Over the past few days I have had the opportunity to read over many blogs and news media articles concerning the military. The occasion of Memorial Day seems to bring out the best and the worst of peoples perceptions concerning my fellow members in the Armed Forces.
I read, in many sources, concerning the fact that we now have an all volunteer military and somehow that is supposed to make a difference in recognizing the sacrifice that our armed forces have made. The idea expressed is that they have volunteered for this job, so why give them any special recognition? As much as I would like to jump all over this issue ... the real issue I want to discuss are the motives people have in joining the armed forces in the first place. Many commentators dismiss our armed forces members as, "having to join the military to get a good job", or that they are in the military "because they couldn't get a job anywhere else", or that it was the "last resort".
And I endured reading many references to that "idea" that military people are just not as bright as the rest of society and that's why they are in the Armed Forces.
Allow me to enlighten these misguided people that seem to stereotype the military and it's members.
I graduated from high school in 2 1/2 years and therefore started my college career early. I managed to get through college in just four years and immediately joined the Marines upon graduation. I had no grand devotion to country.....I had no great cause, I joined the Corps before 9-11. After joining I went to work on my Masters and managed to earn two masters degrees and just last year earned my PhD in Arab Studies. I managed to earn that degree from one of the most prestigious private institutions in the country. It was hard work and required a great deal of tolerance and understanding from my advisers as I managed to serve three tours in Iraq and "enjoyed" numerous "side trips" throughout the Middle East.
I know that I am the exception and NOT the rule. But I think most people would be surprised at how many people in the military have achieved post graduate levels in their education and how many of us bring that expertise to the military rather than migrate over to the private sector.
Overall, the educational requirements for officers in the military are greater than that required for comparable work in the private sector. Enlisted requirements are at par or greater than equivalent jobs in the private sector. Because of the increasingly technical nature of the jobs in the military, scores on basic math, English and critical thinking tests require HIGHER scores than we see in the private sector. Drug use, alcohol abuse, spousal abuse are all reasons for exclusion for joining the armed forces and because of that, the military enjoys an entry level workforce superior to that of the private sector. The days of kids being offered a stint in the military to avoid jail are long gone. No longer is the military required to "scape the bottom of the barrel" to enlist the people that it needs.
In general, many liberal people have a stereotype of military members based on some outdated idea that may have been true a few decades ago, but is totally different today.
We join the armed forces for many reasons. Family history, a feeling of patriotism, or a desire to belong to something lasting and that has tradition. Yes, there are those of us that join too for the college benefits, which are not as generous as they were under the GI Bill post Vietnam.
I stay in the Marine Corps because I'm part of something bigger than just myself and my own personal gain.
I've been actively recruited by numerous organizations offering pay exceeding multiple six figures, but belonging to a company or an academic "think tank" does not begin to measure up to what it's like to be a member of the US Marine Corps.
The one quality the military has over all those companies, universities, or private institutions is the HONOR.
So the next time you hear some elitist dilettante belittle your armed forces members as less than intelligent, or degrade their motives for being in the armed forces as the result of not being "enlightened",
remember that we are here by choice ....an intelligent, well thought out choice...to be part of something honorable, lasting and noble.