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My son wants to join the military, and I’m trying to get my head around his thinking. I need a few good brains on this. I don’t want to deal with any right-wing rants on my lack of flag-waving patriotism. I think at the DK we are, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, if not all on the same page, in the same book (and she didn’t mean the Bible).

So, if you are active duty or ever have been, help me out. There are indirect questions throughout this post, and a couple of more pointed ones at the end.

If you’ve never been in the military, you can chime in, too. But don’t give me tips for trying to talk this kid out of his plans. I’ve been down that road, and I’m kind of tired from the long trip to nowhere.

Read on past the orange tangle of question marks for some background.

When my son announced that he intended to enlist in the military as soon as he is old enough (in the next year or two), I didn’t puff up with pride. He was testing me; I could see it in his eyes. He was choosing a route that represented everything that he believes I’m not. He’s not far off.

I taught my children to follow their hearts. I will support whatever they want to do, and help them in any way I can to achieve their goals. That doesn’t extend to illegal activity or hurting someone.

There’s a rub if there ever was one: If you enlist, you may have to kill someone. Or be killed. We’ve had tons of discussions since then and learned a lot about each other, which is great, but it hasn’t been easy.

I’m a pacifist. I love my country, but that means the people, community, places, and cultures. I don’t worship the flag, think that the Constitution is sacred text carved in stone or believe that we chant only U.S.A.! during the Olympics, but may root for Canada or Jamaica or any other country that we think is cool. (I don’t follow the Olympics, but my kids do, and this came up recently and serves as an example of our discussions on patriotism.)

My son sincerely mourns whenever a soldier or sailor dies. He supports groups like the Wounded Warrior Project and the USO. He’s angry about how our veterans are treated, and moved by monuments raised in honor of those who have served.

He approaches anyone in uniform, military or first responder, and offers them his hand and thanks them for their service. He takes these folks by surprise, and they are always grateful for his show of appreciation. He surprises and pleases me, too. That’s 100% him, and I don’t know where it came from. His heart is definitely there, and I’m sure he thinks he’s following it, but I have reservations.

He doesn’t trust our government, meaning Congress, the NSA, Homeland Security, the corporations who have invaded our legislative system and, to some extent, President Obama—though he’s kind of neutral there. We’ve talked at length about abuse in the military, intolerance for the LGBT community (still working on just the L and the G at this point, I believe), low pay that has many military families using food stamps, and veterans who are still waiting for benefits or correct diagnoses for PTSD.

I asked him why he would willingly sign on to do whatever he is asked by a government that he doesn't trust.  And why would he enlist if he stands the chance of receiving substandard treatment while he is active duty and once he leaves the service. His only answer to my questions is, “It’s complicated.”

I’ve also asked him what it means to serve your country and defend our freedom. He doesn’t have well-formed answers for those yet, either. He’s young—and naive and romantic about heroism—but he’s serious about his plans to enlist.

My intent isn’t to offend anybody or be disrespectful, but I have a few questions about his answers:

I want to serve my country
What does serving your country mean, exactly? How does it work? I’ve never really heard this phrase defined. What’s the service provided?

I’m willing to fight to protect our freedom
My son just posted a picture on his Facebook wall that says something like “it is the soldier who has given us our freedom—not the poet or the journalist or the organizer.” When did soldiers give us our freedom or fight to protect it? In the Revolution? In the Civil War? WWI and II? Not Vietnam or the Gulf or Iraq or Afghanistan.

Our rights and freedoms are currently under attack from within—threatened by corporations and self-serving politicians on the federal, and in some cases, state level. The military can’t intervene on our behalf in these cases, and we wouldn’t want them to. I look to conscientious politicians, activists, groups like the ACLU, and citizens like you and me to defend our freedom. So, who is our military fighting to defend our freedom exactly?

I’m only scratching the surface of what I’m struggling with. And again, I'm not trying to offend, just wanting here more about why folks enlist.

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Comment Preferences

  •  As a military brat, there's a upside and downside (6+ / 0-)

    to military life.  We traveled a lot and got to see the world. It was hard on Mom to pack up and move and hard on us kids to change schools.  One side of my family is NAVY all the way.  It is safer than fighting ground wars and the skills learned in leadership, navigation, technology etc. make one very employable after your service time is up.  The pay isn't the best but health benefits for the family plus moving expenses, plus BX lower prices and most importantly the assistance in college expenses are well worth it.  I would not recommend going directly from HS to Army or Marines because you know you will be shipped out to the most dangerous sites.  Air Force or Coast Guard are also good choices.  If you have some college already, OCS is a decent option as well.

    Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. - Einstein

    by moose67 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 09:23:11 AM PST

    •  I believe that you now have to be a (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rduran, Major Kong, lightarty, valion

      college graduate to be a commissioned officer in all branches of the US military.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:55:04 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, but if you are a good student... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, Gordon20024, lightarty, Smoh could qualify for ROTC scholarships. Our eldest nephew did, and is now a Lieutenant in the Navy. YMMV.

        Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

        by JeffW on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:08:42 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Or to get past E-6 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        “He said it was better to belong where you don't belong than not to belong where you used to belong, remembering when you used to belong there.” ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

        by LoreleiHI on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:10:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think so (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib, 207wickedgood

        Enlisted soldiers with some college are still eligible for OCS. At least in the Army. You usually have to be recommended for it by your unit. The one soldier I saw get recommended when I was in was wicked smart.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:18:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  How long ago did you leave the Army? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Lorele above said that you now need a degree to be promoted past staff sergeant.

          I left the US Army in 1975 and for most of my six years rookie platoon leaders had such a high casualty rate that the OCS classes were flexible regarding standards, and cranking out new brown bars as fast as they could.  

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:26:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I got out in 2000 (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib, 207wickedgood

            The soldier who got appointed was sent in 1999. I just checked over at, and the requirements appear to be the same as they were when I was in. Of course, the enlisted soldier who applies to OCS is usually sent back to college to finish the degree, which is what happened to my friend.

            And I remember being told back when I was in that even to get to E-6 you usually needed an associates degree, and a bachelor's to go even further. I believe it was the same back when my dad was trying to make E-6 back in the early 90s.

            Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

            by moviemeister76 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:42:39 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Your Son Is Mistaken On a Crucial Point: (17+ / 0-)
    it is the soldier who has given us our freedom—not the poet or the journalist or the organizer.
    Every king, despot, warlord, Mafia don and dictator has soldiers. None of their people has freedom.

    All a soldier can give is security. Now, that's an important mission, it can defend freedom, but it doesn't give the freedom. The USSR was pretty secure, internally. There are other places around the world with dictatorial governments where the people can be quite secure.

    But not free.

    Our founding documents tell the world precisely who it was that gave us our freedom.

    From the first words of the Declaration of Independence:

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth,
    From the first words of the Constitution:
    We the People ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
    Not a conquering general, not The Lord Thy God.

    If you love freedom, thank We the People.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 09:25:10 AM PST

    •  Well put, Gooserock. (7+ / 0-)

      I spent 12 years active duty with 31 months of combat in Vietnam. I learned a lot and experienced things others only read about.

      I wouldn't do it again for all the money in the world. Your son could go to vo-tech and learn many of the skills the military has to offer without the risk of life or limb.

       photo Kuntsler-military_zpsc5dea4db.jpg


      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." -- Groucho Marx

      by Gordon20024 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:16:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's been my thinking (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gffish, Gordon20024, Smoh, blueoasis

        I even convinced him to work on conservation crews for a couple summers so he could get that camaraderie through hard work while doing some good--and with way less risk. He loves it and is going again this summer, but still wants that military experience.

