The military. Did you join? Why or why not?

Why did you join? Or not join? Did you come from a family with a strong military tradition? Did you grow up wanting to join? Or did you simply stumble into it? Or were you standing in front of a judge who said join or go to jail? Or did you consider it and then not join?

What’s your military story, in terms of why you joined or not? I’ll share mine a little later.

I did search on ‘military’ in thread titles, and I looked for threads along the lines of Why Did You Join? or similar. Surprisingly, it appears we haven’t done this in at least 10 years. I’m pretty sure we’d have done this before but if we did, apparently it was many years ago.

Quickly scanning the thread titles in the search results, this one came a little close —

And this one, not all that close —

I scrolled and scanned, and scrolled and scanned. When I got to the bottom, Discourse said this:

There are more results. Please narrow your search criteria.

So, I tried.

Looks like I responded to both of those threads although my reply was rather flippant in the first one.

I was in the Army full or part time from 1989-2016. I didn’t like college life and wanted to do something different. There was military service in my family for WWII. A couple of uncles made it a career. I wouldn’t say it was a strong family tradition.

Short version: I joined because the Library wasn’t open yet.

Long version: I wasn’t doing well in my Freshman year of community college. I was working 2 jobs for about 32 hours a week and foolishly trying to complete 16 credits at the same time. My brother is 6 years older than me and was working at Hardees. So I was thinking about joining the Air Force or the Navy.

One Friday morning, I was a little hungover and only had 3-4 hours sleep tops and for some reason my parents were off and were kind enough to give me a wake up call. I was in no shape to go to my Calculus class at 7am. So I drove over to the Library. They didn’t open until 9am.

Next I tried the Hobby Shop, also not open yet, in fact 10am for them. OK, maybe my brain wasn’t working well yet. The Hobby store was right by the recruiting station. I walked in, it was just before 8am now. The Marine Sgt practically ran to the door. I told him I wasn’t interested in the Marines, I wanted a Tech service if I joined, he gave me a sales pitch but I walked over to the Air Force office door.

The Sgt gave up around now, but the door had a small sign on it. Be in at 11am. That should have given me a good hint that that was the service to join, but no. I walked over to the Navy Office and a 1st class was in and we started talking. They had a variety of Electronics programs and of course programs to get money for college.

Within an hour they had me convinced and I took the ASVAB the next day and scored crazy high and then they had me take the Nuke test and I score the highest mark the Newark MEPS had ever seen. I got fast talked into Nuke ET and missed the fact, the actual assignment was up to the Navy and could be ET, EM or MM. That bit me in the ass big time in bootcamp.

So come Bootcamp, assignment day. I wasn’t worried, I was set for ET & Nuclear School. But no, I was told I was assigned EM & Nuclear School. I was not happy, I tried to fight it but to no avail and ended up in BEE and then EM “A” school. Son of a Bitch. Well, I found out, I didn’t have to sign the extension for the Nuclear School. That entailed 2 extra years of service over the 4 I committed to. So suddenly I was heading to fleet as an E3 Electricians Mate. The rest is history?

I really wanted to be a nuclear submarine officer. Short version: I applied while in college, and got as far as the interviews with Naval Reactors. It’s very selective. They didn’t select me. I didn’t want anything else. If I wasn’t 20/400, and 6’3", maybe I would have tried to get in as a pilot.

My dad was in WWII, but then, so were a lot of people. He did volunteer, not get drafted, though. “Class of '45”, he was out as soon as the war was over and never looked back.

There was a recruiting office in the area and that one guy would peer over the wall while I was in the swimming pool basically giving me shit for being home on a weekday morning. I have a job! Why did I put up with that? I think he detested my taste in music as I would blare the radio. He roped my little sister into joining the AF.

She limped home ejected from basic a fucking mess.

I’ve seen it. The military is not for everyone.

No. I did not join the military, either voluntarily nor by the draft (my draft status was originally 1-Y due to chronic asthma, which was later dropped as a category, so I was moved to 4-F). I was glad not to be going into Vietnam as a soldier, it looked like a death trap. But mostly I did not believe I would be welcome in the military in any capacity, and the consequences of being outed there seemed dire.

My first real boyfriend, whom I met several years later, had gotten out of the draft by volunteering for the Air Force, and spent his 4 years at a base near London, England. He was always lucky that way.

I was in the after Korea before Vietnam gap, so it wasn’t fear of fighting. I was enjoying college, then grad school too much to ever consider it.

I wanted to join the Navy and fly jets, but I injured myself in high school.

