Signing up for military service is not serving your country

May 25, 2007
By

Signing up for military service is not serving your country

If we are to stop this war and prevent future wars we must begin by dispelling the myth that signing up for military service is a form of service to the country. This is one of the worst lies used to take advantage of young people’s desire to do something honorable. When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow-up?” young children often respond: “a teacher, a firefighter, a nurse, or a doctor.” These comments illustrate their desire to be of service. As they age, children become more aware of their options along with the need to be tough. In many cultures, including ours, becoming a man is equated with being strong, ready to fight and ready to sacrifice one’s life. Many young people grow up believing that going through boot camp will make them “a man” or prove that women can be as tough as men. Military recruiters use this to entice young people with come-ons that include, “Be all that you can be, join the Army.”

We should stop and ask, What is the service that people in the military are giving? Much of boot camp prepares the recruits to fight, to kill and to destroy. Admittedly, it is also done in the context of discipline and teamwork, but, in essence, the military’s purpose is to use its might and power to kill and destroy. We should also ask who is the fighting and killing being done for? Major General Smedley Butler, US Marine Corps concluded (1935) after decades in the military overseas, “I was a racketeer; a gangster for capitalism… War is a racket.” How has killing people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Central America and Vietnam served the country? Were they really a threat to us?

Wouldn’t it be better to teach our kids that being of service means caring for others? Aren’t we better served by young people working in our communities, schools, daycare centers, and shelters? Can’t we help young people to “be all that they can be” by encouraging them to continue their educations, volunteer in the community, and supporting them as they develop new skills? Let’s salute the young people who work in community gardens, who ride bikes rather than drive cars, who help their families, and work hard at school. Let’s give these kids our respect. They deserve medals of honor.

Virginia Pratt
Jamaica Plain