[The post is from CJ at Soldier's Perspective. His blog won our Best MilBlog contest. CJ and Marcus donated the $2,500 to the Camp Lejeune Ballerinas. Well done fellows. We hope everyone enjoys this fantastic post by our guest blogger CJ.]
Kind of an all-inclusive title coming from just one Soldier. The fact is that there are as many reasons “why we serve” as there are Soldiers doing it. My goal is to give you a little information about my experiences over the past 12 years in the active duty Army that allow me to answer this question. I’ll start with why I serve.
I joined the Army in January 1995, three years after graduating high school. My father was a Command Master Chief (CMC), E-9, in the Navy. I grew up in the military. Some would say I’ve actually been serving my country for 33 years. But, the military wasn’t a natural option for me. I was a punk growing up. I generally stayed out of trouble, although I listened to heavy metal music and frequently dyed my hair bright colors. The day I joined the Army I had purple hair. My drill instructors called me Barney because after my initial buzz cut I still have a purple tint to my noggin. After high school, I became a DJ in overseas clubs in Japan and also worked as a loss prevention specialist in the Navy Exchange.
When I left Japan in 1994 (I graduated in 1992), I found myself almost broke and had gotten engaged to the most beautiful woman in the world. My sister was about to join the Army but backed out at the last minute and felt guilty for it. She gave her recruiter my name and said “he’ll join for sure”. I laughed when I got the call.
The recruiter wanted me to come in to take some tests, but I played hard to get and made him come to my house. After all, HE wanted ME. Recruiters don’t generally allow recruits to take these tests in home, but I did and scored well. Little by little I found myself sucked into the military lifestyle again. I wanted to be an MP, but at the time there was a height limit and I’m only 5’5″. Instead, I chose to become a linguist.
I think all along I knew deep down that I was going to join the military one day. I loved my country greatly, though guys that looked like I did don’t typically join the military. I looked up to my father and all that he had accomplished in the Navy. I loved travelling and, to be honest, the prospect of spending the rest of my life stuck in Florida didn’t appeal to me. I signed up for six years and haven’t looked back since.
I didn’t join for college money, though I paid into the GI Bill and have been taking advantage of the educational benefits. I’ve earned more than two years of college credit from my military experience without ever stepping into a classroom or taking a class. Honestly, I didn’t even join for travel. One of my childhood dreams was to become a truck driver, which would have fulfilled that need. And I didn’t do it for the money. I only got an $8000 bonus for joining (Soldiers now can get almost $40,000). My father made it clear that no one gets rich in the military. We lived comfortably on his CMC pay but definitely weren’t well off by any means. I still have my first few pay stubs that prove I wasn’t going be joining yacht clubs any time soon.
I joined the Army to become a man. I wanted to be able to support my future wife and do something noble with my life. There are worse things in life to do than serving one’s country.
Most of the Soldiers I’ve had the privilege to serve with feel the same way. We love our freedom so much that we’re willing to stake our lives on it. Soldiers died with a purpose. They died for something far more important than a pair of Nike shoes or a stereo system. They died for far more than road rage or a drunk driver. Their lives and their deaths had purpose. They died protecting people who have no influence over their lives. They died for people with different values, beliefs, religious convictions, and motives. In some cases, they died for people who would much rather have killed them themselves. But, they still died for something!! I would say that each of us live for something as well.
It is true that many people join the military for college, large bonuses, and the free medical care. I don’t think that you can find a Soldier who joined for that one specific purpose. Granted, it is a motivator, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of reasons. Soldiers have an inherent sense of selflessness that engrained in them. No one in their right mind would risk their lives on a battlefield just to pay off a college loan. They’re safer trying to rob a bank for the money. We do it because they love this country. We do it because they love freedom. We do it because we want others to have the success and freedoms we enjoy here at home. We do it for you.