Join the US Military - Part 1 - Don't do it!


To join or not to join

If you would like to join a US military service - there is a lot to think about.

The first thing to think about is: Don’t do it! (kidding, of course).

If you're like me, no one can talk you out of your decision once you've committed and signed on the dotted line. I come from a family of lawyers, preachers, writers and entrepreneurs - and I still joined the Army at 17.

There are no limitations to what you can do with your life in the United States of America. Just keep in mind that the level of dedication and selflessness required by US military service is beyond the norm. Moreover, there is a very good possibility you will deploy into a combat zone and die from a random bullet or a not-so-random improvised explosive device. That's the gamble. You arrive at hero status simply by raising your right hand - because only a very small percentage of any given national population serves in uniform.

The vet who was asked to scare me away from US military service was a Vietnam War helicopter pilot who had been shot down on a mission - he showed me his melted helmet and described the incident. The obvious dangers he presented to me did not deter me.

My story, like many others, was about escape. There wasn't much dough available in the old family "trust fund" to attend university - and I did not like "Kansas."

So, it was time get hooah - time to join the US Army specifically to fund my education - and acquire three-hots-and-a-cot along the way.

Age limit to join. You run into people in the military who claim they were given a choice between jail and a military service. Granted, there may have been a time when this was a common practice - but most of the people who told me this struck me as someone who enjoyed perpetuating an urban myth.

I was a teenage party animal when I joined - so my decision to enlist was beyond wise (not that I had any wisdom at the time, it just turned out to be a wise decision).

On that note, 17 (you can join the minute you turn 17 years old - mom and pop must sign the consent paperwork) - or 18, 19, early 20s - is the perfect age to join a US military service because when you're young, you can do required manual labor such as:

  • Filling sandbags.
  • Digging foxholes - “defensive fighting positions” in Army parlance.
  • Jumping out of perfectly good airplanes and helicopters - I could never think of a valid reason to vacate a plane while it was still in the air - although Black Hat would literally kick you out the door if you hesitated too much.
  • Rappelling from cliffs, sides of buildings, and perfectly good airplanes and helicopters that could otherwise land and allow you to deplane.
  • Painting rocks.
  • Multiple sweepings of the same sidewalk, flight line, deck, or vehicle park.
  • Floor buffing with huge electric buffers - requires learned skill and upper body strength.
  • Fishing cigarette butts out of urinals - not so much upper body strength required.
  • Long jogs in military formations singing bawdy songs.
  • Squad forced-march live fires - no songs allowed for tactical reasons.
  • Knuckle-busting while turning wrenches on wheeled and tracked vehicles during winter months.
  • Spit-shining - this last one provides you with the US military version of carpal tunnel syndrome.

You can do all of the above if you join in your 30s. It's just easier when you're younger. Some of the guys and gals that join in their 30s often have problems with weight and physical fitness as they get older.

Age and maturity are two separate time-lines, by the way. I was way too immature to concentrate on university study when I joined, for example (as are a lot of university students who fail out of school, aye).

How to join a US military service? Go see a recruiter. Again, the US military is only for special people who can handle life in austere environments. There is a rather consistent mindset with civilian elitists in the United States and around the world that only losers join US military services because that's the only thing they can do with their lives. Whereas, the exact opposite is true.

In my 22 years in the Army, I met beau coup people of Pat Tillman caliber. I met a number of people, who, like Pat, had given up professional sports careers to opt instead for a life in the Army. I met people whose intelligence and character were off the scale. I met people who thoroughly enjoyed military life. I met people who hated military life but still excelled.

When you talk to a recruiter, keep in mind that it is a privilege to join, not a right.

Should I join? If you're still asking yourself that question after reading the above, that's probably because the decision to join is an extremely personal one. If you already have a family, you may not see them very often after you join - and you need to hammer that point home.

The US military's family breakups started during Bosnia peacekeeping missions, then progressed through Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan deployments.

If you're stuck in a situation in which you must prioritize - no good job prospects on the horizon - a couple of kids already, and one on the way - by all means, joining a US military service can solve many of your paycheck problems. Just keep in mind that the family separation thing starts on the first day of basic training and generally does not let up for however long you serve.

But, hey, if you're single, get out of your hometown and go have a blast (no pun intended). That's what I did.

More by this Author

Thanks for the tips. I think I'll join a martial arts program instead ... 5 comments

sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 4 years ago from Key West and Budapest Author

KevinTimothy, completely agree with everything you said. I wrote this piece as a series of articles to try to deter someone from joining, and the most interesting things I gained from the writing and from the fact that the person I was trying to deter went ahead and joined - was the parental perspective ("not my child!") - the fact that the person joining may not consider the parental perspective - and I also changed my opinion on people who are chaptered from active duty (as long as they did no wrong to get the boot, I gained new respect for that group of people). Not sure what the solution is for the racism, other than ensuring that it is not perpetuated from within families, because I think that's where most people acquire it. Thanks for your comment. SK

KevinTimothy profile image

KevinTimothy 4 years ago from Tampa Bay, FL

I joined at age 17 with the hopes of landing the G.I. Bill. My lack of patience got the best of me when I gave up the idea of enrolling at a state university fresh out of high school. Instead of waiting indefinitely for word on a scholarship, I made haste to the US Army.

At that young age I initially thought that it was all nonsense! True, I had my fair share of filling sand bags, digging foxholes, four mile PT runs at 0500 hrs, and racism, but I actually miss it. Its been 10+ years since I was discharged from active duty and I still miss the camaraderie. The teamwork you learn there is unrivaled by any civilian job. And I especially miss the exercise.

I would actually recommend joining the military to even my best friend. When it comes to "catching" bullets or even the possibility of loosing a limb - my thing is that you can't cheat death or tragedy. If you're destined for it, it's gonna happen.

Jt Walters 5 years ago

Hi Sean

I think it is a very valueable and educational hub for those patriotic young men and women interested in serving our country. While I was not in the military I was in Europe in 1984 when I skipped a grade and i was exposed to our military culture over there and what struck me the most was the incredible dedication, patriotism, professionalism and the bonds that our service men and women shared. They were for a lack of a better word a family and it left an impression on me.

As always you have prodcued yet another infomrative educational witty excellentlt written hub.

All My Best,


sean kinn profile image

sean kinn 5 years ago from Key West and Budapest Author

JT, there are huge, lifelong bonds generated in and around the U.S. military. I'll note stuff about the bonds, because they are definitely important, but this series will concentrate more on informing young men and women about the inherent dangers associated with military service, and generally what they're about to get themselves into. I was constantly surprised by stuff I was presented with, not so much because I was naive in 1979 when I joined (I was), but because there were obvious solutions to make a lot of the truly stupid stuff go away. SK

JT Walters profile image

JT Walters 5 years ago from Florida

Hi Sean,

You certainly don't glamorize military service but you didn't mention the bond and brotherhood that occurs in the military once you are in. it is my experience professional soldiers are closer than other soldiers serving shorter deployments.

Useful and thumbs up!!


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