Join or Not Join?
by Laurence M. Vance
I don’t normally visit websites like Military.com. The glorification of all things military just doesn’t appeal to me, as you can well imagine if you have read any of my articles on the military.
Military.com is said to be "the online presence of Military Advantage." It "is committed to the mission of connecting the military community to all the advantages earned in service to America." It was founded in 1999 "to revolutionize the way the 30 million Americans with military affinity stay connected and informed." It is now the largest military and veteran membership organization, with more than 10 million members.
I did happen to visit the site recently after I came across an article by Marco O’Brien, a contributing editor at Military.com titled "5 Reasons to Join the Military Now!" Imagine my surprise when I happened to see another piece of his titled "Reasons To Not Join the Military."
To join or not join, that is the question. But of course, O’Brien’s reasons to not join the military are no reasons at all, as we shall presently see.
Although I have given many reasons on many different occasions for joining or not joining the military, I thought I would present the reasons O’Brien gives for joining or not joining and then offer my own.
In "5 Reasons to Join the Military Now!" O’Brien first lists a general reason, followed by an explanation, and then followed by a military solution. To keep this from getting too long, I will list his general reasons and provide the main part of his solutions (I have corrected a few typos). You can read his entire piece online if interested.
Reason 1 – The Job Market
Solution – Not only is the military hiring, but the military is actually increasing its numbers over the next several years. No experience is necessary and all entry-level jobs come with great pay and benefits!
Reason 2 – Rising Cost of College
Solution – The Military’s Tuition assistance program pays up to 100% of the first $4,500 each year of your tuition costs while serving on active duty. In addition there is the MGIB and the Post 9/11 G.I Bill.
Reason 3 – Health Care
Solution – The military has a great health care plan for individuals and families. How about full coverage with little or no costs to service members or their families? Top-notch health care for free, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Reason 4 – You want to own a home someday!
Solution – Military service men and women have a unique avenue to obtain home loans through the Veteran’s Administration.
Reason 5 – You aren’t getting any younger!
Solution – Join Now! – If you enter active duty at the age of 18 you can be retired from the military at age 38. Don’t be one of those people who look back and regret not joining when they were young.
In "Reasons To Not Join the Military," O’Brien lists five reasons, each followed by an explanation. Because this is relatively short, I will reproduce the entire piece:
1. You want an education and have at least $40,000 dollars just sitting around for you to use. Education is very expensive and $40,000 is actually a very conservative estimate for a 4-year degree. If you don’t want to take advantage of the military paying 100% of your tuition while on active duty and giving you upwards of $50,000 dollars through the GI Bill to use on active duty or up to 10 years after you get out, then the military is not for you. These could, of course, be rephrased as five reasons to join the military: education benefits (see Reason 2 above), employment (see Reason 1 above), travel, free health care (see Reason 3 above), early retirement (see Reason 5 above).
2. You absolutely do not want to have a job that gives you any kind of vacation time! If you are one of those people who never likes being away from the work place then the military is not for you. The military gives you 30 days of paid vacation every year starting with your first year. It could take 20 years with some civilian companies to build up that much time off.
3. You get a scared feeling every time you even think about leaving your hometown. Some people like where they live and have no desire to travel the world at someone else’s expense. The military has installations all over the world and gives its members opportunities to travel like no other company in the world.
4. You would feel way too guilty receiving free medical care for you and your family! Being riddled with guilt can be pretty terrible. If you can’t imagine ever having free health care for you, let alone for your wife and kids then the military is not for you. Imagine how bad you would feel accepting the military’s world-class health care and not paying a dime for it.
5. You want to be really old when you finally retire from a company. There’s good news and bad news here. If you join the military at 18 years old you can retire and start collecting your retirement at 38 years old, now that is the bad news you won’t be really old when you retire from the military. The good news is you are only 38 years old and can go and work at another job until you are really old. The military’s 20-year retirement is an awesome benefit if you want to retire young.
In each of his short articles, O’Brien makes a good case for joining the military from a financial point of view. But there are other reasons to join or not join the military that he has not mentioned.