        He's kind of picking up on the macho weapons culture, too, which is freaky. It's also all fantasy at this point. I think the reality, if he gets there, is going to be too much.

        •  If he will be joining in another year or two (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Elizaveta, Smoh, PeteZerria

          the US will be out of Afghanistan and won't have large numbers of conventional infantry engaged in an active war. So the decision will be easier when someone knows that they are less likely to be deployed to a hostile combat area. At this point the US is war weary and I think it is unlikely will be in another war in the next five years.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:00:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I'm still fuzzy on the (5+ / 0-)

      defending freedom thing. Our military is too busy in places that don't concern We the People unless you believe corporations are people.

      He's mistaken on  a lot of his thinking, but he's still learning and growing.

      I agree with you, though.

  •  I'm so sorry. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, gffish, Gordon20024, blueoasis

    Sincerely, my heart goes out to you and your son.

  •  in the end..... (10+ / 0-)

    Keep reminding yourself of this:

    I taught my children to follow their hearts.

    KOS: "Mocking partisans focusing on elections? Even less reason to be on Daily Kos."

    by fcvaguy on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:01:02 AM PST

  •  Many good reasons to do so (9+ / 0-)

    and one very good reason not to, which you've already discussed:

    When you put on the uniform, if they say, "Go," then go you must, even if you know the reasons are wrong.

    Good luck, and keep the discussion going. I'm confident you two will find the answers.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:08:50 AM PST

    •  joining the "service" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Crashing Vor, chimene, PeteZerria

      I served three years in the U.S. Army, from 1954 to 1957.  I enlisted in order to attend a service school which offered something which I couldn't get anywhere else--the Army Language School (Defense language Institute today).  That part was worth it, but on the whole, I don't regard my time served as anything worth remembering or repeating.  The assignment I got after graduation first in my class is emblematic of one of my main gripes: I was assigned as a clerk-typist at the European Headquarters and never used my MOS a single time.  Assignment was completely arbitrary, you got the job that was next on the list, regardless of your skills and background.  So it is the luck of the draw.  
      I was lucky to be stationed in a wonderful place, Heidelberg, Germany, but again, that was the luck of the draw.  
      What he can be sure of is that he will spend most of his time with vulgar, uncouth men who will offer him nothing but invitations to vice.  He will be lucky if none of this vulgarity and brutality does not rub off on him.  Cruelty, bigotry, and barbarity will be taught to him on a daily basis.  That is not the kind of life any thinking young person--or parent--would want.  And he should keep in mind that there is no escaping it: go along, or be bullied, until the end of the enlistment period.  The fact that you are trapped is perhaps the worst of all--like a prison term which can only be endured.  
      There are many other ways your son can achieve those things which he believes will come to him from service in the armed forces.  I encourage him to explore all of them before he agrees to be a killer for little pay, and no respect afterward.

      •  You've addressed (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gordon20024, chimene

        many of my concerns--the culture of the military--and knowing that there is no escape. He romanticizes all of that, too--and we keep having discussions

        I grew up near Fort Lewis and McChord AFB--still live close enough to know that not much has changed.

        Agreeing to be a killer is the one that gets to me the most--and the need to hate in order to kill. I've taken him to a few air shows, and I hear that sort of talk all around me from active duty personnel.

        •  Really? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You hear about hate and killing at....AIR SHOWS?! Your concerns about "the culture of the military" are addressed and confirmed by someone who served over FIFTY years ago? I'm sorry I wasted my time on a lengthy response to your diary. Sounds like you have your mind already made up about the military and were just looking for validation of those prejudices. I feel dumb for having bothered with you. Goodbye and good luck.

          •  The hate and killing talk came from active duty (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            chimene, PeteZerria, 207wickedgood

            personnel at air shows (there's one on the base every year) and an active duty officer of the Air Force who led the cadets in the local Civil Air Patrol that my son explored for awhile. The guy was talking about recent events in Afghanistan, and his joy at destruction and his hate were sickening.

            These people don't represent everyone in the armed forces. I do understand that.

            A few folks have offered up a more positive view of the armed forces further down this thread, and I'm grateful for their contributions to this diary.

      •  What a terrible picture you paint! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kat herder, chimene

        "I served three years in the U.S. Army, from 1954 to 1957."
        I think that explains why your post from top to bottom is nearly unrecognizable to me. Today's Army does not send someone to school to immerse themselves in a foreign language for eighteen months only to make them a "clerk-typist"(which they don't really have anymore) upon graduation.  As for all this "vulgarity/brutality/cruelty/bigotry/barbarity" well, maybe in the fifties office environments were a LOT tougher than they are now, but none of that sounds like ANYthing me or mine have experienced. Today's military is just like many other work environments. There are good places to work, good people who can become lifelong friends, and there are pockets of the opposite. Name a profession where that isn't the case.

      •  Wow, there's a bit of hyperbole... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kat herder, chimene, 207wickedgood
        What he can be sure of is that he will spend most of his time with vulgar, uncouth men who will offer him nothing but invitations to vice.
        Let's just say that my experience as a single enlisted man in the 1980s were about as far from that description as is possible.

        Futaku, I don't think that either of us can speculate on what today's barracks might present.

        My late father's advice on the night before I left for basic training comes to mind. (He was a career soldier; he did 4 years enlisted in WWII, used his GI Bill to get his degree while completing ROTC, then did 20 as an officer before retiring out of Vietnam.) We were standing outside, looking at a spectacular night sky on a cold Kentucky night, and he said:

        You're about to start something that's going to change your life. You're going to meet some of the best people you will ever know. You're also going to meet some of the greatest assholes you'll ever know.
        I'll spare you the rest of his advice, but let's just say he pretty much nailed it. **laugh**

        (One of the folks I met was my first platoon sergeant after BT/AIT - who's getting the Medal of Honor 40 years late.)

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 02:46:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I argree with Gooserock. (11+ / 0-)

    Whenever I show my military, retired, ID I reflect when occasionally I get thanked for my service. What did I do? I reflect on the good time I had in Argentina in 1980 where we were guests of the military dictatorship, the US was propping up. I reflect that the US hasn't learned the lessons of Korea and Viet Nam. I reflect that women in the military are assaulted with impunity as commanders look away. Our military is worn out from too many years of war. But the right wing wants more, not that their kids will serve. We provide the muscle for multi- national corporations. They could care less about the country, along with the congressmen they buy. I served 30  years. encompassing Viet Nam to Desert Storm. I am proud of my service but I also realize what is happening.

    •  Exactly this. (8+ / 0-)

      I enlisted in late '71, never went to 'Nam. Got out, missed Desert Storm, went back into the Reserves. Ended up in both Iraq and Afghanistan (I don't want to overstate it - I did not earn a Combat Action badge).

      Would I do it over again? Yes, in a heartbeat. It got me out of poverty, it got me a college education, and it made me the person I am today. But I didn't get that stuff for free. For many - far too many - of my brothers and sisters in arms, the cost was higher than anybody should have to pay.

      I wish your son well. He sounds like a man who knows his own heart, and who is intelligent enough to understand the ramifications of his own decisions. That's a pretty good combination.

