CommunityPam's House Blend

You want to know how desperate the Pentagon is to keep people in the military when they think they’ve fulfilled their obligations? It’s worse than you think — the backdoor draft is sweeping in folks that aren’t fit for duty. Look at the people they are calling up — and deploying. (Post-Gazette) .

Three years after he was honorably discharged from the Army, Frederick Pistorius was surprised to learn he was a deserter.

But there it was, on his doorstep: a letter from Barry W. Kimmons, Deputy Chief, Deserter Information Point Extension Office of the Army Reserve Personnel Command.

“On 12 July 2004 you were involuntarily mobilized to active duty in the United States Army,” the letter says. “To date you have not reported to your mobilization station as required by your orders.” Possibly Pistorius had not responded for two reasons. The Pistorius family had moved from the address in Sharon, Pa., to which the Army had sent its first letter. More saliently, having served honorably in not one but two branches of the U.S. military, with no additional obligation showing on his discharge papers, Pistorius would have had no reason to think he was subject to anything but his civilian job at a local steel plant.

Wendy Pistorius opened the letter and immediately telephoned an official at the Army reserve command in St. Louis.

“I told him there must be a mistake, because my husband had fulfilled his obligation,” she said. “He basically told me that the Army does not make mistakes and that the orders were valid and if he did not show up as per the orders he would be prosecuted and taken to jail.”

…When I first spoke to Pistorius, by telephone from the camp, he said nobody had been given a physical. He told his Army commanders that he had a permanent back injury from a car crash. They were unimpressed by a letter from his chiropractor. His pre-deployment health assessment lists him in this word: “Deployable.”

Pistorius spoke with his captain.

“He said everybody here’s going to Iraq,” Pistorius said. “It’s unbelievable some of the guys they’re bringing down there.”

One man arrived with a hospital identification band still on his wrist. He’d just had knee surgery. One 48-year-old from Alabama had a hip replacement and fused vertebrae in his back.

“He showed them the documents, but they still made him come down to be examined by their doctors,” Pistorius said. Pistorius spoke of a man called back from upstate New York.

He had no teeth and he had arthritis in his leg,” he said.

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and now a professor at Boston University, wasn’t surprised at the report.

The Individual Ready Reserve — that title is a misnomer. They’re not ready,” Bacevich said. “It’s the equivalent of me walking out here on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, and taking the first 5,000 people I meet and saying ‘you’re now in the military.’ “

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding