09 March, 2007

Why They Serve

The VA Mortgage blog competition asked the winner to contribute a post to the VA Mortgage blog. CJ's original post spawned a series from other guest posters, and there's a common thread running through all of them...

On the topic of "Why We Serve," Cpl M writes of the idealism that drives him (he was in high school on 9-11, making post-graduation plans that didn't include military service):

I serve so that something like September 11th doesn’t have to happen to any nation ever again. I pray that sacrificing any plans I made as a high school senior will keep even one innocent American from falling to terrorism. I pray that I can help make a difference in this world now to bring about a hope of defeating radicals. Most importantly, I hope that I can one-day give a better world to my daughter so that she and her family can live the American Dream.

Sgt Hook writes of his rather basic reasons for enlisting and how his reasons for serving have evolved as his life has changed. As a very senior NCO he's much older than Corporal M, but the idealism remains:

I eventually settled down, a little, married and started a family and my reasons for serving became firmly entrenched within who I am. When my son was born and I held him for the first time I was instantly overcome with just how heavy of a responsibility I faced in raising him. It was not lost on me that my chosen profession, the profession of arms, protected his future, defended a way of life that would provide him, and all the other babies in the hospital nursery, with freedoms and opportunities not found anywhere else in the world.

Recent Milbloggie winner Captain Doug Traversa of Afghanistan Without a Clue originally signed up for financial reasons, but has found a renewed sense of purpose in deployment to Afghanistan:
I’ve rambled a bit, but now to the crux of the matter. I now serve with a new sense of pride that I am contributing in a small way to the protection of our country and the rebuilding of another. I have no desire to die here, and I hope to return in one piece and enjoy my retirement. But for these last two years in the Air Force I am part of something important and essential. I will have amazing stories to tell, and I have been changed for the better. As I say to my men as we drive around Kabul, It’s hard to believe we get paid to do this.

I don't think the thread of idealism running through these three excerpts is a fluke. It's not universal, but it's something that even I--who while having moments of cynicism am terribly idealistic--am always slightly surprised to encounter so frequently in our military men and women; despite combat, the leadership issues that can develop, and an inside view of the insanity of military bureaucracy that altogether open their eyes to some of the worst of human tendencies, they remain idealistic at the core.

CJ says it best:
It is true that many people join the military for college, large bonuses, and the free medical care. I don’t think that you can find a Soldier who joined for that one specific purpose. Granted, it is a motivator, but it’s not the be-all-end-all of reasons. Soldiers have an inherent sense of selflessness that is engrained in them. No one in their right mind would risk their lives on a battlefield just to pay off a college loan. They’re safer trying to rob a bank for the money. We do it because they love this country. We do it because they love freedom. We do it because we want others to have the success and freedoms we enjoy here at home. We do it for you.

Fundamentally, they believe in America--in its opportunities, its ideals and its potential. They believe in us.

And people have to ask why I love our military men and women? What other response can there be?

[H/T JP at Milblogging.com]