    •  I got what I wanted (0+ / 0-)

      I wanted to see war from the bottom side and I did. I enlisted for airborne infantry went through jump school and 2 survival school, wound up in Vietnam as an airborne infantryman (paratrooper,) later a lrrp (Ranger)
      I volunteered for it all and I got it all.
      One of the many thins I learned: You don't have to hate to kill, sometimes its just business. Nothing personal, its just politics as usual. Its helpful if you do, keeps you motivated, but not necessary

      I spent a long  time afterwards wondering why I ever  wanted that. Some people are born to do that, mostv people aren't. I had other choices but I really wanted to do that. Just another child of our culture

      Something I always remembered when my son was growing up: God doesn't have any grandchildren

      Happy just to be alive

      by exlrrp on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 05:58:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My son, like yours, is military minded. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, Gordon20024, 207wickedgood

    He wanted to be a soldier ever since he could talk.  He never wavered.  His Plan A was to join the Marines at 17.  I managed to talk him into trying college first.  He chose a military college, and loves it.  He was set to commission when he learned he has a medically-disqualifying condition--he sleepwalks.

    He's heart-broken, but dealing with it.  Now he's looking into other ways to serve the nation.

    Your son's impulse to serve is praiseworthy.  So is your determination to teach him to follow his dreams.  You'll work out a solution.  If college is an option, encourage him to look at a military college.  If he's in high school, suggest he try JROTC.  Both ways will give him a taste of military discipline.

    Too many young people have  watched "We Were Soldiers" and other movies of that genre and don't get the discipline and routine, as well as all the PT.

    Good luck.

    "I speak the truth, not as much as I would, but as much as I dare, and I dare a little the more, as I grow older." --Montaigne

    by DrLori on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:30:55 AM PST

    •  The movies (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gffish, Gordon20024

      and the military-themed Facebook pages play into a lot of his thinking about the military, so yes, he is missing out on a lot of the reality.

      We had a recruiter (Army) tell us that more and more kids want to be drone pilots or not enlist. He blames the uptick on video games, which are seriously not based in reality.

      Thanks for the advice.

  •  I don't believe.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, gffish

    that our soldiers protect our freedoms. We haven't faced an existential crisis to our liberties since WWII.

    When I gave serious thought to enlistment, it was for the tangential benefits: a college education, a good item on a resume, and the ability to pick up chicks at bars. Some people legitimately believe in the idea that the military is a "service" that is inherently patriotic and moral, and your son sounds like one of them. The reason for that is cultural: We were so ashamed of our treatment of Vietnam veterans that we swung the opposite way and started treating them too kindly, in my opinion. The fact is, this is an all-volunteer army, and they all volunteered to go over to countries on the other side of the world and bomb innocent brown people for no other reason than because they had black liquid under their soil. I can't find that moral, I'm sorry.

    But sometimes you just have to make kids make their own mistakes. After the fiftieth time of patriotically cleaning the head, your son's romantic ideas will likely fade away.

    TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D)

    by Le Champignon on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:33:22 AM PST

    •  Love this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "After the fiftieth time of patriotically cleaning the head, your son's romantic ideas will likely fade away."

      I think that's part of growing up and becoming independent. Even when you follow your dreams, you often have to do grunt work to get there.

      Also appreciate your comment on our trying to make up for the way we treated Vietnam vets and the culture of the moral and patriotic need to serve. That plays a huge role here.

      We've discussed the difference between a drafted military and an all volunteer one. We just keep discussing.

  •  Ask him if he's willing to have who he is (8+ / 0-)

    completely changed.

    That's what happened to my former spouse after a 15 month deployment to Iraq. Someone else came home. This is far from uncommon, especially now. And then the military throws you away, because they don't want, and can't afford, to treat all the vets with PTSD. They decide that you had a 'previous mental issue' (even if you'd been in for 4 years and it never showed up), and you get discharged without benefits.

    Sure, it has it's good times, but make sure he's aware of ALL the risks.

    “He said it was better to belong where you don't belong than not to belong where you used to belong, remembering when you used to belong there.” ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

    by LoreleiHI on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 10:36:07 AM PST

  •  This is a tough one (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Major Kong, chimene, 207wickedgood

    Everything he thinks he knows about the military is pretty much wrong and naive. I was both an Army brat and served three years back in the 90s. The military isn't really honorable or glamorous, though people can serve honorably in it. The military is worse off than even your son thinks, but having to serve in it is even worse than knowing it's messed up, because then you are knee deep in stupidity and there's nothing you can do about it. For years. That kind of existence grinds away at your soul.

    Perhaps, as another parent in this thread did, you can encourage your son to at least go to college to become an officer.  I would also recommend he read "All Quiet on the Western Front." That book might be really old, but it is still an incredibly accurate depiction of what serving in the military is actually like. I read it the week after I got out, and it shot through me like a hot knife.

    My main concern would be injury. I don't think there's anyone I know who served in the military who isn't still suffering from some type of injury, and most of the veterans I know served in peace time. It's far, far worse now. When I served, most veterans got out with major back and knee problems. Now, soldiers also face the risk of permanent brain damage and loss of limbs.

    If your son really wants to serve his country, maybe he can become a doctor or nurse or even psychiatrist and help those veterans who will require medical help for the rest of their lives.

    Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

    by moviemeister76 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 11:04:19 AM PST

  •  A dilemma, no question. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, chimene, 207wickedgood

    Shameless plug follows.

    I served in the Coast Guard, from 1976 to 1982. I managed to have a respectable enlistment doing a job that I came to love that was never truly dull. Yes, there was boredom, and sometimes true danger to me, but never was it so bad that I have regretted it. Mother Nature was our enemy, not someone with a gun: a completely different mindset.

    I think my reasons for joining were very similar to your son's: I remember a hunger to serve but nothing definitive beyond that. I did see the Coast Guard nearly every day performing their duties however, and that certainly made a huge impression on me. That, and it was post Viet Nam.

    The Coast Guard (CG) advantages are this: no combat unless you volunteer to go to those areas; same pay, benefits and educational perks as the other services; service at many, many locations in the US and US territories; the chance to do good (a huge thing for me).

    There are some disadvantages: the toughest entry qualifications in the entire US military; small, isolated units that can be far from a lot of things; close involvement in the Drug Wars.

    The Coast Guard is very small, with only about 42,000 members on active duty now. That is actually nearly 20,000 more than when I served. The chance to have a satisfying enlistment is very good, as are the chances of not liking it at all: that depends on the individual.

    The CG has little glamour most of the time, and can be downright hard work for many of its members. It is rewarding service though, and one without the hazards of the others.

    And yeah, I know tarantulas don't really act like that at all, so no snarking, this is the internet damnit!

    by itzadryheat on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 12:01:44 PM PST

    •  I've heard more (0+ / 0-)

      good about the Coast Guard than any other branch--I even considered it right out of high school, but didn't have good support from home or the courage to just go ahead and do it.

      Wish he would take a closer look.

  •  Watch for cuts to new recruit retirement plans (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, chimene, 207wickedgood

    The retirees and vets have managed to save some of their own benefits, but that won't keep the gub'mint from cutting corners with new recruits.

    Things that bothered me when I served:

    1. Difficulties in using GI Bill. Lots of paperwork and my bill didn't go very far. Obama made it bigger, but who knows how long that will last.

