I was recently introduced to Jeff, a military man from outside the draft era. One downside of a draft-free military is that there is a weakening connection between those individuals who serve and the rest of the public. So I want to devote a few of my articles to his words, as a glimpse into his post-911 generation of service members. In this first segment, I asked Jeff to share why he decided to join the military:
I enlisted in the Indiana Army National Guard in June 2008, just after college. There are several reasons I joined, ranging from the superficial and financial (a nearly free ride for a Masters – if I pursue one) and also deep: I remember a time when mom told me – as she was prodding teenage Jeff to volunteer at the local hospital – that I’ve grown up in a privileged upper-middle-class environment and it is important to give back.
Yet at 22 years old, the immediate reason for joining was that I had grown up obsessively studying military history, was about to graduate with a degree in it, but never thought I could actually do it. I am not exactly the “look” that is on the recruiting posters. (Do they still use posters?) I had also completed three years of ROTC, which wasn’t so hard. (Surprise! Going to university classes taught by soldiers bears little resemblance to actually being in the US Army! But I’d learn that later.)
Not surprisingly for my less-than-Brad-Pitt physique, the military’s medical review board did not like my eyesight so they declined to grant me a hard-fought commission as an officer in the Active Duty US Army. Go figure. But a year later, when hard-pressed for bodies to send to Iraq, the Army’s National Guard found no problem with my eyes and commissioned me as an officer in 2010. I’ll now have 14 years done this June.