank Buckles.  I answered briefly in comments, but after consideration, I thought that the issue Pam raised deserved a full post.

Mr Buckles lied about his age and joined the army when he was just 16 so he could fight for his country in World War I.  Pam's question was, "Can you imagine any 16 year old in today's society doing something like this man did?"

My answer is that I believe there is honor in the act of service, not just the type of service.  And yes, I can imagine a 16 year old in today's society trying to follow Frank Buckles' example.  I do think there are 16 year old kids who would willingly sacrifice something of themselves to do service for their fellow citizens.

In fact, I believe it strongly.  I believe it because I believe in the positive.  I believe in the power of hope.  I believe that our compassionate natures can overcome our hostile natures.

In every society, and in every generation, I believe you'll find young men and women who put others above self.  Military academies are full of them.  You'll find young people volunteering at food banks and with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity.

That's my idealism...imagining the world as I think it can be, and believing there is a way to make it that way, and that there are people of like mind who will work to achieve it.

I know there are more people like me.  We don't make a loud noise, so sometimes it seems a more bleak world.  But we're out here and we're doing the work.  It isn't sexy work and it doesn't get a lot of focus on the news.  It takes a lot of time, and most people who volunteer don't have any extra time to go out and make spectacles to catch the eye of the media.

But believe in it.  Never doubt that there are people out there in service to the less fortunate.  And there are a lot of young people among them.

Would a 16 year old from today's society sacrifice his youth, lie about his age, defy his parents, and join the military so he could fight for what he believed in?  Yes, I think such a young person can be found.  It would be a lot harder to do today, given the level of technology.  But a determined young man or woman would try.

It's about service and selflessness.  It doesn't seem like those things are values in today's society.  I believe they are.  Despite some of the bleak perspectives you find in the news, I believe in hope.

More importantly, I believe that there is honor in service.  And if I believe that, then the law of large numbers ensures that there are a lot more people like me who believe it as well.

Hope.  Idealism.  Service.

Those are not quaint words.  Those are not anachronistic customs.  

Those are powerful words.  And since I believe that words have power, those words and the deeds they encourage matter.


  1. Akelamalu says:

    I believe there are kids like that these days unfortunately the press only ever report on the deadlegs don't they? :(

  1. Well said, Travis. I can imagine it's really tough to do it these days, but if there's a will there's a way.

  1. I'd think that, often, the 16 year olds would be more likely than the 21 year olds to follow such an example, and far more likely than the 30 year olds.

  1. Now a days it is a lot harder to pull off the lie about one age due to computers being able to track down info better and better.

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  1. TopChamp says:

    I know lots of kids who do voluntary service.

  1. JohnH985 says:

    I agree with you 100%, Trav. We see kids that are just a few years past the age of 16 volunteering and if they could some of them might have joined at an earlier age. It's easy to only see the bad kids but I've seen the kind of young men and women that make me proud. I knew such a young man that gave his life in Afghanstain.

  1. Travis, I hope you do not think I would suggest that service in the miltiary was not honorble. My family has served proudly in the service for generations.

    I guess I should have been more explicit. I know that a lot of our 18 year olds are serving their country in all forms of the service. I believe that kids from Mr. Buckle's era were more mature and soldiering was something every young man wanted to do.

    Thank you, I do stand corrected. My statement was very short sighted. I hope I did not offend anyone.

  1. I agree Travis. There were many citizens who signed up after 911. Were they 16? Probably not, but I bet some wanted to, but the age restrictions did not allow it. So much more difficult to fudge your age today than it was back in those days.