    2. Families holding bake sales to buy and replace broken body armor for their troops in war zones. That's a major WTF moment. We didn't see the USAF or any other branch holding bake sales to do this, but families--but then this was after Rumsfeld made that lovely speech about having the army you got and not the one you want. Sometimes the military runs on a shoestring budget and if you are in an area that is volatile--it may be your gear that isn't replaced or repaired.

    3. Burn Pit Vets. Another major WTF moment for me. Haz-mat training way back in the day when dinosaurs ruled the earth made it very clear what happened to plastics, paints, solvents, and chemicals when they heated and burned. And how deadly this was for a person to inhale said fumes, and particulate matter. And yet the VA pretended that there was no harm ever, making very sick veterans who followed what should have been unlawful orders, wait and wait til the VA could not deny that harm had been done and that these vets needed treatment and compensation. Sometimes the people calling the shots are dumber than dumb. And yet they are in charge. And the push could be coming from the top, which it seemed that orders for these burn pits did. Just saying.

    4. Same thing with Agent Orange and Blue Water Vets, with Gulf War Syndrome Vets, and Asbestos Vets and Nuclear Test Vets etc., and so on. Remember that the VA doesn't want to spend it's money or time on any one more goddamn thing, so if any new syndromes pop up, any new exposures pop up or anything that affects lots of troops in an era, history tells us that the VA's policy is to deny and deflect. If he wants to cover his ass for a career, healthwise he better be good at documentation. And even then, that's no guarantee for compensation or treatment, such as it is.

    5. Politics with a small p. Get savvy now, don't wait til you are in uniform. Learn how to be a team player without selling your soul. It's a fine line, and if you can pull that off, you might just have a good career.

    "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

    by GreenMother on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 12:02:34 PM PST

    •  Good stuff (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreenMother, Wood Gas, chimene

      He's sort of avoiding any negative information in his need to be right. Some say that's typical of his age, but I haven't seen the same pattern in his siblings.

      I just keep passing information on to him in hopes that he's taking it in on some level.

      Thanks for this.

    •  I forgot one: Pre-existing Conditions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      6. Pre-existing Conditions: Goes back to VA Deny and Deflect policy. Whenever the VA doesn't want to deal with any form of PTSD, they have a penchant for mis-diagnosing the condition as Bi-polar disorder, or stating that cases of TBI or PTSD are pre-existing conditions, even if one passed the physical and the psych eval upon entering the service. Sorry kiddo--you was already broke, we don't owe you squat!

      7. My favorite (And I cannot believe I forgot this) The Fere's Doctrine. This is where doctors in the military are federally protected from all malpractice suits, even if they are incompetent and dangerous and kill members with those qualities, or disable them for life or infect them with dangerous diseases due to using dirty tools. Originally meant to protect battle field surgeons in war zones, now it's a catch all ass covering device for some of the most incompetent doctors you will ever encounter. So your boy could survive all sorts of craziness relatively unscathed, and then be brought down by one of his own in a white coat due to malicious negligence or simple incompetence. In fact, unless someone can show this changed at all--the military advertises at medical schools, that to join means NO MALPRACTICE INSURANCE--as in the doc doesn't have to buy it, because he or she won't need it. And some military doctors never serve a whole residency, they can buy one here in Oklahoma under a special "patriotic" law here, and isn't that just grand. But the best part is, once you are active duty, you are required as per contract to see base doctors wherever you are. You aren't supposed to go out in town. My advice, if he's not going to be an officer, be an air crewman, they get better health care. They inflict the lesser doctors all the grunts and lower enlisted. Rank has its privileges.

      "It were a thousand times better for the land if all Witches, but especially the blessing Witch, might suffer death." qtd by Ehrenreich & English. For Her Own Good, Two Centuries of Expert's Advice to Women pp 40

      by GreenMother on Mon Feb 24, 2014 at 05:40:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  He needs to know what he's getting into (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, exlrrp, Wood Gas, FG, chimene

    1. He may not get the career field he wants to be in. A recruiter will promise you anything to get you to sign up.

    2. He can be killed or injured. Even if he never sees combat there are plenty of training accidents.

    3. He will have little say over where he goes or where he lives.

    4. Not all military skills are transferable to the civilian world. I don't see many job postings for "Radar Navigator" or "Tank Gunner".

    I concur with the others who have recommended he go to college and become an officer.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 12:18:52 PM PST

    •  We've been to recruiters (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      for every branch but the Coast Guard twice. He hangs on to every word, believes everything they say even as he acknowledges that they are the salespeople for the armed forces.

      I really want him to go to college. I'm not as concerned with his siblings getting there right away--experiencing some life first is fine by me, so is not going. But he really needs to open up his mind.

      •  Ask him what the hurry is (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wood Gas, Elizaveta, chimene

        The war in Afghanistan will end before he enlists. (we hope!!)  If he thinks he's going to fight, there's a much  better than good chance he won't. So he better pick a good peace time related occupation.
        That's actually the best reason for joining the service. You can get good training on things that are useful elsewhere. (There's a future for you in Tank Turret Maintenance!)Just don't get stuck in a job with no useful skills like the infantry, Rangers or Special Forces. they look sexy in the recruiting ads but you have to wash one helluva lot of dishes and eat one king sized ration of shit to get there. And then when you get there you find out its not so fun after all.

        Arguing will only increase resistance. Tell him your ideas but let him make his own mistakes.

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 01:58:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chimene, exlrrp

          He knew without asking I wouldn't give parental consent for him to join at 17-- his mistakes really have to be his own.

          He is an a hurry, but he'll end up waiting a year or two--for lots of reasons.

          But his interest is high now and that's creating all the discussion. He may change his mind before he gets there.

  •  ask him (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wood Gas, chimene

    If he wants to be trained like a dog and have his future altered.

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 01:19:05 PM PST

  •  Advice: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, chimene

    if your son feels he must sign up, then sign up with the Air Force or Navy.

    in those branches, if you stick with it for ten years or so, you're going to learn an actual trade that will assist with making a living outside of the military.

    "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

    by Superpole on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 01:27:32 PM PST

    •  I liked the sound of the Air Force best (4+ / 0-)

      after listening to all the recruiters. My son is concerned with learning something that will apply to civilian life.

      He's also considered fire fighting and knows his chances for getting hired are better if comes ready to hit the ground running. If I remember correctly, Navy and Air Force provided the best training.

      •  Well (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kat herder, Elizaveta, chimene

        At least it sounds like your son has actually put a lot of thought into how it will affect his future after the military if he joins. Speaking from experience, certain support jobs provide excellent career opportunities after the military. Others, not so much. My husband went into signal support, setting up satellite equipment. He managed to turn that into a career in IT, and now makes six figures, though it took a decade of hard work after the military before he got there.

        One thing I can tell you is that if your son aces the ASVAB, he can probably score a job as a translator or a foreign language instructor. That was the job I was dumb enough to turn down after I took the ASVAB. I had no foreign language experience necessary, but the Army was willing to train me to learn Japanese for a few years. There are definitely a lot of options on the civilian market for Americans who can speak Japanese, Mandarin or Farsi.

        If he is more into hands-on work, he can become a mechanic or other technical specialist. Always jobs open for people handy with tools.

        Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh to-day as when they first passed through their authors' minds ages ago. - Samuel Smiles

        by moviemeister76 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 03:00:41 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  And Keep in Mind- Regardless of What (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Elizaveta, chimene

        branch.. the pay is not good for the first several years.

