What Made You Join the Military?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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By Phoebe Gavin, US Army Vet, Iraq War Vet, @ohsoordinary

I joined for the free shit.

I grew up in a dead end town where there were no opportunities. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn't want to do nothing. I figured the military would pay me to leave my town and learn how to do something new. I knew I would get educational aid, which I needed since my parents were poor. I knew I would get free healthcare, which I needed since I wouldn't be able to stay on my parents insurance unless I went to school (which I couldn't afford). I wanted to see more of the world, because I knew I was a city girl deep down, and I knew the military would pay me to see new places and do new things.

I joined the Army by process of elimination. The Marines seemed way too intense. I didn't want to be on a ship. The Air Force recruiter was a perv.

I can't say that I had all the deep, admirable motivations that some others did, but I can say it was the best decision I ever made. I joined for the free shit, but I stayed for the people. I loved my team. I loved my units. I loved my work. I loved being a part of that amazing family.

More than anything else, I love the person I have become because of the Army. I am a driven, relentless, methodical, grateful, empathetic, thick-skinned leader. I was none of those things before.

Best part: I never need an alarm clock.

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By Jon Davis, Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps

Why I joined the military.

When I was younger, I was in love. I knew that I really didn't see myself in college, and I knew that I needed to provide for my new wife. The military had great pay and benefits for a young, smart individual with little skills or experience willing to take on hardships, and especially for a young family. Not to mention that someday, I might just like to go to college, and coming from a poor family ... well, the military financially filled a great deal of holes.

I come from a family where most of the men had served, not to retirement, but done their time, and military was highly respected to us. Grandpa was in Europe for WWII, Dad was a Green Beret, uncle was in Vietnam, so there was a great deal of support when I started thinking about joining. It wasn't pressure, but it was support.

I also thought this would make for a great opportunity to get out there and see the world. Growing up the only nerd in a tiny Oklahoma farm town where there were more livestock than people was agonizing -- boring at the least. There was almost nothing new to do and virtually no cultural diversity. Joining the military gave me experience living in a beautiful city, and many experiences with people from other parts of the country, different socio-economic backgrounds, and I even had the opportunity to learn Arabic and have conversations with numerous people from all over the world. I kind of expected that something like that would happen.

Put this together and you see me talking to recruiters.

Why I joined the Marines.

I appreciate honesty. The army recruiter (where all the other members of my family had served) seemed like he was trying to sell something he didn't have. The air force was trying to convince me that I could have my own jet and that I would retire as the owner of Lockheed Martin. The Marines recruiter told me that boot camp for the Marines was twice as long and twice as hard as any of the others, the jobs are tougher, the people are meaner, and the suit is friggin' awesome. He also showed that all benefits are from the the same Department of Defense, so I wouldn't be getting my own jet. I liked that I felt I was getting the truth. I also always had a thing for doing things in the hardest way possible for no real reason. Perhaps it was just that doing something that was harder made me feel more pride in what I was doing. In any case, I am pretty sure that now I would have always felt, had I joined the other services, "Could I have succeeded in the Marines?" After being a part of them for four years, I am now sure that I could have succeeded in the others.

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By Jon Mixon, USAF Vet

Why did I join the US military?

  1. My father was in the military - I was exposed to the military at an early age, and while it was different for me when I joined, it wasn't unfamiliar to me when I did.
  2. I was aimless after high school - I didn't have a clue as to what I wanted to do after high school. The US Air Force seemed to a good place to start until I decided what I wanted to do in life.
  3. The economy was poor - I graduated in 1984. While the economy was somewhat better than it is today, it was still rather soft when I went into the service. Basically ... I needed a job.
  4. I wanted to travel - Since I wasn't the child of wealthy parents, my choices for traveling the world would have been very limited. I chose what I believed at the time would be a good opportunity to see the "world." This did happen ... although not quite in the manner which I expected.
  5. I didn't really consider many other options - I had looked at several colleges and considered working at several different jobs. Frankly, I was rather lazy at the time, and I didn't invest the time and the effort into those other options for them to bear fruit. When things didn't work in those directions, I decided on what I believed to be my last "option."

Sorry if my ideals don't sound as noble as those of others, but that's what they were. I joined the military because I didn't have a job, I didn't have a clue as to what I wanted to do, and because I wanted travel.

For my sins, I got all three, and the rest is history.

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