My Dad was Air Force, he joined before Korea got going and served during Korea, but in Iceland as a Weatherman. He lost a friend from school in Korea who got drafted and never came home.

Too young to get drafted for Nam (my asthma might have disqualified me anyway.) Took all the tests in high school just because. Blew the lid off the ASVAB. Took me years to get them to leave me alone, because I wear glasses and if they wouldn’t let me fly, fuck 'em.

Dad was a USAF Instructor Pilot. My oldest cousin was career Army Counter-Intelligence (Nah, too easy.) The next oldest was a quite active and militant C.O. We didn’t talk about it a family get-togethers.

The fetishization of the US military in the last 40 years bothers me immensely.

My dream school was the U.S. Air Force Academy. From the earliest possible age, my fantasies - like any other boy that time in the 1990s - was fighter jets and whatnot. Even without USAFA (the odds of admission being lower than that of Harvard,) there were still OCS or other paths I could have taken - although, again, all still one out of a thousand. The games I played as a teen were Microsoft Flight Simulator, Jane’s USAF, DID F-22 ADF, etc.

In the end, I didn’t go into the military because I’m simply not cut out for it. ADHD, OCD, sleep disorders (often get only 3-4 hours of sleep per night,) and issues with the spine and neck.

As for family tradition, every male relative in the family had served in the Taiwanese military, but that was because of mandatory conscription.

I was a woman in the Vietnam era. I could have enlisted, I think, but that was the bleeding edge of women in the military in any large way. I wasn’t interested at all. I would not have been good military material, even if I had the interest.

All my uncles were in the military in WWII; they were drafted. My dad was horrible nearsighted, so he ended up in Iran/Iraq (he was in both countries). I didn’t know until my mom died (my dad died decades earlier) and I was going through some of her paperwork that my dad was part of a joint US/Soviet group in the Middle East. I guess that’s where he got the Russian karakul hat with the red enamel pin with the hammer & sickle on it. He told us as kids that he just met a Russian soldier on a train at the end of the war and traded hats. I’m guessing it was someone he knew. The 1950s were not a time to admit having friendly relations with Russians.

I only had one brother who could have caught the end of the Vietnam War, but he didn’t register with the draft. I don’t know if he ever did. Whatever he did, they didn’t come after him.

I had a cousin from Michigan who signed up with the Marines. Since they sent him to Camp Pendelton, he’d spend weekends with us. He had some issues, but I liked him o.k. Friendly and kind of a big puppy dog. He came back from Vietnam changed. Not for the better.

I did not join. My dad and all his brothers did a hitch in the Navy (dad during Korea, but he never deployed there), but dad never pushed me to join the military, especially after he saw some of his nephews return from Vietnam more than a bit messed up. We got out of Vietnam just before I reached draft age, and I was part of that cohort that never had to actually register for the draft.

So with dad bankrolling my education, I just straight-tracked thru college and med school, then started residency. I never had a reason to consider joining the military other than family tradition, and the tradition wasn’t that strong.

Enlisted in the Navy in 1973 and was trained as an avionics technician. Assigned to VS-41 at NAS North Island - the base is still there but the squadron and the S-3s are gone. Then applied for an officer program and became an Ensign, and discovered I was awful at it, so when my obligated time was fulfilled, I got out, then went to work for the Navy as a civilian for the next 26 years.

Jack Reacher:
There are four types of people who join the military. For some, it’s family trade. Others are patriots, eager to serve. Next you have those who just need a job. Than there’s the kind who want the legal means of killing other people.

Bolding mine. 1979.

My Dad was a Korea Marine. My grandfather was a WWII Marine. My uncles were Marines. I dated Marines. I heard all the stories and knew what being a Marine was all about.

I’m not nearly as dumb as I look. I joined the Air Force when I was 17.

I put four years in and then used my GI bill to get a pretty worthless degree (Master of Library Science) then went into government work because I liked the idea of retiring with money.

I’m the first male in my to not join the military in 2 generations. I was never pressured to join nor did I have any interest in joining. In HS I refused to engage with the recruiters or attend any events. I even walked out a social studies class where a recruiter was guest speaking. I was the only in my class who didn’t take the “mandatory” ASVAB test. I was against the Iraq War, but I was also a closeted gay teen during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and was extremely resentful at what felt like having the military shoved down my throat [insert joke here].

Army helicopter pilot 1980-85, 3rd ACR Ft Bliss TX. Always wanted to be in the Army. Got out to go to dental school with the intention of going back in but ended up not doing so.