        "We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense." Gore Vidal

        by Superpole on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 03:19:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  At this point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    moviemeister76, chimene

    It sounds like you need to stress to him the importance of going in on his own terms. The fact that he knows so far ahead of time that he wants to enlist is to his advantage. Get him an entrance exam(ASVAB) study guide.
    If he has any outside interests like working on cars, tearing apart computers, welding, etc..try to impress upon him that there are a LOT of jobs in the military besides humping through the desert with a full pack and a rifle. Those jobs are STILL serving your country and one has a MUCH better quality of life and prospects for the future. If he is compassionate enough to be "angry about how veterans are treated" maybe he would consider being a medic or as it's called in the Navy, Hospital Corpsman. If he is hell bent on "killing bad guys" there are many jobs involving working on long range guns, missle systems, etc.. I'm sure there are sites online which list and describe the many jobs (In the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force referred to as 'mos', Navy or Coast Guard-'ratings') that are available and just as important to "the mission" as carrying a rifle. I can't stress enough the importance of him going to the recruiter with you, your husband, possibly a relative or family friend who has served, as an extra set of ears/brains, and knowing what he wants ahead of time. You can either get signed up to fill an end-of-the month recruiter quota to be a grunt before you even know what happened, or you can go in and sit down and make sure you get a contract that says you are going to the training school of your choice(provided you are qualified, again studying for the ASVAB is very important!) and on to a job which will make a military enlistment a positive experience, whether one is using it as a chance to grow up and a stepping stone, or a long-term career.
    I threw all this out off the top of my head and I hope it helps. Lastly, don't come at this from worry. My wife and I both served 22 yrs in the Navy, my step-son and his wife are both in the Army with good jobs after having spent over a year learning Korean. We are all fine, happy and healthy. (with no outstanding student loans or job security worries!)

    •  Very helpful (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kat herder, chimene

      We do have the ASVAB study guide and the recruiters have been consistent in their encouragement to score high on the test.

      And we plan on going with him if and when the time comes to see the recruiter for more than general information.

      Actually, his only bad experience with a recruiter came when he went without me. The guy acted like he really didn't have time for him and then refused to talk to him unless he filled out a form with contact information. My son wisely walked away.

      I'm trying not to worry and looking for the bright side, the possible positive incomes. But I'm a mom, and worry is part of the job description.


  •  Most of the military is support troops (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kat herder, chimene, SamBrown

    The number of those exposed to combat is miniscule compared to those in support.  There are plumbers, electricians, crane operators, welders, power plant operators, diesel mechanics, surveyors, dental hygenists, opticians, machinists, clerks, the lists go on and on.

    If one chooses their specialty carefully, upon completion of obligation the individual can have very marketable skills.  For those with an antipathy towards the combat arms, I would suggest the Coast Guard.  Although combat-capable, their primary mission is the safety of others, and it has a higher calling to service of the citizens.

    I am retired army, my son is career air force, and my daughter did a tour in the Peace Corps.  I believe in service, even though I hold a somewhat jaded view of the righteousness of my political leaders.

    •  I believe in service, too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but also that it doesn't necessarily have to be military -- like the Peace or Conservation Corps, Vista volunteering, etc.

      I would be fine if he ended up in a support role if he joins. I think, ultimately, he would be, too.

      I share your view of our political leaders and wish they would make better use of the troops.

      Thanks for your thoughts.

  •  1965 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, chimene

    I would have enlisted in a heartbeat, but a little too young.
    Some of my older friends and relatives were returning from the jungle, broken and very angry. It was becoming clear that our young men and women weren't fighting and dying for their homeland, but for something far less noble.
     I joined the peace movement.
    Many of the young men I knew, little older than my grandchildren were returning from the sandbox.  
    Broken and lost, angry would have been better.
    Some did not survive their first year or two of civilian life, as best I could perceive, betrayal killed them.
    I think he could better serve his country as opposed to his government by working in the country. Occupy, Fireman, Paramedic or teaching. There he could serve his country.

    A nation has no greater resource than the young people who would place their bodies between home and danger.
    Don't waste them.

    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. Sam Clemens

    by Wood Gas on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 02:37:16 PM PST

    •  That's an interesting notion: (0+ / 0-)

      Serving your county rather than your government--I'll run that by him. I agree with you, but he doesn't--not at the moment--and this is his choice.

      Fire fighter is one option that he has considered. Funny, he has volunteered at our local food co-op since he was a little guy and is surrounded and loved by people who would rather see him do anything but join (they'd be thrilled if he organized or worked for Occupy).

  •  I could have written this diary two years ago (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Elizaveta, chimene, 207wickedgood

    In fact, I almost did. Like your son, mine was determined to join the military, in his case the Marines, despite everything my husband and I did to try to deter him, including just about every suggestion offered here. He joined the day he graduated from high school, without us even seeing the paperwork until after it was signed. But it turns out that it was the best decision he ever made and our fears about how it would change him were completely unfounded.

    Before going in my son never met a rule he didn't want to bend if not break, an authority figure he didn't want to annoy, a standardized test he didn't want to turn into a dotted-circle art project, a class he didn't want to pass with anything other than a D-, or a bad crowd he didn't want to hang with. The only ambition he ever had in life was to become a Marine, a goal that he stuck to despite our efforts to distract, dissuade, and generally thwart his efforts, but it turns out he knew exactly what he needed and found it in military service. When I asked him why he thought he could follow all the rules and respect his superiors in the Marines when he could barely manage to do that at school he said, "Because it's for something bigger than myself."

    He may have been a bit naive in enlisting with the lofty ideals of honor, courage, and commitment in mind, but his determination to earn the title and to challenge himself in ways that no experience in the civilian world could possibly offer have profoundly transformed him. His newfound sense of pride in himself and his abilities, his sense of personal responsibility and respect for others, as well as his unwavering determination to get the job done no matter how menial, painful, or dangerous it might be are truly remarkable. Yes, he's experienced disillusionment along the way, but for the most part the mental and physical challenges, the esprit de corps with his fellow Marines, and their shared commitment to "embrace the suck" (he's in Infantry, by choice) and always watch each others' backs is exactly what he was looking for. And what he needed, too.

    As much as I would never wish on another parent the chronic worry and long absences that go with having a son or daughter in the military, I will say that my son's experience has transformed me in positive ways as well. I've been welcomed into the "band of mothers" that none of us wanted to join but all of us were drafted into, and we gather together and support each other on Facebook and at care-package parties, meet-ups, homecomings, and sadly, funerals. The bonds that we've forged through shared hardship transcend politics, religion, race, and ethnicity in ways that have enriched my life immeasurably.

    The fact that you're committed to supporting your son in pursuing his dream, regardless of your own concerns, will serve him well regardless of the path he ultimately chooses. In hindsight, I wish I had been more supportive earlier on, but once I embraced the suck of being a MoM (mother of a Marine) I was able to be open to the many positive aspects of my son's decision to enlist. Best of luck to you, and please continue to keep us posted via future diaries. PM me anytime, too--even though this post is way too long as is I still have plenty to say on the subject!

    •  Thanks much for this comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kat herder

      And for the offer of support--haven't had anything like this up until right now. Really means a lot--and was kind of what I was looking for when I wrote this diary. I really want to support and respect my son's choice.

      Thank you.

