Yes, there are people on the Left who have served in the military, currently serve, and will do so. But it is clear that they do not represent the majority of those who do. This is a very sad thing. Worse it is something that should not be the case.
Long post explaining why after the fold.
First what prompted this stand that more on the Left should join the military and encourage others to join.
While reading about Ms. Duckworth's (D-IL) smack down of Braulio Castillo the "disabled" owner of a company with cosy contracts with the IRS that the IRS says they can't cancel. I started reading the comments, I know you never see real discussions in the comments but I read them anyways. When I found this:
"I don't feel like I or the nation "owe" the troops special benefits. I didn't want them to fight in Iraq or to stay in Afghanistan after the Taliban was toppled, I don't believe our military adventures of the last decade have made me any safer, and I resent that military veterans are being formally treated as a special class of citizen for having "defended" our country through invading a succession of Middle Eastern nations. I owe more to the roofer who is crippled making sure my house doesn't leak, or the volunteer firefighter who protects my neighborhood for low pay while simultaneously holding a full-time job...I do not support elevating volunteer soldiers, who knew what they were freely signing up for, above comparably dangerous and/or helpful careers."
Here we have a young man (according to his profile <24) who takes great pride in his Leftist leanings and has posted many times that military service is not a good thing.
Sure, his opinion. But it drove home what i've encountered over and over at meetings, events and in forums like Daily Kos, Slate, and HuffPo. A general treatment that because someone went in the military they are dumb and self serving...most likely until proven otherwise. From 2002 to 2008, the treatment was slightly different - that someone in the military was tricked and being abused but with an underling dumb/selfish.
In the last six years it has gone back to dumb/selfish. The quote from above is in this vein. Military members are asking for special treatment for being in the military and they don't do anything of value, or more than the "volunteer firefighter" (or is it low paid firefighter?) After all, they volunteered to join the military - a dumb thing.
Ok, so why should people with left political views join the military?
Several reasons: It is not easy to get in, you have to be fit and smart. You get to put others first and support the greater society. You get to live with many different people - the best way to fight racism. You get many "socialistic" benefits. You make the nation stronger. You can make a change in the military. You position yourself better against the GOP/right-wingers.
First, it is not easy to join. There is the age requirements, between 17 and 35 (in most cases - Navy Reserve is at 39, Army Reserve use to be 42 but is 35 now.) The education minimum: to enlist you must have a High School diploma, it is possible to get in with a GED, but less than 2% do. To be an officer you have to hold a minimum of a Bachelor degree.
And there is the legal side, no arrests for major crimes, few if any arrests for any other crime, conviction of any crime likely will bar you from joining. Felony's are right out. (Yes, you can get a waver, but those are rarer than for a GED.) There is the physical requirements. 74% of all who attempt to enlist that make it to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) get rejected for physical fitness (health issues or just to out of shape). Of the few that get through MEPS, 9% don't complete basic for health/fitness problems.
On the Officer side, you have to complete a four year degree while participating in ROTC activities (or full time at one of the Academies/military schools - West Point and VMI for example) [side note: this is why there are so few minority officers, so few minorities complete college, not because the military discriminates against minorities who want to be an officer.]
So being dumb won't get you in. (as with all things when talking about human groups there are a few who do.) Less than one half of one precent of the US is serving in the military. Under 3% have served, and less than 33% have an immediate family member who served.
Second reason, you get to put others first. Not just the nation, but the people you serve with. Your "job" will require team work, real team work. You will do things that if you don't do them will result in the death or serious injury of your fellow members. Not just in combat but in daily tasks. You will have to trust your fellow members to do the same.
You will not be on your own, doing your own thing, the way you feel like it. You will regularly make choices and do things that will do nothing to advance your career or raise you pay but that will make your unit look good. It will get to the point that when someone in your unit or branch or service does something wrong you will feel bad they failed.
Others come before your needs, the greater good comes before your wants. Yes the individual is rewarded for performance, but as an example of what to be like and in the case of the higher awards, for putting others first over their own needs and safety.
Third, you fight racism by being in the military. Yes, there are bigots in the military, when they are found and won't change, they get kicked out. However, racism is alive and well in the nation, the military draws from the citizens of this nation so it will have racism in the military. But a strange thing happens when you live 24/7 with people of different races, social classes, geographical areas - you don't hold on to the bigotry as well. Even more so when you share the intensity of combat together.
"Local Community Stunned as Soldier Asks Black Army Buddy to be Best Man at wedding" (for those not in the know, the Duffle Blog is like the Onion but with a military bent) Which sums it up well, many people have had very little interaction with others out side their community which tends to be mostly one race. The military takes people from all over and not only puts them in one community but works them together. More so than any civilian job i've every held. This will do more to expand your experiences than any community out reach or volunteer service exchange will, because you go home after that, in the military you live together.