Here are five reasons to join the military from a slightly different perspective:
1. To kill people. Young men have been killing people by the thousands for years in their video games. I guess that is why the military uses these games as recruiting tools. The aphorism "Join the Army, travel the world, meet interesting people, and kill them" has never been truer. Just ask the hundreds of thousand of dead Iraqis and Afghans.
2. To build your ego. You can wear your uniform in an airport and be thanked for your service by throngs of people you have never seen before. You can wear your uniform to church the Sunday before Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or Veterans Day and be asked to stand while someone asks God to bless the troops. And when you leave the military, just telling people you are a veteran will bring forth shouts of glory, laud, and honor.
3. To be part of the president’s personal attack force. Since World War II, the U.S. military has been exclusively used by the president for purposes other than the actual defense of the country. Soldiers that went to Iraq and Afghanistan, like those that went to Korea, Vietnam, and all the other countries where the U.S. military had no business going, go as part of the president’s personal army. And if they join for financial reasons – as recommended by Marco O’Brien – then they are simply mercenaries like the British hired to fight Americans during the Revolutionary War.
4. To commit random acts of depravity and violence. Want to urinate on dead bodies? Want to bomb wedding parties? Want to kill civilians for sport? Want to rape foreign women? Want to take body parts as trophies? Want to destroy a town and its entire infrastructure? Want to pose for photos with murdered civilians? Want to torture and humiliate prisoners? Then the military is the place for you.
5. To pervert the purpose of the military. Invading countries, occupying other countries, enforcing UN resolutions, nation building, establishing democracy, changing regimes, training foreign armies, opening markets, supplying peacekeepers, assassinating people, maintaining no-fly zones, providing disaster relief, dispensing humanitarian aid, and fighting foreign wars – that is, anything but actually "defending our freedoms" – perverts the purpose of the military.
And here are five real reasons to not join the military:
1. To be killed. There are almost 5,000 U.S. military personnel who came home from Iraq in a flag-draped coffin or a body bag – if there were enough pieces of them to be picked up in the desert sands. Another 2,000 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan. And for what? Absolutely nothing. They all died in vain and for a lie. Why be added to those casualties?
2. To destroy your family. Multiple duty tours and increased deployment terms are the death knell for stable families. Do you think it is good to deprive a child of his father, and in many cases his mother, for months at a time? What makes you think that the military will never send you away from your family for an extended period of time? What makes you think that you and your family will be able to "handle it"? U.S. military families are the unseen victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3. To never have another independent thought. You will be expected to blindly follow the orders of your superiors without questioning their purpose or morality. You will often times not be in a position to know whether an order is in fact dubious or immoral. You will be expected to, without reservation, drop that bomb, fire that weapon, launch that missile, and throw that grenade, as well as kill people and destroy their property.
4. To suffer severe injuries. Many thousands of U.S. military personnel have been wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hundreds have had limbs amputated. Untold numbers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some soldiers will spend the rest of their lives unable to work or drive a car. Others will live out their days as physical and/or emotional basket cases. What makes you think that you will not be sent to Afghanistan, Yemen, or some other God-forsaken place the U.S. military has no business being and emerge unscathed in body and mind?
5. To commit suicide. The suicide rate among active duty and veterans of the military is at an all-time high. No one joins the military with the intention of committing suicide, but dealing with broken relationships, strained families, chronic pain, PTSD, depression, deaths of fellow soldiers, substance abuse, multiple deployments, and/or adjusting to life after the military can come with a price that some are not willing to pay.
To join or not join, that is the question. Your life and the life of your family depend on your decision. After you join, you may never be stationed overseas, never face enemy fire, never be in danger, have a wonderful family, made a comfortable living, see the world, retire after twenty years, and then get a good job with a government contractor – and then again you may not do any of these things. You may die in a training accident before you are old enough to drink. Whatever you do, don’t listen to the promises of the lying pimps known as military recruiters.
Laurence M. Vance [send him mail] writes from central Florida. He is the author of Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare State, The Revolution that Wasn't, and Rethinking the Good War. His latest book is The Quatercentenary of the King James Bible. Visit his website.
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