      •  You are very welcome (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If it weren't for the support I've received from other mothers in the same situation, I would have lost my mind by now. I only wish I'd hooked up with the various networks earlier, but there aren't really any for parents whose children are considering military service that I'm aware of. Though it did help me tremendously early on to hear from mothers whose children did have a positive experience in the military and to learn about the various ways in which military service could be something other than a source of worry for me :)

  •  Another book for getting perpective is "War Is A (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Racket," by Smedley Butler.  Butler was a Marine Major General (highest rank authorized at the time) and twice the recipient of the Medal of Honor.  Since Butler was WWI vintage your son may dismiss him, but my service in the Corps suggested to me that not much of substance has changed.

  •  Why? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kat herder

    Someone MUCH wiser than I in such things--this guy--once told me, "It's being ready to do it while you hope you never have to that makes us soldiers." That resonated deeply with me, because I had been trained in a nuclear weapons specialty.

    What we name "duty"--over which so many people have waxed poetic over the centuries--really boils down to what is arguably a progressive ideal: "paying it forward".

    Whether we face an existential threat at a given time is irrelevant; we should be prepared to face such a threat upon its emergence, because we don't get to "call time out while we get organized." Someone has to be ready, in each generation, to answer the call, so that we might continue this "American experiment" to the next generation.

    It's true that recent events have soured our thinking and, in some cases, turned many against the notion of military service; it's also true that many of our societal problems are reflected among our service members. In the end, however, I would suggest that the ideals of which Lincoln spoke so eloquently at Gettysburg are still both extant and valid today.

    If your son's reasoning and mindset are clear, he will be an asset to the service; you (and several commentators) have expressed concerns about "the culture," but has it occurred to you that he could be an agent of change, an example to others? Just as we need such people in civilian society, we need them in the military as well...

    The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

    by wesmorgan1 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 03:33:44 PM PST

    •  He's a very tolerant guy (0+ / 0-)

      and hates to see anyone mistreated for who they are. So yes, he could be an agent of change. He has that in him.

      I'm asking why to illicit answers like yours.

      My experience with military personnel, unfortunately, hasn't always been pleasant. But, through my kids mostly, I've met some military families and have changed my point of view--somewhat.

      I'm still a pacifist and true to what I believe in. I can't ask or expect less from my son.

      Thank you for your response--I really do want to hear the other side.

      •  There's far more diversity in the military (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Than in many civilian jobs. Before I continue, wes, I wish I could recommend your comment a hundred times. Prior to my son's enlistment I rarely gave much thought to the idea of military readiness and focused far more on the various ways in which our troops have been exploited or misused. However, they are mutually exclusive issues in many ways--yes, it's a tragedy that our troops have been sent on so many misguided missions in recent history, but it doesn't negate the fact that we need to have people trained and ready to serve for all sorts of reasons, not just for urgent and necessary military missions but for humanitarian ones as well

        As far as military culture goes, I can only speak to my son's experience in the Marines, but as a relatively privileged young white man whose upbringing was far more sheltered than those of many of the men he serves with, the racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity he's encountered among his fellow Marines and superior officers has been both an eye-opening and an enriching experience. And while progress is slow, once change is mandated from above, military culture does change, however reluctantly. After the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell my son received lectures from his superiors about the kinds of attitudes and language that would no longer be tolerated, and he's received multiple trainings about the issues surrounding sexual assault and his duty to prevent, stop, and report any situations he might be aware of, as well as the fact that sexual assault can happen to men as women. I'm not denying that there's often more lip service than meaningful reform, but I will tell you that my son has been impressed by the seriousness with which these two issues are being addressed.

      •  Well, every unit is different. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kat herder, Elizaveta, 207wickedgood

        No one can give you blanket assurances--or, for that matter, blanket condemnations--where the culture of any given unit is concerned. In that sense, it is something of a lottery.

        Within a unit, however, individual soldiers can carry a significant influence among their peers. My unit didn't tolerate any kind of racial animus, simply because there were any number of troops (of all races) in the barracks who stepped in to nip it in the bud when it arose. Ditto where gay soldiers were concerned; my service was in the pre-DADT era, but we all knew gay soldiers - and you didn't hear that homophobic garbage more than once.

        If he stands with that kind of balance now (and good on you for that!), he does need to understand that he could wind up in a unit where his views aren't necessarily front-and-center. He'll need to be ready to deal with that. He needs to consider questions like "what do I do if my platoon sergeant (or squad leader, or platoon leader, etc.) is a sexist/racist/homophobic jerk?" BEFORE he finds himself in that situation.

        If you have local veterans (of RECENT service) or current service members in whom you have trust, he should talk with them; their experience and advice will be more valuable than what you get from us.  (Is there anyone close to his age--last year's graduating class, perhaps--with whom he could discuss it?)

        The word "parent" is supposed to be a VERB, people...

        by wesmorgan1 on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 04:56:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  my youngest daughter (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Joined the Coast Guard last fall, and is loving it. I had never really thought of that branch as "military", but it is.  It wasn't a plan that I would have even thought of, but it suits her well, and I'm glad I didn't try to talk her out of this. She and I both got a lot of feedback here (she is Kossack kitkatbar) that was very informative and reassuring.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 03:35:22 PM PST

  •  Ok, lots of stuff here... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kat herder, 207wickedgood

    ...and even though I'm an Army brat, and Active Duty with the AF, I'll say that the military's not for everyone.

    Here's my perspective, for what it's worth. (And I do supervise joint enlisted folks - at this point, every service but Coast Guard)

    1 - You will move.  For officers (if he decides on ROTC), it's about every 3-4 years.  For enlisted, it's more like every 4-5 years.  You will be able to put in preferences, but the service will move you where they need your skills.

    2 - The education benefits can be fantastic.  If he enlists, he can actually get all of his bachelor's (or most, depending on the school he selects) paid for.  Many schools also take military training as credit hours towards certain degrees.

    3 - Careers, like moving, are 'needs of the service'.  If he knows what he wants to do, he'd be better off getting an associates in it, then trying to join - or if it's medical, getting the degree through ROTC scholarships.  Those career fields are in very high demand.  My father was a nurse, then the Army sent him to anesthesia school, for instance.  However, if the service he selects has needs somewhere else, he could wind up there.

    4 - Most services have the option to 'cross-train' or 're-train' after the first few years in.  This is competitive, and requires that the new career field needs people - but it means he's not necessarily stuck in whatever he starts as.

    5 - The 'patriotism' and 'service' and 'honor' perspective.  Is the military perfect? Of course not.  We've seen plenty to show that servicemembers are still human, and still the products of their society.  However, the military (all services, though some like the AF are better at it than others) does put a premium on integrity, looking out for your fellow soldiers/sailors/etc, and making sure you are able to look at yourself in a mirror.  There are absolutely places that don't live up to that - but at least the services try, which is better than a fair bit of the corporate world.  Patriotism and service are always hard to categorize - I've put the military in my mind as 'second responders', especially National Guard.  The first responders and educators get my support, admiration and respect - but it takes a very different type of person to put on a uniform and go where they're told, even if it's into danger or something they don't agree with.  Similar to the police, but not quite as immediate a service to the community.  Not for everyone, but something to keep in mind.

    6 - The differences between officer and enlisted.  One is pay, and that's a big one.  However, the other is how our service controls us.  Enlisted serve for a term of enlistment - they contract for a certain number of years.  If he doesn't like it, he can simply leave the service at the end of that enlistment.  Officers have indefinite commissions - we can request separation/retirement, but it can be denied us.  Our responsibilities are also different.  Officers, by and large, are managers (with some slightly different expectations).  Enlisted folks up til E-6 or so are 'doers' - they are the ones actually getting in the weeds.  Which does your son prefer?

