I’m often asked by people, “What are good reasons for not joining the Army/Navy/Air Force/etc.?” Or I’m told the corollary, “My friend/recruiter says the Army/Navy/Air Force/etc. can do . . . for me.” I recently picked up and reviewed a booklet which Quaker House has in its library. That book is 10 Excellent Reasons Not To Join The Military, edited by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, published in 2006 by The New Press. It looks to still be available for $10 plus some shipping and handling. There is a moving introduction by Cindy Sheehan who you might remember as a pacifist mom who’s son Casey dropped out of college to “serve his country.” Casey died in Iraq in April of 2004. Anyway, the list compiled by Weill-Greenberg, et al, bears repeating:
- YOU MAY BE KILLED No on ever joins thinking they will die. Almost 6,000 unifromed service members have died in Iraq/Afghanistan.
- YOU MAY KILL OTHERS No youthful recruit can forsee being ordered to fire on civilians or others unarmed. But those orders are given. Over 200,000 civilians have died in Iraq–collateral casulties.
- YOU MAY BE INJURED Right up to the minute a soldier sees he/she is missing a limb, they think, “It can’t happen to me.” They have to cope with the new reality, and the VA, for the rest of their life.
- YOU MAY NOT RECEIVE PROPER MEDICAL CARE Vietnam vets are still fighting with an overwhelmed VA for agent orange and PTSD treatment.
- YOUR HEALTH MAY BE DAMAGED LONG-TERM In Iraq, the Army blew up captured weapons. Soldiers and sailors were deliberately exposed to nuclear explosions. Agent Orange. Anthrax vaccines. PTSD. TBI.
- YOU MAY BE LIED TO Perhaps this could be rephrased as, “You will be lied to.” Quaker House talks to people daily who insist that they were told lies by recruiters. Enlisting is at your peril. Period.
- YOU MAY FACE DISCRIMINATION If you are a woman, be prepared to deal with sexist attitudes much worse than in civilian life. In fact, you face double the chance of sexual assault.
- YOU MIGHT BE ORDERED TO VIOLATE YOUR MORAL CODE In fact, moral injury is a leading cause of depression and suicides among service members and vets.
- LEAVING THE MILITARY IS NOT EASY Very unpopular stop loss measures have recently been reinstituted. Some have been forced into extra years of service because the military thinks it needs them.
- YOU CAN DO OTHER THINGS TO SERVE Most never join the military. Some very successful people have done it without serving. There are plenty of jobs in the not-for-profit sector, if you want to serve humanity.
I do recommend this 4.5 x 6.5 booklet. It makes strong points for each of the ten reasons. Each section is written by a different author, ranging in professions from journalist to mother to veteran.
~ Stephen Newsom, Quaker House Co-Director