Should I join the military? It is a question that every high school student should be encouraged to ask themselves!
I have served in the Marine Corps for eleven years now. People ask my opinion about enlisting all the time. They want to know if they (or their children) should look at joining the military in 2020.
My answer? “It depends.”
You need to be driven to join the military for intangible reasons. Maybe you want to feel like you’re making a difference in this world, want to travel the world and gain life experience, or simply want to serve your country.
These are the driving factors that will keep you engaged when times get rough, and they will.
If you join the military for pay, benefits, or some other tangible reason you may find yourself to be unhappy during hard times.
That being said, all of these tangible benefits are certainly worth considering, and weighing into the pros and cons of joining the military.
As a recap, if you have no desire to serve your country, or make a difference in this world, don’t join the military. If you do have these desires, here are the tangible reasons you should look to the military to fill these voids.
For your enjoyment, here is my transformation after I decided to join the military!
Gain Life Experience
Service members gain life experience very quickly. You become independent the moment you step on the “yellow footprints” at recruit training (boot camp).
From day one you realize that you are responsible for your actions, or inactions, and no one else.
Nobody cares about your feelings, excuses, or apologies. You either do or do not, succeed or fail.
You continue building independence as you make it through the training pipeline and arrive at your first unit.
Suddenly, it is your responsibility to ensure you are ready for the workweek. It is your responsibility to be punctual, clean, and proactive. The military instills responsibility and discipline in you, and you must take control of your entire life, and own it.
Not only that, but you will be afforded the opportunity to travel the world, experience different cultures, and potentially battle for your life in combat.
Before I was 21 I had been stationed in or traveled through, 13 countries. That includes living in Japan for two years, and deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
A combat deployment will make you grow up faster than anything I have ever experienced, and the life experience I received from visiting different cultures is priceless.
To experience life at this level before your peers have even graduated from college, and stepped into the workforce for the first time, gives you a huge leg-up on the competition!
See the World
I spoke about travel as a benefit for gaining life experience, but there are more benefits to traveling than just experience.
Seeing different cultures will give you a great outlook on life, and traveling is so much fun!
I loved the Japanese culture, they are very respectful, calm, wise, and kind. They hold true to their traditions and have a vibrant culture.
You will even get to experience cultures and “see the world” without traveling to that country. For example, I was the movement coordinator for incoming nations to a large training operation in Hawaii (RIMPAC 2018). During this operation, I got to work with militaries from Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, The Republic of the Philippines, The Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Chile, and several others.
Experiencing these different cultures will help you appreciate just how lucky you are to live in America. Being “well-traveled” will make you much better-rounded in life as well.
The fastest way to become a good leader is to be in a leadership position.
Learning through books, podcasts, and mentors will help refine, and hone, your leadership skills.
How many college students do you know that are in a leadership position?
How many entry-level employees do you know that are in a leadership position?
You are constantly thrust into leadership positions in the military. At every level, there is a leadership role for you to fill, and I was even responsible for a large platoon of Marines before my 21st birthday!
Being in these leadership positions has helped me progress as a leader year over year.
Leading people is the greatest way to improve as a leader.
The military gives you unparalleled leadership opportunities, and you will advance much faster than your civilian counterparts.
Find Your Purpose
President Ronald Regan stated that “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.”
I have found this to be true in my time serving.
There is a great sense of purpose, serving in the military. You know that you’re protecting our nation and freedoms. You’re a part of something much larger than yourself, and you’re making a difference.
Along with having a great sense of purpose in your career, and knowing that you have made a difference in the world, the military also gives you time to ponder what you want to do for the rest of your life.
Some people decided to serve in the military for 20, 30, even 40+ years!
The vast majority of people, however, do not retire from the military.
Joining the military out of high school enables you to figure out what you want to do for a living. If you love the job you have in the military, you can likely continue to do that in the civilian sector.
You may find that you no longer wish to work in that career field, which is great! By discovering this before paying for a four-year degree, you have saved yourself a lot of money and time. You will have also attained a lot of intangible skills that carry over into the civilian sector.
Whether you reenlist or exit the military, the skills you learn will make you competitive in the civilian job market!
Name a job that gives you full benefits, matching 401k contributions, 30 vacation days (annually), and a competitive salary to 18-year olds with no work experience, and only a high school diploma.
Could you think of anything besides the military? There aren’t a whole lot of careers with this amount of benefits offered to high school graduates.
There are so many ways to maximize your savings gap while in the military. You can live a minimalist lifestyle, and save a ton of money, and build a large amount of investment capital to start building on. There is no reason you can’t live on less than half of your paycheck while serving in the military.
You receive a pay raise quite often in the first four years of service. If you are smart, you will pretend this pay raise never happened and put the entire raise into your savings!
I know service members that saved over $100,000 in their first enlistment, not a bad bonus for serving! Download my FREE E-book for more info!
If you increase your savings gap and reinvest as much of your income as possible, you will be surprised by how fast you can become a military millionaire!
College shouldn’t be your only motivation for joining the military, but it is a huge benefit!
I joined the military, in part, because I couldn’t afford college, and didn’t know what I wanted to study when I graduated from high school. I planned to exit the military after four years and attend college (for free) once I knew what I wanted to study.
That was, until I fell in love with being a Marine, and decided to stick around for another enlistment, and then another…
Now, after eleven years of service in the Marine Corps, I have completed an associate’s degree with my tuition assistance. I still have my entire G.I. bill to utilize for more college education after I exit the military.
Yes, I earned an associate’s degree for free…AND will be able to earn another four-year degree for free with the G.I. bill. On top of all of that, the G.I. bill will actually pay me a basic allowance for housing while I’m attending school.
That’s right, I will be getting paid, attend college. Since I’m getting paid to attend college I can focus my efforts on studying, rather than having to work a part-time job while attending school.
You may be thinking that it isn’t worth joining the military just to go to college. I would agree, that shouldn’t be your only motivation, but it is a great benefit.
Think about how many are struggling to pay off their student loan debt right now. Being able to earn a degree, and get paid to do so, is quite an awesome feat.
So, should you join the military in 2020?
The military will set you up for success (in my opinion) more than any other course of action you can pursue immediately after high school. The opportunity to mature, and experience life, for four years, is incredible.
Don’t join the military just for these benefits though, you need to be emotionally invested in making a difference for yourself, and the United States of America, if you want to join our ranks, and defend our freedoms!
If you decide to join the military, ensure you read this article about deciding when to exit the military too!