    7 - Getting in.  The two easy ways are ROTC and enlisting.  If he's able to go to college for a couple of years without the ROTC scholarship, he can try ROTC and not contract - you only have to do that for your last two years (ish).  Enlisting is fairly straightforward.

    8 - The different services.  The Air Force is the most technological of the four - and has the fewest cases of enlisted actually going into harm's way.  It's also the hardest to get into.  The Navy tends to bounce between 'shore' tours and 'ship' tours - so every other assignment will be on a ship, more or less.  The Army and Marines are still fairly close to their roots - they are the ones that are most likely to go into danger, they are also the ones who are easiest to get into.  Each service does have a different focus, so that's something else to get him to look into and understand.

    9 - Is it for everyone? NO. You have to be willing to accept an odd degree of flexibility...and accept that 'stability' means something different than civilian life.  Pay overall is fairly reasonable (when you add in the allowances for housing and subsistence) - not for a family as young enlisted, but that's the case for any new HS grad working a first job.  It's consistent pay, and a consistent chance to be promoted, based on actual competence and skills.  It's just an overall different lifestyle.  There are rules for everything, but there are also clear guidelines and expectations.

    Hope this helps!  I'll check for comment replies, if you wanted to talk more.

    It is up to the leadership of Libya to listen to their people. And to be quite honest, listening to people does not mean you should be using a machine gun. - Alexander Stubb

    by NoBlinkers on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 03:36:53 PM PST

    •  That is a lot (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kat herder

      Thank you. I have much to process--and then maybe questions. Really just trying to get a feel for the military from the progressive side.

      •  I've met a lot of progressive parents (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Of Marines no less, which I expected to be the most right-wing of the branches. But I've found that the pride that Marines and their family members embrace is apolitical in the sense that it has much more to do with the history, traditions, and culture of the Corps itself than it does with any blind sense of loyalty to country or knee-jerk patriotism. Which is not surprising considering the economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural demographics of an all-volunteer military.

        One thing I've also experienced is that when your son or daughter is laying their life on the line for their country--even if you don't understand their reasons why, and few mothers truly do--pretty much everything else falls away. I now find that I have more in common with the Republican MoM (mother of a Marine) from rural Texas whose son serves with mine than I do with some of my oldest friends. I know that I will receive more comfort, reassurance, and solace from other MoMs, regardless of our politics, religion, race, or ethnicity, than from most other people in my life. And while I know for a fact that our Facebook news feeds are sometimes at odds, it's never interfered with our ability to support each other unconditionally.

  •  Sorry for the late response, but in a word: DON'T (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am a Navy vet, but would not join again for anything. Many might argue with what I say here, but here goes:

    (1) I want to serve my country:  No, you won't be serving your country.  You will be serving the defense industry and the the generals/admirals that lead the military, neither of whom give a shit about service to this country.  They care about lining their own pockets, expanding their power, and the profit they can make off proliferating war across the globe.  Several cases in point:

    - The admiral who sent our 6 ship group into what was hurricane like conditions just to show up the Egyptians, who wisely chose to keep their ships away and not participate in the naval exercise. All told, about $10M in damage to our ships (including damage to 3 surface search radars and 1 air search radar and 4 blown sonar domes that badly degraded our war fighting capability for the rest of the deployment) and 43 sailors injured.  

    - The many admirals and generals caught lining their pockets over the years - the worst probably being Hyman Rickover, the great Father of our Nuclear Navy, who took bribes from God knows how many beltway bandits to proliferate unnecessary submarines.

    - The gross waste, fraud and abuse that goes on everyday.  In the Navy, I saw expensive electronics put up on a racketball game bet between a sailor and a military shipyard foreman, $2M worth of parts that were over-ordered just thrown out in the trash, I could go on and on.

    (2) I'm willing to fight to protect our freedom.

    Yes, but is that what you are doing? You know, the worst thing about arming bin Laden then going to war against him, arming Saddam and then going to war against him, arming Iran, the 25K stationed in Korea to protect South Korea that will die when Nutso Kim drops a nuclear bomb to protect his hold on power, etc. - the very worst thing is this:  our military men and women don't deserve it.  They shouldn't be put in harms way to have to give their lives for the defense industry and the Republican hawks that don't give a shit about them, and don't really give a shit about democracy in the world.

    In sum I truly believe it is more patriotic NOT to join the military, to stand up for our military and vote with both your ballot and your feet and refuse to accept the military industrial complex that treats our military as so much chicken fodder.


    (3) Not always true, but most military men I know are misogynists who have very unhealthy attitudes towards women.  I remember very clearly as a midshipman getting to eat in the wardroom with the officers one time, and listening to them call female reporters c--ts  because there was a negative TV report about the ship's delayed deployment.

     Or the time that a great sailor, an electrician who solved several of our problems getting the right parts and wiring updated on a 25 year old ship, was accused of missing a  watch she was supposed to stand - oh, it wasn't her watch, it was the watch she supposedly agreed to stand because this one guy had sex with her.  It was a total crock of shit invented to save this guy's ass, but the captain and executive officer were fully ready to kick this woman out of the Navy on this bogus pretext because, as the XO said "c---ts don't belong in the Navy".

    (4) Remember, the bullshit line that the TV commercials and recruiters spin to you about how you can be an electronics technician or computer tech, or other high tech program - they recruit 5 for every 1 open slot.  But, you signed your contract and you still have to serve, even if you don't get the job you want.  In the Navy, the Deck department is still the largest on any ship - cleaning, painting, grinding the deck, lookout watch and anchor detail.  Not many marketable skills there.

    That's my $.02 and I won't apologize for it.


    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 06:16:05 PM PST

    •  I'm open to all points of view, (0+ / 0-)

      all sides of the story, so thank you for contributing to this diary. I wish my son was open to all sides--as I said further up in the thread, I'll just keep discussing this with him and presenting information, hoping on some level that he takes it in.

      Ultimately, it's his decision--and I want to be there for him regardless of what happens or what sort of experience he has.

      Thanks again for speaking your mind.

    •  Easier said than done (0+ / 0-)

      When it comes to persuading a son or daughter not to join the military. None of the examples you cite would have changed my son's mind. And while it may have been your experience that the service attracts a disproportionate number of misogynists, I would say that my son and the Marines he serves with are anything but. On the contrary, many of them are ridiculously devoted to wives and girlfriends they only get to see a few weeks out of the year, if that.    

      •  That's about where I am right now (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kat herder

        Nothing anyone says is going to change my son's mind. This diary was intended to help me -- to hear more about the military from progressives (pros and cons)--not to change his mind.

        I learned a lot today, so writing this has been worthwhile.

  •  I think Military Service is a good thing. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    207wickedgood, Elizaveta, kat herder

    Provided it is voluntary.

    I have spent the last 23 years in the Army and Army Reserves/National Guard. I enlisted in 1989 and have seen many things in the service.  Today i'm a Senior NCO (finished my 1SG time and now am doing Battalion Staff Duty) in the US Army Reserves.

    You ask "what does it mean to serve your nation".  That is not an easy answer.  Being in the US military is not like the militaries of other nations.  We don't take an oath to protect and defend the nation.  We make an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of this nation.  The US land could go away tomorrow, but our oath would still be valid.