Fourth, you get many socialistic benefits. Some of my earliest posts point this out, but the simple fact is the military has equal pay for equal work - you get paid by the time you have spent in the military and your rank. You have Single Payer, You pay nothing for your medical care when on Active Duty, 100% is covered by the government. They provide you food at no cost...well to the Enlisted. (cloths too)
You get housing based on your need. Single members get barracks, married get housing based on how many are in the family. Your next door neighbor might be an E-7 with three kids while you are just an E-3 with three kids. My last on post housing had an E-8 on one side, an E-3 on the other, and an O-2 up stairs. I was an E-6 at the time. You get a pension, not a 401k but a pension.
You get access to government funded Higher Education - on duty through education plans and after getting out through the GI Bill. I earned a four year degree with $0 debt by using the GI Bill and GoArmyEd. Later gained my Paramedic certification with the GI Bill also. I've taken many classes over the years while on Active Duty that the Army funded.
All these are things the right wing would call "socialism" - government funding of education, health care, retirement, housing, even food and cloths.
Fifth, you make the nation stronger. We know that this nation is worth fight for, or we would not vote for change and resist the corporations. By being part of the military, a branch of the government we have elected, we give the government the ability to train us, teach us, to set an example to others in the nation.
By serving the nation, you learn skills and thinking that allow you to be a leader in the nation when you're done. Leadership can't be taught by sitting in a classroom and writing reports on effective methods of reward to employees. (that can help) Leadership is learned by following leaders and then leading yourself. The military will give you that opportunity. You will start out following many leaders, seeing what works and does not.
Then, very shortly, you will be placed in a leadership position over two or three people. You will make mistakes, but will be guided and taught by your leaders. As time goes on, you will increase in rank and responsibility. Long before you would in the civilian world, you will be responsible for many people who will look to you as a leader.
It is not uncommon (in fact it is expected) for an Officer who is 27 years old with five years of experience to be in charge of 210 Soldiers, their work direction, feeding, housing, pay, training, health, families, everything. The closest civilian corollary would be a manager of Wal-Mart who just directs the work.
Sixth, you can make a change in the military. Not the day you join. But over time. You set the example, you can express your views in approbate times, and by being true to your ethics. (You will find that most people in the military have the same ethical out look.) By being someone who has a point of view from the left, you will see things differently, be more willing to do collaborative work than someone with a right point of view "i'm the greatest, me, me, me."
You will have a better view of what is right and be able to enforce that. All Soldiers can enforce all regulations regardless of rank. Sexual harassment? Not if you're there to speak out and encourage follow through. In the late 90's I had some Soldiers accused of being gay and was given verbal "evidence". Under DADT we could have pushed them out, but chose not to follow up or ask. The accusing Soldiers were talked to about not making a vendetta and given advice on how to live with people who are different. We never had a problem after that. (I did have one issue with a gay Soldier in 2005 but that was secondary to his being gay and more with him being a jerk who had no self control or common sense.)
One of the reasons the Civil Rights movement had support in Congress was many of the Congress members had been in the integrated military. Years later they were in a position to make a major change in the US. As you gain rank and authority, you can make greater impacts. When DADT was repealed, it was people like myself who had lived under DADT and did not like it that were the loudest voices in favor of the repeal. When Colonels and First Sergeants say something won't effect the military, they know what they are talking about.
Seventh, and the last in the list but not by any means the last point, You will be better able to face off with the GOP/right wing. It is amazing the number of political aspirants and activist on the right who have never served. Or even tried to. Oh, they will be the first to shout out the Pledge of Allegiance and thank those who have served, but ask about their military service and most of the time get "um, uh, ah".
Think about where you could be if you were standing before a typical Tea Party GOP candidate for Dog Catcher. You have spent time in the military, say Marines, served well and got your DD214 then went to college with the GI Bill so you have a very low to none student loan debt. The Tea Partyist went to college, has a lot of debt, works some job with a politically connected company, but never served.
At some point the TPer will kick out some statement about how he loves this nation and supports all the men and women who have served and wants to do them right, unlike you. Instead of having to hem and haw about how you too support and love the nation, you can sit up straight and say "I'm a Marine, I served this nation and was willing to die for you and everyone in the district. I know what the men and women currently serving face and support them. I was willing earn the right to put on the uniform of the Marines, please tell us what uniform you earned the right to wear?"
Maybe you will get lucky and have a candidate like Joe Walsh who, referring to Duckworth, said, "What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran ... ehhh. I'm running against a woman who, I mean, my God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it's the last thing in the world they talk about." and then they can wonder why they lost with just 45% of the vote as the incumbent.
There are many reasons for serving in the military. It is not for everyone. But it is for more than currently do serve. I have been very blessed to have been able to serve for 24 years in the Army. I am a much better person for it, and would encourage you to recommend the military to any high school age "lefties" you know. The US Military should not be the home of the right wing. Look to other nations that turned their militaries into that. Not a pretty place.
Military Service is an honor and privilege that too few choose.
Lets start changing that.