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Posted at 11:22 AM ET, 03/11/2009

Your Child Wants to Join Army: What Do You Say?

By Mike McPhate

It can be a heart-sinking moment. Your child announces a desire to join the military at a time when the U.S. is waging two wars.

You honor the sacrifice of America's soldiers. But, as a parent, you’re selfish: Could you cope with a daily fear of the doorbell?

In his column today, the Post’s Courtland Milloy wrestles over how he might counsel his teenage son on his desire to become a soldier. He notes the hobbled economy’s role in his feelings -- the Army offers as much as $72,900 for college, plus big help in repaying loans.

What would you say to your child? And, how would the financial incentive factor into your thinking?

By Mike McPhate  | March 11, 2009; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  military  
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Comments

HELL NO!! Why on earth would anyone encourage their child to defend a country that the politicians give away through unfettered illegal immigration? No one respects the soveriegnty of this country because the politician don't even care about defending it's borders. There are more people being killed in the drug wars right across our own border than there are being killed in the war on terror and yet the politicans do nothing. That voilence is already beginning to spill over into the US. Who the hell would want to fight for a country that the politicians don't even consider worth defending?

Posted by: islandhopper24 | March 11, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

What would you say to your child? If you're serious, I suggest you get your lame @$$ outside and get some running mileage in and work off that baby fat.


And, how would the financial incentive factor into your thinking? You don't join the military to make money, although some people do. A person should join because he respects the institution and wants to engage in something bigger than themself.


You honor the sacrifice of America's soldiers. But, as a parent, you’re selfish: Could you cope with a daily fear of the doorbell? Yep. Life happens, so does death, deal with it.


Posted by: ioweioweoff2workigo | March 11, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Being a soldier is an honerable profession, being cannon fodder is for losers.
I guess I would run for Prersident if my son joined the army,because more then ever I would not want his or anyone else's son or daughter's lives wasted.
Their is no current or recent past politician worth dieing for in this country.

Posted by: tniederberger | March 11, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Well SON rember your Father was a soldier HE left us and that was the last time you and your brother see him. rember I had to go towork so we could pay for the rent ,the car, food for your trumbone etc. Rember when you had to turn your trumbone back because We couldnot make the payments,Rember I had to filed Bankrupcy(because our soldier husband didnot pay themoney back to the loan company) The wanted us to pay ..The bankrupcy FEDERAL JUDGE DIDNOT KNOW THAT YOU CANNOT SUE A SOLDIER (HE is protected by the SOLDIER and SAILOR ACT from 1942)...IT has been 30 years but our soldier husband didnit come back to AMERICA> and the Goverment NEVER let us know that muchless WHY ? he never contacts US.etc. Where is our money ? Where is our proyction . Are we not PATRIACTIR> Where is ou Pension part?
And son if after all this you still want to go..I take you to Cnada and PUt you into a DRESS! your loving Mother!

Posted by: sigup | March 11, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Disregarding the values of love for country and public service, you tell him that if he chooses military service he will probaly be in harm's way. But, if he is, his brothers will be there next to him and that brotherhood is so much stronger than the "brother" "hood" he leaves behind. At least in the military there is a excellent chance the guy wearing the same uniform is not going to drive by and shoot you. You can't say the same in black communities.

Posted by: dmt3 | March 12, 2009 4:30 AM | Report abuse

As a USAF Veteran Era veteran, who served this country in SEA in the early 70's and who now is, living and possibly dying from a malicious herbicide poisoning (Agent Orange) by the very same nation that I served. I have infatically told my son and any of his friends that I have met, to never serve in this nation's military, if they value their future, after their military service. For me, military service to this country, has cause me everything that I have worked for since leaving military service. In the past ten years, I have lost my family, my profession, my home, and above all my health. For that, I have gotten nothing but lies and more lies. In hindsight, I only wish that when I was drafted in 1970, I should have gone to Canada. If I had of gone, then I wouldn't be suffering like I am today, with no support whatsoever, from the nation that I served. We, Vietnam Era vets, now have a saying that is so apparent and that is "The Lucky Ones, Are On The Wall". When I encounter any young person, who is contemplating a stint in the military, I tell them my story, and my dealings with the VA, and what I have lost. I encourage them to NEVER serve in this country's miltary. They should stop referring to them as "GI's" and call them what they are trully view as and that is "GP's" for Guinea Pigs. Whenever I stand to salute the flag now, I turn my back on it, just like they have been doing to us for the past forty years. Stay away from the military.

