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Realities on the ground

"Realities on the ground" Continued...

Issue: "Obama," Nov. 15, 2008

Lynch, who discusses the rape in her memoir, I Am a Soldier, Too, told Sawyer that it was a difficult decision to reveal the assault, but "people need to know that that's what kind of people that they are, and that's how they treat the female soldiers that are over there."

Historically the mission of the Selective Service Administration is to provide a pool of potential conscripts during "a national crisis" and that, historically, that has always meant providing "combat replacements" for war. Since President Franklin Roosevelt signed the agency into existence in 1940, the United States has actually conscripted troops only three times-during World War II, the Korean, and Vietnam wars.

U.S. Census statistics show males outnumbering females in the 18- to 25-year-old demographic, but only by about 1 percent. That means that if Democrats succeed in changing the law to register women for the Selective Service, about half the pool of "combat replacement" troops in any future draft would be women.

Faith in foxholes

By Lynn Vincent

In Iraq, Cmdr. Patrick McLaughlin dealt with the unspeakable: An Iraqi woman blowing up herself and a baby at a U.S. checkpoint. IED-hit soldiers missing chunks of flesh so large the doctors called them "shark bites." Insurgents blowing up his office (he wasn't in it at the time).

McLaughlin, 47, a Lutheran pastor serving as a Navy chaplain, prayed with a little Iraqi girl as she passed into eternity. He watched a young Marine, an Eagle Scout, die as soldiers discovered tucked in his helmet an ultrasound picture of his unborn child. And the chaplain found himself memorializing soldier after dead soldier, among them women and kids.

"At my age, I call them kids, anyway," said McLaughlin, who served 20 months in Iraq between 2005 and 2008. "Many of them were just 19, 20 years old."

And yet for all that, it was in Iraq that he came to his deepest faith.

He wasn't alone, McLaughlin writes in No Atheists in Foxholes (2008), a memoir of faith and prayer during war. "Back in the states, faith is not a subject people talk about much in the barracks or in their work spaces," he said. "In Iraq, they're not afraid to talk about it. Soldiers are very open about their faith with their peers and with the chaplains."

McLaughlin chalks that up to the immediacy of death. "You grow up real quick over there. All of a sudden, these young men and women see things it took me until I was 36 or 40 to discover."

Like the importance of relationships, of living life and not just treading water. McLaughlin has had military wives tell him stateside, "My husband's just different now. He doesn't like to do the things he used to do like watch TV or play sports all the time." Instead, he wants to spend time with his wife, play with his kids, go to church.

"I'm talking about soldiers who are 21 or 22 years old," McLaughlin said.

And it wasn't just the young guys who found their faith in foxholes, he added: "You would think a pastor would be close to God all the time. But the closest I've been to God in my life was in Iraq."

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