The Conscription Contradiction - November 2014

The Sydney Morning Herald / The Canberra Times

'The Conscription Contradiction'

Professional writer: Chris Sheedy
1500 words

When National Service was reintroduced 50 years ago, it proved to be a surprisingly popular but strangely contradictory political decision.

In 150 interviews conducted with national servicemen - "conscripts" by another name - award-winning writer and UNSW Canberra PhD scholar Mark Dapin says it was not at all unusual for interviewees to be moved to tears as they recalled their experiences.
All had served in Vietnam. Some had seen action and had watched their friends die on the battlefield. Some had supported the war effort in other ways on various army bases.
The strong emotion of interviewees'  some 45 to 50 years after their National Service experience was not related to the level of action they had seen. Nor was it connected to the violence and bloodshed they witnessed. Something else brought the sadness on. Dapin says it was a sense of loss.