Posted by: wgriff3245 | March 12, 2009 6:08 AM | Report abuse

In this country, those who have the most to lost, never serve and sacrifice nothing. Those who have nothing, give the most and get nothing in return for their service. I have also vowed to my son, that if the draft is every reinstated, that I would, if I am still alive, take him to Canada. This nation is trully ungrateful to those who serve in it's miltary service. Then they can't figure out why or who is responsible for the number of the suicides among veterans. When a veteran is in need, this nation is too slow to act, if they act at all. In the case of the Vietnam Era Vets, this nation has not acted at all, for two distinct and dispicable reasons, 1.) To keep the roles at the VA down, and 2.) To protect the Chemical Companies, who produced Agent Orange from legal liabilities. This is the shame of the Vietnam War, that America does not want to shine a light on or talk about.

Posted by: wgriff3245 | March 12, 2009 6:24 AM | Report abuse

I am a retired Naval Officer who believes in military tradition an honor, but I am sick of flag-waiving chicken-hawk socker moms (and their husbands) who support fighting the war, but oppose the entry of their children into it. If the war is not worth YOUR life or the lives of YOUR children, then your only honorable opinion is that the war is not worth fighting. But don't expect OTHER Americans to fight and lose their lifes for something that you think is not worth it for yourself. The Founding Fathers: "WE mutually pledge to each other OUR Lives, OUR Fortunes, and OUR sacred Honor." Would love to bring back the draft, these same phony flag waivers would have to put up or shut up.

Posted by: johdi | March 12, 2009 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Call and write often, even if it's just a txt.

Seriously, as a military brat, veteran, and spouse of a soldier myself I see it as just another career choice. The Army has been good to our family, and our children see that. Neither has made the choice to go into the military, and that's ok too. I don't worry much about any of their adult choices, except when I think about their health care coverage ending (one already, another soon). I am nearly 50 and have paid a total of $300 on medical care in my entire life (a brief period between being covered under my dad, and my own enlistment).

Posted by: frostbitten1 | March 12, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I would start with the question, "Why?" If they don't know, then I would say, well, go find out more information, and stay away from the recruiters...they're liers and con-men. Once the kid found out all the information they could, we would sit down and have a long discussion about that information, weigh the pros and cons, and proceed from there.

Posted by: akchild | March 12, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Pragmatically, I'd explore why it is that he'd like to leave school and go enlisted. If classes aren't too much of a struggle or something, I'd think that, even with signing bonuses and the like, he'd want to consider finishing college and going to officer candidate school. If he decides to make a career of it, I think that will be the most satisfying for him and one that encompasses a professional career that could include warfighting in the battlefield, policy support in the Pentagon, graduate work at one of the military grad schools, work as a military legislative assistant on the Hill and any number of other positions. Men and women in uniform contribute to many parts of the national security process in many ways, but he'll have much greater access to that as an officer.

Posted by: McGee3 | March 12, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

If you don't think this country and the men who died for it over the past 200+ years are worth fighting for, no one's forcing you to stay.

Posted by: bmorris244 | March 13, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

Get off your lazy ass and vote them out. Or just sit and type all day. Words dont mean anything unless you do something. Be a do person islandhopper24

"HELL NO!! Why on earth would anyone encourage their child to defend a country that the politicians give away through unfettered illegal immigration?
islandhopper24"

Posted by: Matt811 | March 13, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

As a Marine dad (we lost our only child), I think this is not just a question of Anti or Pro war or even what one's political affiliation is.

When our son expressed his desire to join the Marines, we tried to discourage him. But he was relentless, and in the end, we relented. Once, he joined though, we backed and supported him 100%. This support has lasted well after he is gone. We now have a small scholarship foundation setup specifically geared for anyone who has served in the military.

Our only fear was that he would be hurt or wose killed if he joined, and that opposition was not based on any political leaning.

There is another facet to all this. I have a feeling that many Americans confuse patriotism with the political leadership or even the Republican party or Conservatism. We are both liberals, and yet we think we are patriotic. Our son was liberal, and yet he was willing to give up his life for the country at the drop of a hat.

One big reason the Republicans lost the last election was trying to make it look like "Patriotism" meant that you had to support the war, and George Bush 100%. It was so bad, that Cindy Sheehan was villified and demonized by the GOP and its supporters - inspite of her having lost her son in Iraq. Yes, she was a bit crazy - but she had the right to be. We can all at least give her that. But what is more intriquing is that GW Bush could at the very least have met her, heard her out. He couldn't even find it in his heart to do that one simple thing for a mother whose son gave his life up so that George Bush could be the leader of the free world.
Again, patriotism is an intense feeling that tugs at the very heart strings to protect and serve your country. No amount of lip service or coddling up to a politican or a political party can do that. The support for or against awar also has nothing to do with it. For the sake of argument, one can be AGAINST a war and YET be patriotic, if that war could lead could mean that America's existence or freedom was at stake.

