Governor: National draft debate needed
|SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Gov. Ted Kulongoski broke ground Tuesday on a project to build a new state war memorial to Oregon soldiers and said afterward that the nation needs a debate on whether to restore the military draft. The $400,000 memorial to Oregon soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan will join five other veterans' memorials on the grounds of the Salem headquarters of the state Veterans' Affairs Department.||
Private donations are being raised, and a bill pending in the Legislature would allocate $100,000 for the project.
A total of 44 soldiers from Oregon or with strong ties to the state have died in the military operations in the two countries.
Twelve of fallen soldiers were in the Oregon National Guard.
Kulongoski, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said in an interview that he fears that regular forces and the National Guard are being stretched thin as enlistment rates decline.
"They're rotating National Guard kids in and out of the countries two, three, four times," he said. "We need a debate about the draft. That's the issue."
The Democratic governor said he remains "greatly concerned" about whether National Guard members had adequate equipment and training as they were shifted to active duty in the Middle East, and whether the state will lose more control over its National Guard forces.
"There needs to be a broader and more public strategy about what the Defense Department plans to do with the National Guard," Kulongoski said. "I worry about the Defense Department being involved in giving the state a very small piece and federalizing more of it."
While saying the groundbreaking wasn't the time to debate the merits of the Middle East actions, Kulongoski also said the nation needs to continue having an open dialogue and "accepting the right of dissent."
Work on the new memorial is being spearheaded by Clay and M.J. Kesterson of Independence, whose son, Erik, an Army helicopter pilot, died in November 2003 in Iraq.