It seems kind of fitting to answer this question on Veterans Day which is also the Marine Corps Birthday. A young college grad wrote to me asking what I thought about his joining up to become a Marine Corps Officer. In his words, "I have been debating with myself (and my family) for sometime about whether or not I should become an officer in the United States Marine Corps."
He went on to tell me he had just read a column I wrote in April of 2004 titled "Are American Soldiers and Marines Brainwashed?... You Bet!"
I wrote back to this young man telling him I would give his question some thought, and here is what I have come up with.
First off, becoming a Marine Corps officer is a bit different than joining up to be an enlisted Marine, however there are a lot of similarities. Both take an oath to defend the Constitution, but the wording is a bit different.
Here is the oath Enlisted Marines take.
Isn't that interesting? In both oaths you swear to defend the Constitution, but only the enlisted man or woman swears to obey the President and the Officers over them.
But back to the question at hand. Do I think you should join the Marines and become an officer? Well, for starters, I don't believe you can go down to a recruiter and sign up to be an officer. I think you can request that and go through Officer Candidate School. But I would make very sure that if you don't pass the school, you haven't signed up for an enlistment, and believe me I would not take a recruiter's word for that. I would want something in writing that passes muster with my lawyer.
Speaking of the recruiter, be very leery of any and everything they say to you, because they will lie. They're under enormous pressure to produce numbers, and trust me, you are only a number to them. So be careful, very careful.
However, after thinking about your original question, I have to say I wouldn't want anyone to join the Marines or really any other branch of the military. Of course, that answer would change immediately if our nation were under attack by another country but it isn't.
I have a lot of reasons for my saying not to join up. The first is the risk you are taking with your mental health. Way more Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors suffer life-long, debilitating injuries from mental health issues than those who suffer combat wounds. In fact, it isn't even close. As you can see, the following report from the Rand Corporation is from 2008, so the number of veterans suffering with PTSD is way higher than the 300,000 listed, and I am sure the number for traumatic brain injuries is higher, too.
In case you are wondering about the validity of these numbers, that Rand report has about the same number of veterans needing help from the Veterans Administration as the number the VA reports.
Here is something to think about also. There are a lot of veterans who have life-long disabilities from their time in the military who never seek help because they don't think it is bad enough. Also, if you don't document your injury while in the service, you will have a hard time getting VA help.
Something else to consider. Suicide
This from the Army Times:
Now remember, those 950 suicide attempts each month are the veterans who are receiving help from the VA, we don't know what the real total is because nobody keeps track of those not working with the VA.
So far we have 20% of the troops suffering from PTSD. Another 19% suffer from Traumatic Brian Injuries, with 7% of those needing help for both. That puts us at 32% of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan needing help for just those two things.
On top of that 32% we have the vets who are committing suicide, and we haven't even mentioned those in the military who are either killed or wounded in combat. But it doesn't end there. You also have troops who are killed or maimed in training, and those who get sick from environmental exposure to toxic substances during there time in the military. Think of Gulf War Syndrome. This from Military.com:
Now, I don't have any numbers on this, but there are enough veterans with this illness for the VA to put out a special hotline number. I myself have seen a whole unit of veterans being pushed around in wheelchairs by their parents at the VA Hospital in Phoenix. That unit went to the Gulf War together, they came home together, and they got sick at the same time, together.
One more thing. The military tests toxic chemicals on the troops without telling them, and many of those troops get sick and many die. Google "chemical tests on military personnel." You can read about Project SHAD, Agent Orange, and then there are the Atomic Vets, about 95% who died before the VA started giving them any disability help.
You have to remember, when you sign up for the military, enlisted or officer, you are giving up your freedom as an American citizen and as a human being, because you no longer have the right to decide or choose anything. Someone will tell you when to sleep, when to eat, where you can go, where you can live, what you can or cannot do. You have no choice in the matter.
Also, and maybe this is the most important in making a decision about joining up. You might sign on the line and agree to serve for four or six years, but if the Pentagon wants to keep you in the service, they can put out a Stop Loss Order on you, and even though your agreed time of service is over, you don't get to leave the service. That has happened to thousands of our troops in the last decade. Remember, you no longer have any control of any aspect of your life.
So, what are your chances of getting through your enlistment unscathed? 50-50? 60-40 or maybe 70-30? What are good odds to you? You have to be the judge of that, but from my experience, your odds are not very good. And this is your life, your health, your future on the table are you really ready to gamble with the stakes that high and the odds that bad?
One more thought. Do a little research and see how much help the VA has to offer for those suffering from PTSD or a Brain Injury. Better yet, volunteer at a VA Hospital for a while. Remember, once you sign on that enlistment line, you can't say, "I don't think I am cut out for this. I want to quit."
Also, don't kid yourself and think there probably won't be any wars when you get in there. Your chances of that are even lower than making it through your enlistment in one piece.
Think it over very hard. This choice of going in the Marines could be your last choice, or you could end up needing the help of the State for the rest of your life.
I'm not even going to get into the morals of joining an organization whose main purpose is to kill people.
I hope this will be a help to you in making your decision, but truly, I hope you decide not to.
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