Posted by: RG-Texas | March 14, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

After reading some of the comments here, I would like to add:

On the one hand, people joining the military do so largely because of their patriotism. That patriotism should NOT diminish because the Government did not keep up its end of the bargain - whether it not compensate, or did not take care of them or even ill-treat them. Nor should it diminish because many people disrespect you (returning Vietnam Vets).
Patriotism should be separated from lousy politicans, and bad government policies. Politicians and policies can be thrown out, but in the end the country remains - and that is where true patriotism lies.

Posted by: RG-Texas | March 14, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

I am the mother of 3 adult children, and an Army veteran. My husband is a retired Marine. My son and youngest daughter are both active duty Army.

My son was the first to join, and his father and I both tried to persuade him to remain in college, and go in as an officer in the hopes that would forestall his enlistment. It did not, and he is now a combat engineer. Our youngest daughter soon followed, and is currently an analyst.

Despite a strong family history of service on both sides, we were against our kids joining as we felt that the wars had been tragically mishandled. However, we have also always tried to instill in them the notion that it is an honor to be an American, and that as such they have an obligation to pay back their country when called upon to do so.

During deployments, I bounce between sheer terror and seething rage. As we endure deployment after deployment, I become resentful of those who have no one in service, and when I do not hear from them because of a communications blackout due to a casualty, I wish for the draft, so that other parents can take their turn and I can sleep in peace for a change.
Then the phone eventually rings, and the deployment eventually ends, and I wonder at the strength and resilience I see in my children, and am humbled by their resolve to continue to serve.

Although I do lose many a nights sleep worrying and wondering, I would not change the paths they have chosen. I know that my son and daughter and the other 1% who stand beside them are the best and brightest of their generation, and deserve the moniker of the "new greatest generation"

If your child comes to you and says they wish to join, be grateful, and know that you did something right in their rearing. Reach out to others that have walked the same path, and always remember that our armed forces are the best equipped and trained in the world. And for goodness sake, please remove the "support our troops" magnet from your car until such a time as you actually do something like send a care package, volunteer at a VA hospital or the USO. It saddens and offends me to see how jingoistic those who have no skin in the game can be.

Posted by: alias058 | March 14, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's what I ran at ThunderTales:

Modern American Thinking
He lives and works in Washington. Well actually he works in Washington and lives in Prince George's County in Maryland. Either way, you get the idea. He's a thinker which is a euphemism for opinion columnist for the Washington Post. That should mean that he has a view of the "Big Picture" and America as a nation in a dangerous world. It should mean that, but does it? Take a look:

Thinking Global--Not (link to Milloy editorial)

OK, I get that he's a father and he's concerned about his son. But when he comments on something like service to his country and distills the debate down to cash for college versus individual exposure to harm he displays the ignorance of the popular culture. Military service isn't about those two alternatives being weighed. It's bigger than that.

What he needs to ponder before having that conversation with his son about a life choice is what his nation and his security means to him. He needs to consider what it takes to preserve what we have, what we've built and what we value. He needs to remember the threats we have faced to our national survival in the past and the ones we will continue to face today and tomorrow.

Most importantly, he needs to ask who is responsible for providing him this protection? He seems to brag that he comes from an anti-war generation yet he ignores the fact that being anti-war doesn't make war go away. He considers himself fortunate that he didn't serve, yet he fails to recognize that such service is essential to our way of life.

Mr. Milloy, if not you or your son, then who should protect you?

Posted by: ThunderTales | March 15, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmnnn,

As a wife of a career Navy officer and daughter of a career enlisted sailor, here's my advice. The military offers a great deal of security during bad times, and the health care is always there, even if it is not always great. The Army and MC are riskier short-term choices. As long as these conflicts go on--I don't remember Congress declaring war so I won't call them by that term--there's a chance your son can get killed. The Navy is safer, but the Navy is always on a war-time footing, as it were, and the deployments don't stop. My husband is looking at his 7th deployment right now. Your son should join the Air Force if he wants a cushy life, though he might be stationed in less desirable places. The military is an honorable profession, no matter what your political persuasions. And yeh, it makes me mad when friends (all hanging flags, whether liberal or conservative) wouldn't DREAM of having THEIR kids enlist. LIke Dick Cheney, they have other priorities.

Posted by: gaeta14 | March 16, 2009 7:51 AM | Report abuse

"Join Army?"

I bet they also "graduated school."

It is an honorable job. People who like it should stay. Otherwise a tour of duty is fair payment for the benefits of our nation.