    It is not a king or dictator or collection of elite people the military is protecting. It is an ideal.  Because of that, the military is not about making the military in charge.  If anything we get told over and over, we follow the directions of the President and Congress, that the highest ranking leaders of the military are CIVILIANS!

    What it means to be in the military in the US is showing you are willing to put something intangible before your personal needs.  The Soldier stands between the desolation of war and the homes of the civilians.  They are ready to bear the burdens of war - the wounds, psychic scars, even death - because if they don't who will?

    Someone needs to be ready to stand in the place between the light and the dark.  Someone needs to be ready to use controlled violence against those who would harm others.  At the local level we call them Police.  At the national level we call them Soldiers and Marines.

    Because military members join because of a desire to be one of those who would stand for others, they accept the low pay, harsh work, the risky training, the possibility of death or maiming.  This is what they mean by serving the nation - the willingness to put others before their needs.

    That begin said, I wish more people of the liberal view would join the military.  We need them.  And we really need liberal officers.  If liberals did not join the military, who would?  Right wing uber conservatives.

    One of the main reasons this nation has lasted so long is that the military has never tried to take it over.  But what happens if the right wing had 99% of the officers and 90% of the enlisted?  Would they hold back?

    I think military service is good, i've written about enlisting on my blog how your recruiter won't "lie", but they won't answer questions you don't ask, and won't think to tell you things that they take as normal (example - you get 30 days of leave a year but recruiters forget that you can't take it when every you want.)

    I have loved 90 to 95% of my enlisted career.  I have gotten to do things and go places I would never have been able to do.  I've been to some of the worst armpits of the world and the coolest places.  I've made friends more close than I would have ever thought because of working together for 180 days straight in some of the worst conditions.  I now have a very diverse group of good buddies than any group i've seen in the civilian world.

    However, there are some things I would tell myself to do different.

    College!  Don't wait till you're 42 to go. (Don't sit on your GI Bill for 18 years).  I would recommend the following:

    1) Go to College through the Academies or ROTC.

    2) if you want the experience of enlisting, go active for the best benefits and don't give in to the pressure to get married in your first enlistment.  (It seldom works out that you get out and go to college while supporting a wife/kid - next thing you know your 42 and going to college supporting a wife and more kids) Then go to College with ROTC.

    3) Enlist in the Reserves, go to college. ROTC would be good, but career Reserves is not bad either. (Guard is not quite as good for a career in my opinion)

    4) Enlist and make a career of it, but make sure you gain skills that translate to civilian jobs. Not only as part of your military job.  All the "fun" military jobs have very little civilian trade off, all the high civilian trade off jobs have very little fun.  

    Example: I chose Combat Engineer, I can put a 40  meter by 20 meter by 12 meter hole in a road in under 15 minutes.  Not a lot of demand for that.  But the military could have trained me to be an EMT.  Big demand for that.

    But as a Combat Engineer, I get to blow things up, drive armored vehicles, fire machine guns, jump from planes, rappel from helicopters, crawl in the mud, etc.  Rank comes easy and responsibility also.

    As a Medic, making it to a Senior NCO rank is rare. Most of your time is spent sitting in TMC (urgent care clinics) or such.  Boring. Dull.  

    I would be happy to answer any specific questions.  I really think military service is a good thing.  It does change you, how is up to you.

    Stupid question hour starts now and ends in five minutes.

    by DrillSgtK on Sun Feb 23, 2014 at 08:06:40 PM PST

  •  From a lifelong progressive and 25-year vet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    You've collected some awesome inputs already (and I think the views from NoBlinkers and DrillSgtK are particularly excellent)--but I'll add a nickel's worth, too.  Apologies in advance if I end up rambling.

    I'm about as liberal as they come, and (as DrillSgtK noted above) liberal commissioned officers are not very common.  Despite that dynamic, I had a very successful career in the AF (fortunate enough to advance to rank of Colonel), and if anything, my experiences made me even more progressive than when I started out.  And, while I surely would not call every day a picnic, I can say with certainty that I am a better person for having dedicated a quarter-century to public service instead of heading off to where my fellow college grads went.  No disparagement to them intended--just different life choices.

    Before I go on, let me say that I agree with others above--there are MANY ways to serve our nation and fellow citizens, and the armed forces are but one of them.  I actually feel awkward when we get showered with hero worship, while other public servants are sometimes looked at as merely "takers."  Diplomats, Park Rangers, IRS agents, food inspectors, teachers, scientists--the list goes on--and they are all important.  So to touch on one of your questions (what is service?)--an easy answer is work in the public/not-for-profit sector that provides or advances a public good or interest.  That's a pretty wide-open space.  Military service is obviously a unique type of public service, and it has its pros and cons like the rest.  You and others above have already touched on both.

    I just retired in December after 25 years in the Air Force.  I entered the AF by enrolling in ROTC during my first year in college.  After 2 years as a non-scholarship cadet, I got a full scholarship for the last two years.  After graduation and commissioning, I was provided an opportunity for a no-cost graduate degree during my first tour of duty--which I eagerly grabbed.  After that, I got to attend graduate school full time for a second Master's degree.  In addition, the list of other training programs and schools I've attended through the years is very long.  The point: as noted by others, the military services invest a great deal in the education of their people.  The armed forces expect our people to be smart, and we value self-improvement.  Military service as I've lived it is not about marching in formation and doing push-ups when your room isn't clean enough.  In my experience, it's about managing programs, solving problems, fielding and maintaining products, providing services, leading people, organizing, improving, etc.  That's why education is so valued.

    One note to amplify a comment from above: the differences between enlistees and commissioned officers (pay, responsibility/authority, e.g.) are non-trivial--so for anyone who wants to be a Serviceperson and who is college-ready/capable now, ROTC or a service academy ought to be primary considerations as alternatives to enlisting.  Yes, there is a path to officership for enlisted personnel, but that pipeline is quite small.  With that caveat, I think enlisting is a perfectly noble pursuit, and one that offers lot of opportunities to do and see amazing things.  As for which service to join--I'm partial to the Air Force, naturally.

    During my career, I had the opportunity to live in the following places: California (.5 years) Montana (4.5 years), Ohio (4 years), NC (1.5), Guam (1.5), Sydney, Australia (2), VA (3), Germany (4), and NM (3) East to West, North to South, and around the world.  Throw in all the other temporary assignments and opportunities for personal travel, and I've seen/experienced much more of the world than most--and my kid has, too.  

    All of this, I would say, isn't too bad for a dude from an very poor town on Tobacco Road.  Moreover, the military pay/compensation package is comprehensive and pretty competitive, and obviously gets better as you advance in rank.  

    Let me end this way: I offer myself as a data point--that a  person can find military service compatible with progressive views.  Same goes for my father--an Army enlisted man who raised me in a way that I came to value both.  I'm not here to give you advice--but I would just say that there is opportunity in all things.  

    Happy to talk further about specifics if you want.  All the best-

    •  This is an awesome response (0+ / 0-)

      among lots of great comments. I've learned so much in the past day or so--and that more than anything was the purpose of this diary. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience in the military.

      I'm not working to change my son's mind, but to help him be the best that he can be, to explore all his options.

      If there's one thing I could change, it would be his form of hero worship because, as you said, all kinds of public servants make valuable contributions--often for less pay than they could take home in the private sector.

      Thanks again. I have much to discuss with my son.

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