(This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Prepare for the Military.)
By enlisting or accepting a commission in the military, you are volunteering to become a servant of this country. For me, serving this country is a very high calling. The desire to serve this country is the overarching reason why anyone should join the military.
Once you have made the decision to embark on a life of service, consider the other, more personal factors of why the military is a good choice. If you are a high school student or recent college graduate, your job options are going to be decidedly entry-level. There is no major corporation in the entire United States that will entrust you with the kind of responsibilities that the military expects you to handle from day one. As an enlistee, you will be working with equipment designed for combat. If you become a commissioned officer, you will be put in important management positions years before your civilian counterparts will see that level of responsibility.
The kinds of jobs that are available to you in your teens and twenties are also the kinds of jobs that will be available to you in your fifties. That is not the case for the military. You have a very short window of opportunity, starting in your late teens and generally ending in your mid-thirties, when you can join the military. If you want to join the Marine Corps, your window of time is even shorter.
Ask a lot of veterans, and they will tell you that had they not been in the military, they would have certainly looked back at their lives with some regret. There are a lot of people in their forties and fifties doing the same things now as they were in their twenties. Many regret not doing something more exciting when they were young and had the chance to do so. The vast majority of things to do in life can wait, but not the military. Blow the window to join, fail to seize the opportunity, and you will never get another chance.
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In the military, you will be surrounded by professionals who take their jobs very seriously. These men and women will be mentors and can help break you away from any bad influences of civilian life. For example, there is no tolerance for drug or alcohol abuse.
You will find that your own expectations for personal performance rise during your time in the military. This is part of being held to a higher standard day in and day out by professionals dedicated to serve. You will begin to notice that the once acceptable standards of the civilian world are no longer tolerable.
The military is a dangerous job. You can get hurt or killed. You may deploy to combat zones and be overseas for months or years. There is no avoiding this fact. If you sign up for the military, you are taking a risk. But as with many endeavors worthwhile in life, risk is part of the equation. And with the military, the payoff is the chance to experience the adventure of a lifetime. You will be exposed to diverse cultures in far-away places and lifestyles that are completely different from main street USA. You will get to visit parts of the world that most people only see when they go to the movies.
The military provides you with a glorious opportunity to break with your past. Some parents continue to baby their children through adulthood. If you are in high school or college right now, take a look around and see how many of your peers still behave with a childlike mindset.
Watch what happens the day you let your parents know that you have just signed up for the military. After a few years of service, you will find that your parents, your teachers, and most other people in your hometown and everywhere else, will treat you completely differently. The old saying that the military turns boys into men may be from a different era, but it still holds in spirit, as it takes a real man or woman to serve in the armed forces. The general population, including those who have never served themselves, instinctively know this to be true.
Joining the military is one way to get exposed to many different career paths and start earning some decent money while doing something exciting and adventurous. You will discover the limitless options you have in your life. Years later, you will look back at your time in the military with a sense of wonder and adventure that you may never experience again.