There is too much propaganda about "wasted lives" and "unnecessary wars" from people who care not at all about other nations, just to win elections when some of us tire of wars. For shame.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 16, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Im not a parent of a child who wants to join the military. I am that child. I joined the Army when I was 17. I had to beg my parents to let me serve this country, one of whom is a retired Marine.

I understand that parents dont want their children to be in danger or harms way. But if a young person wants to go that route to protect the things we have in this nation, and the rights we wish to keep, why stand in their way?

I had to have a waiver to come into the Army meaning both of my parents had to sign for me. And it took me a long time to convince them to do so. I assured them that if they didnt want to sign, It's okay, i'll just join when I turn 18.

I have not been deployed yet, but am waiting very anxiously for that day. And not only that but I got $72,000.00 to attend college, and job security while the economy is going to hell.

I realize I dont understand what parents in this situation go through; however, I want people to know that joining the military was probably one of the best decisions I've made in my short lifetime. And my parents know that, and I hope it makes them proud that I couldnt've gotten here without them.

Posted by: tpagnoni | March 16, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

As long as one understands up front that there are risks, that you cannot simply quit when you don't like it, and that you'll lose some control of your personal life, then the answer is to let them go. I was born and raised in the military and served myself in the Army for more than 10 years. I learned a great deal about myself and my capabilities--some good and some not so good. Overall I came out far, far stronger for the experience. I shudder to think what a self-centered idiot I would have been had I not served. And the experience has led directly to a very rewarding--if not grossly overpaid--career as a government civilian. My only parting advice would be to consider that quality of life and opportunities for posting to nice places is generally far better in the Air Force than in the Army. Fort Polk, LA or Ft Sill, OK simply do not offer any opportunity for intellectual pursuits during off-duty time. And there is absolutely no opportunity at these posts for a career oriented spouse unless they are active duty military too. As the Army's unofficial motto goes: I'd have been Blue if I only knew.

Posted by: jtfj2 | March 16, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

RG-Texas, a "patriot" is someone who loves and supports his or her country. Being a patriot does not equate to having blind faith in its politicians and policies.

As a wife of a career naval officer in the special forces, I would strongly discourage my son or daughter from entering the armed forces.

There are other vehicles to attend college and patriotism can be demonstrated by seeking to improve our government and society.

Posted by: norahs1 | March 17, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I waited for that bell to ring for 24 year. My husband is an Air Force veteran. And he would go back again if asked

My oldest daughter spent 3 years as an ROTC cadet. While she has decided not to take a commission at this time, she hasn't ruled out service as a choice.

My youngest daughter,she is a senior next year, is looking at the Air Force Academy and choosing all other schools based on whether they have a strong ROTC program. She is firm about wanting a military career. She is less sure about her major.

They are not naive. They understand that our civilian leaders can send us to conflicts for reasons less than pure. But they feel, once committed that the commitments made to our allies matter for the country's honor

And they know, and I know, the country is not perfect but we love it. Service calls to something deep in their souls

So what could I say. Because yes it frightens me. I'm a little weary about risking my husband and I dread risking my children. But this commitment to service is one of the reasons I love them, one of the reasons I'm proud of them, and to discourage them would make me less in their eyes.

So I will stay silent and hope for them and pray for them and support them

And in the back of my mind, I'll be listening for the bell I hope I never hear.

Posted by: clwa | March 17, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Only if the child is the type who could not excel in any other facet of life...

Sounds familiar

What a shame, though...

Posted by: kase | March 17, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Bring back the draft so serving in the military
is done by all women and men, not just the poor.

Posted by: knjincvc | March 18, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Johdi wrote:
I am a retired Naval Officer who believes in military tradition an honor, but I am sick of flag-waiving chicken-hawk socker moms (and their husbands) who support fighting the war, but oppose the entry of their children into it. If the war is not worth YOUR life or the lives of YOUR children, then your only honorable opinion is that the war is not worth fighting. But don't expect OTHER Americans to fight and lose their lifes for something that you think is not worth it for yourself. The Founding Fathers: "WE mutually pledge to each other OUR Lives, OUR Fortunes, and OUR sacred Honor." Would love to bring back the draft, these same phony flag waivers would have to put up or shut up.
************
I totally agree.

And to DMT3 who wrote:
At least in the military there is a excellent chance the guy wearing the same uniform is not going to drive by and shoot you. You can't say the same in black communities.
*******
Tell that to the people in Alabama, Germany, etc. In this gun nation, you don't have to be in a Black neighborhood to die violently. Let's work on that.

Posted by: cab50151 | March 18, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Not with the Messiah as commander in chief....

Posted by: frankn1 | March 18, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

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