A veteran shares his point of view why people choose to enlist — including himself

October 11, 2021

I found myself lost during high school and whereas some people already had plans for their post-graduation lives — like my younger brother who’s currently serving — I stumbled into military service by chance when my school offered the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery in lieu of a class period.

Scoring high in electronics, I thought to myself, “Why not?” and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft technician. It was during my enlistment that I learned that most military members weren’t the patriots that movies made them out to be, but rather everyday people like myself who were simply looking for a change.

Veterans tend to have strong bonds with each other and that camaraderie is not formed because of some loyalty to their military service (well, maybe a little) but because they all know how important it is to turn strangers into family. Most of us weren’t there to fulfill some desire to become a war hero or live out a “Call of Duty” fantasy. We just wanted to make a living like everyone else.

However, it’s understood that in choosing our lifestyle, the possibility of being sent to a hostile part of the world was real and we would only have each other, should the time come. Trust is the foundation of all of our relationships and it was through that trust that many of us, myself included, formed lasting friendships.

You can prepare as best as you can for life as a military member, but nothing really prepares you for just how lonely and isolating it can be. For all the material perks that military members experience, there is an equal toll on their emotional and mental state. Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death among veterans and active members alike, according to a 2015 study conducted by the Department of Defense.
Veterans accepted many risks when they signed those enlistment contracts and you’d be right in saying that no one asked them to, but they did it anyway because someone has to.

Whether we like it or not, our nation has a military and that military needs people to function. There are plenty of other jobs that we could have taken but a life in the military holds the promise of many things that most of us were looking for. On the surface, military life isn’t far off from everyday life and the jobs that exist in the civilian world, exist within the military community; you can be a mechanic, a cook, or even a dental assistant.

The difference is that in the civilian world, your job won’t ask you to leave home for months at a time or to qualify on an M4 assault rifle, or at the very least, a handgun. The truth is, no matter which branch you join, you have to be ready at a moment’s notice to leave everything behind and do what’s asked of you.

Regardless of what someone may feel toward war, government spending or the military-industrial complex, the reality is that we live in a world with conflict. In a world where militaries exist because we live alongside some very dangerous people who have, and will, escalate things to the point of gunfire. And when those times came and someone had to be sent to fight those battles, veterans were the ones who said, “Okay, I’ll do it.”

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