Retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal said other forms of service should be as “equally respected” as military service.
“What we need is a broader set of capabilities without everybody being in uniform. Number one, you don’t need them in uniform and it’s not where their talent is best focused but yet their service should be two sides of the same coin. Military service and other service ought to be equally respected,” McChrystal said during The Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project discussion, “Beyond the Draft: Rethinking National Service.”
“It ought to be equally rewarded and it ought to be equally encouraged. And so when we think about it, when a person comes of age the discussion around the dinner table should be, ‘so where are you planning to serve?’ And any of these spectrum things would be fine and they bring where they are best and whatnot — but we have to step away from the idea that only military service is asked to board the airline first,” he added.
McChrystal, former head of Joint Special Operations Command, suggested that airlines could instead announce that everyone who is doing their “year of national service” is able to board the aircraft first.
“Why couldn’t we have a G.I. Bill for everybody who serves and just make it a service bill?” he said.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a former Marine Corps officer, also floated the idea of expanding the G.I. Bill to include civilians.
He recalled being frequently asked on the campaign trail last year why he was running for Congress.
“That’s not a good thing. That’s sad if they are saying, ‘You are actually kind of talented, Seth, don’t go to Congress,’” he said to laugher. “No, that’s a real problem for us as a country and a government.”
Moulton pledged to work to expand national service opportunities in Congress.
McChrystal applauded President Obama’s proposal to allow students to attend community college for free.
“As my wife said, just put a comma at the end that says right after you finish your year of service,” he said. “Because then they’ve invested. They get something but they’ve paid for it indirectly, but the country gets a win both ways. We get people with better values who serve and we get people who take part in education.”
The moderator, Kevin Baron, executive editor of Defense One, asked if student loan forgiveness should be included.
“I think all of those kinds of things should be tied to this because they are investments in the nation’s future, I believe,” McChrystal said.
Former Defense Undersecretary for Policy Michele Flournoy said a national service requirement could be included within some sort of legislation in the near future.
“It’s an awesome idea,” she said.