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Bartlett: I would have served if called

November 19, 2005|By Roscoe Bartlett

Just after Veterans Day, I am even more moved with admiration and respect for the services and sacrifices that have preserved Americans' freedom of speech. I appreciate the opportunity to correct mistakes in a November 10 letter to the editor.

Choosing to fulfill obligations to serve in our nation's military is an important duty and legacy for me and my family. My father served in the military during WWI. I registered for the draft to serve during WWII, but was not drafted. My brother served in the military during the Korean War. One of my sons served in the military during the Vietnam War.

I came from a very poor farm family and grew up in western Pennsylvania. When I was 17 in the fall of 1943 and before I graduated from high school, I was accepted into college at Washington Missionary College in Takoma Park, Md.

I started attending college in the second quarter, working to pay my way and studying year-round to become a minister.

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As a Seventh-day Adventist, I was raised that I had a duty to serve my country in the military if I was drafted, but to do so by saving life. I turned 18 in June 1944.

I went back to Pennsylvania, took and passed the physical and registered for the draft, intending to serve as a medic.

Medics in the military serve on the battlefield taking care of the wounded, but they don't carry weapons.

I returned to school expecting to be called up. I took a Medical Cadet Corps course so that I could be better prepared to serve as a medic. The following summer WWII ended and the Medical Cadet Corps was disbanded.

The Selective Service System has a single quarter-page document of my classification history.

It lists a questionnaire mailed on July 1, 1944; Questionnaire returned on July 12, 1944; and classification as 1A, available for military service on Sept. 1, 1944.

The document records that a request to appear before Board was received on September 11, 1944, and time fixed for Registrant to appear before Local Board on Sept. 13.

It lists a classification of 4-D, minister of religion or divinity student on Oct. 1, 1944.

I don't know how or why the status was changed. I do know that I never returned to appear before the local draft board. If I had, it would have been as unforgettable as my return for my physical.

In 1947, I graduated from college with double degrees in biology and religion and my minister's license. I wasn't married and was advised I probably would not be hired as a minister until I was married. I was encouraged to pursue my studies in science and was accepted at the University of Maryland.

I earned my master's in human physiology and was hired as a full-time faculty member while I studied and earned my Ph.D. in human physiology.

I later worked for 18 years for the military as a scientist and engineer and was awarded 20 patents for inventing respiratory support equipment to protect the lives of our soldiers, pilots and astronauts. I worked for organizations including the Navy's School of Aviation Medicine and at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHU-APL).

I believe the surest path to peace is to prepare for war and to ensure peace through military strength. That is the goal that I have pursued for 13 years as a member of the House Armed Services Committee. A stronger military will help those who have volunteered and are serving now to protect our freedom. We will forever be in their debt.

Roscoe Bartlett, R., represents Maryland's 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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