I’m going to throw out what I know is probably a goofball unpopular opinion.
I’m almost 50. I work 40 hours a week. That’s pretty steady. Overtime for emergencies, maybe three or four times a year. No emails or calls when I’m off-duty. I make decent living in the Seattle area, and that’s not working for Amazon or Microsoft. I have savings and I’m putting two kids through college. I’m a homeowner.
(Bear with me. I’m not just bragging.)
I credit almost all of my current security up to my time in the military. Outside of VA loans and G.I. Bill college funding, going into the military after high school instead of going straight to college gave me a leg up in a lot of ways that many of my peers lacked.
I traveled and saw the best of the world and the worst of war. I was exposed to a wider variety of colors, creeds, and cultures (both in and out of the Army) than I would’ve had I just stayed in the States. I learned a solid work ethic, down to simple stuff like “show up to work on time” to more advanced things like how to complete staff work or write effective emails and memos. I managed projects and had teams of “employees.” I did manual labor (literally burning shit in barrels in Iraq) and created and presented intelligence briefings to generals. I learned how to interview thanks to the formal NCO board review promotion process. I saved money because it’s hard to blow fun bucks when you’re in hostile territory. I learned how to put on a tie and wear a suit. (I’m always shocked at how many guys don’t know how to wear one, and don’t have one when it’s needed.) I took classes that had nothing to do with a degree. I bought multiple new cars. I made invaluable connections with people that have remained solid sources of job offers and advice.
This is all before I ever walked into a civilian job!
Meanwhile, my hometown friends were racking up college debt, sometimes in degrees that no businesses cared about, while working in mimimum wage retail or service jobs to get by. Jobs that didn’t even value punctuality in any serious way. Just grinding through employees like balsa wood. When they started jobs they actually cared about, they didn’t know how to write emails or talk to co-workers without acting like dorm room idiots or waiters.
The flipside of the deal was that I was in a war, so it wasn’t all job training and fun. Caveat emptor and all that. It’s not a social program or charity. They work you hard and you risk your life.
I feel that a big part of the Gen-X/Millenial woes comes from not having that boost from the early military service. We “honor” military service, but after Vietnam, I feel like we really teach kids that only poor people and losers enlist. There’s no draft, and going to deploy in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever is a shit option for kids that can’t get into college. Like, you don’t want that, right? Better go to college!
I’m rambling. I don’t think the military is for everyone, and I don’t want a draft, but man I am eternally grateful for my time in the Army.