Syria, War and Eastern Kentucky

By Eric Eckstrom | 

“First of all, i didn't set a red line, the world set a red line. The world set a red line when it said governments representing 98 percent of the world's population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent,” President Barack Obama recently said.

With the Syrian conflict front and center, discussions of war are once again on the lips of Americans, but as it turns out, war, as our constitution defines it, is actually a pretty rare thing.

“If you ask the person on the street. Can you name how many wars the United States has been involved in, they would list off a whole list of things that we formally do not look at scholastically as a war,” said Political Scientist Benny Ray Bailey.

Under our constitution, only congress is given the power to declare war - something that's been done only five times in history; the last time it happened was World War II. But the president has always had the authority to engage in military action without this declaration despite subsequent legislation, which has attempted to limit that power.

No matter what you call it though, these decisions affect folks in a very big way. According to experts, this holds especially true for the Appalachian region.

“What we find is this area of the United States [is that it seems] to have a [disproportionately high] number of voluntary members to the armed services.”

So what is it about volunteerism that seems to resonate so strongly in this region? In order to answer that question, I stopped by the Eastern Kentucky Veteran’s Center to speak with veterans who voluntarily enlisted.

Vietnam veteran Jay Keck volunteered at the age of 18. He says he believes the values of this region help to explain this phenomenon.

“It's the faith, hope and charity, you know. It’s the giving. The coal mine - coal miner's daughter. it's south-eastern Kentucky and i don't want to see it change,” Keck said.

And so eastern Kentucky, America and the world proceed forward - giving us just a moment to reflect on our history.

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