Oct 22, 2010

On joining the military, ctd

TNC has the best comment section on the internet.  One of his regulars came up with this gem that really must be read in full. 
I still have days where I am very happy that I'm not in jail, dead, addicted to something, or paying child-support to a woman I don't love. There but for the grace of god go I. It could have happened, a kid I used to spend time with when we were growing up went to jail a few years ago for rape. My little brother's best friend was stabbed three days before he was supposed to graduate. My best friend in high-school who I haven't heard from in years --a person who was at one time head and shoulders above me in intelligence, dropped-out, obtained his GED, and is presumably working a dead end job somewhere. I haven't heard from him in years, and it breaks my heart to think of what might have been under different circumstances. I hope he is doing well, but we cannot however hard we wish go back and try to re-create or change the past. No one's outcome is determined but there are things that make success or failure significantly more likely.

[I] think the biggest single factor that seperates my life now from what my life could have easily been like was my decision to join the army. Both myself and my little brother joined the service right out of high-school and that has made a huge difference in the trajectory our lives have taken. For myself it was the army that taught me that I wasn't as stupid as I thought I was in relation to other people. A friend of mine who is at the university of Chicago getting a master's in middle eastern studies now, whom I met when we were both young analysts in Georgia said it best during a phone conversation a few years ago. He said "I saw some really smart people with master's degrees from really good schools who failed out of DLI (defense language institute), but I also saw people from really bad neighborhoods who had GEDs occasionally carry the highest grade in the class."
This is part of the reason I support some kind of national service law. Many democracies do it, and I think aside from it making it drastically harder to invade random countries for completely idiotic reasons (which would be my primary rationale), it does have a leveling effect that I think is beneficial. Disadvantaged people's horizons are expanded, while more privileged people's are brought down to earth. The gazillionaire owner of Dunton Hot Springs always said that his time in the military in Germany was a seminal experience for him.

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