COLUMN: Joining military good choice for some

Farm Forum

Some join for the money, while others join to serve a higher purpose.

Joining the Armed Forces of the United States can be a good choice for many young Americans. That said, military life is not for everyone. In fact, I have often thought it would be a good idea for our nation to consider some type of compulsory service for all post-high school graduates. The military could be one option of service, but so could the Peace Corps and other types of national service programs. Whatever the choice, serving our country is not only a duty but a great way to mature, interact with others and gain a greater appreciation for the blessings that all of us enjoy in a democratic society.

I was a relative latecomer to the military. I had just finished my undergraduate degree and was lamenting my soon-to-be student loan repayment. As an enticement to join the military, I was offered the student loan repayment program. I did not have any noble purpose, higher calling or master plan. My reason to join was simply for financial gain. I still believe that the student loan repayment program was one of the best incentives the U.S. Army ever created.

About five years ago, I submitted paperwork to retire from the Army Reserve after 21 years of honorable service. Although I do not miss the Army, I do miss the people I met and the relationships we built. Most of the soldiers I was acquainted with over those years were average people with extraordinary dedication. There is a long-lasting bond that develops when you share hardships with your fellow soldiers. Few outside the military circle understand that bond. But if they did, they might consider this another incentive to enlist.

All military members have fond recollections of goofy or funny events that occurred during their time in service. Basic training, or “boot camp,” is one experience that all service members vividly remember. I spent my basic training in the desert of Texas and New Mexico.

Basic trainees were separated by gender at that time, and perhaps because of that separation, our drill sergeants had absolutely no qualms about lewd language. They called us every obscene name you can think of (and some you probably cannot). I can still picture our last day of basic training. We were standing in formation and a particularly strict drill sergeant came up to the soldier next to me, put his face about two inches away from me and said, “Private, some folks are sayin’ that you done a good job, but you’re still a &*%$# to me.”

We all desperately wanted to laugh out loud, but the lessons of rigid discipline sorely learned had been so successfully instilled that not a single one of us so much as smirked.

Those were the days.

Alan L. Neville is an associate professor of education at Northern State University. The views are his and do not represent Northern State University.