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.
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.”
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.