When two teenage grandsons, out of the blue, asked their grandpa what it was like to be in the Army, it got Mel Rubenstein thinking. He was a soldier during peacetime, yet, the draft was still in effect. Rubenstein realized these two boys knew very little about this particular era.
"My first thought was to write my memoirs about the two years I was in the Army and let [my grandsons] read about it," he said. "I mentioned the idea to my brother and a couple other friends of mine and I said, 'Would you like to put your tag on it?' Before I knew it, we had 19 writers."
And that's how it began. A lawyer, a clergyman, an accountant and so forth -- all with diverse backgrounds had one common thread: they were peacetime soldiers.
"There's a familiarity that shows there's a camaraderie and commonality among all of us even if we didn't know each other," Rubenstein said at a meeting with the writers. "We represent the only generation of Americans who were eligible for compulsory military service during a prolonged peace time period."
The stories told by each veteran "eloquently and emotionally" explain how the draft affected their life at that time, Rubenstein said, and how serving in the military enhanced not only their civilian careers, but also their lives as individuals.
"This book is not trying to compare our time in the service with those who served during war time," he emphasized. "But this is an important time in US history; [and it has] largely gone unnoticed."
Research by Rubenstein concluded that no books have yet been written about this military timeframe -- another reason to record their experiences. He wants the younger generations, who are only aware of a volunteer army, to know what it was like serving the nation, whether in war or peace time, during a draft. A history professor at Le Moyne College, Rubenstein said, is very excited about the upcoming memoirs of "this lost generation."