Inspired by this trainwreck (and please, I’d rather we discuss the actual question than the OP of that thread). Though this might do better in IMHO since it’s both a debate and a request for personal experiences.
There was a semi-serious question in there: is it a bad thing if military enlistment is primarily a career move rather than a calling? I don’t know if that’s true, and I don’t think it’s really an issue either way. But there’s a sort of idealized picture of soldiers, seamen and airmen as rosy-cheeked Nebraska farmboys who sign up to defend Truth, Justice and the American Way. Like Superman, but without the laser vision.
Maybe that’s just something that comes from recruiting materials (the Marines had a TV campaign a while back where big muscly guys climbed mountains, fought off a monster with a sword, and then is magically zapped into a dress uniform with a shiny saber).
But recruiting materials also tout the more… mercenary benefits of service. College tuition, the opportunity to develop experience that will be valuable in civilian employment, etc. Navy recruiting materials seem to be particularly big on that (perhaps because being stuck on a boat for months at a time isn’t as “romantic” as ground combat or flying fighter planes).
I have no idea what the actual numbers are, though ISTM hearing roughly equal numbers of people saying they joined to pay for college versus people saying they joined because of 9/11 or other ideological reasons.
I was in CCF when I was in the UK, and my dad was actually in the services. In the British Army (at least the officer corps) there was much less of a sense of “defending freedom” or whatever. They tended to view themselves as “professionals,” with the detachment that implies, and were sometimes even disdainful of ideologically driven people.
If you served, why did you serve? Did it ever matter to you why your cohorts served? Did it make a noticeable difference in the quality of their work/marksmanship/leadership ability/whatever? I think it’s fair to say I’m not going to get a fully balanced picture (since even military personnel on the SDMB tend to liberalism) so feel free to explain if you feel your views are typical.