The military! Join to avoid the inconvenience of the draft! Does anyone remember how they became a part of the military?
My motivation was to escape the dark-side of the 1950s so-called family life when abuse was a parental right. In my case I was “running away” from home. I saw no alternative to joining the Army since I had nothing more than a high school diploma. The same applies to so many in today’s all-volunteer military, they have few if any options; especially urban minorities who want to avoid drugs and crimes as a way of life and have no more resources than the clothes they wear. Fair? Not really! In the context of the stratified American social system, this means the wealthy are less likely to serve and the lower middle-class and poor are recruitment targets.
Opportunity? Certainly! Some speak of the possible college education following a tour. Others take advantage of favorable home loans etc. Rarely are these the initial goal for recruits. Once you raise your hand and swear allegiance to Uncle Sam, your life will change in ways you never suspected. Forget individualism. You begin to think like a robot – what were the instructions for this or that? Don’t think, shoot! The idea is to function as a team but the Army is not up on what makes a team. They are still using World War II notions of teamwork not realizing that behavioral science has taught us that teamwork is a voluntary contribution for the good of the unit. And take it from me; if you cannot shed your independent mind-set under the military system, you are in trouble.
My time was spent in the vacuum tube military in communication intelligence. Once I was asked to listen to Sputnik to determine any secret code that might be there. It said, “beep – beep – beep”. I should have known that beep – beep meant I was obsolete before my tour was over. Alas, the transistor was invented and I was all done. Often I recall that I had to survive a battery of tests, finish in the top ten percent and graduate from six months of training to be trusted with such a heavy-duty code as “beep-beep”.
So what? The “so-what” is this, the military wastes people and the talent by insisting on conformity. You are, after all, a member of a killing machine. The very first name on the Vietnam War Memorial was doing the same job I did. For me it is a reminder of what the military is all about and that concept is very different from the one the Recruiter and I talked about. Beware, you will become a tool and many commanders will not see you as a human. Is a paid up college education worth risking your life, your mental health, and physical well-being? Why not take a moment to search for other opportunities? And pay attention to the actions or inactions of Congress, make that a big part of your decision to join or not join. And, yes, I was shot at and I shot back.
Yes, I went to college, was a part of student government in the Bay Area and I held up my share of anti-war signs. In surprising ways I feel a greater bond with those protesters than I did for the Army. It was an all-volunteer protest group. Cohesion, a real sense of purpose, and it worked for a while. Then things happened: the three greatest liberal leaders in American history were assassinated; Nixon demonstrated that government can and was corrupt; and dissolution set in. We are never going to give peace a chance. We served for nothing.
I wonder how many in the House of Representatives served in the military? Will they send their sons to fight Iran? I wonder how many great minds were lost to war? How much we might have benefitted as a nation from these now dead intelligent men and women?