So, I'm joining the Army and people want to know why. They always want to know why. "Aaron," they say, "why aren't you taking the GREs about this time? Not studying for the LSAT? Why not?"
And then I say, "Oh, because I'm enlisting in the Army. I'll be in Army intelligence attached to an airborne unit."
Yes, I plan to jump out of perfectly good airplanes into hot combat zones, but more on that later.
"Why?" they always ask. Well, why not? There seems to be some sense in America today that the Army - indeed the military in general - is only for those who aren't going anywhere and even need a map to get that far. The implication is that it's all right to support the troops, as long as one of your friends doesn't plan to make the nigh-on-criminal mistake of becoming one of them - because they have a future, presumably.
I used to wonder when this started, but then I realized that it has everything to do with Vietnam and Iraq. Gone are the days of ass-kicking heroes in Europe, fighting the evil Nazis. The world has become more complicated; our enemies aren't necessarily bad, just possessed of a different point of view, and we should try to get along with them rather than fighting. This is the general implication in the United States.
So, given this depth of feeling by most of the American public, and college students specifically, why would any self-respecting English major volunteer to get shot at in the desert?
Here's the truth and no mistaking it: for honor and country. It sounds pat, because well, it is. It sounds well-rehearsed because, again, it is. After long conversations and interrogations by my peers, my entire rationale has boiled down to those four words.
For honor - I believe in honor. I think some other people still do, too. Deep down, everyone wants to be an honorable person, be it ever so unfashionable to say so. People like to think they live their lives by some moral code, some compass that informs all of their affairs.
Hopefully I can find that morality in the oldest and most traditional sort of way, by volunteering - as Robert Heinlein wrote - to place myself between my beloved home and the war's desolation. I think many soldiers enlist that way and it deserves to be acknowledged.
For country - this is my home. These are my people and this is my country. I'd like to do my part to protect them. This generally informs the counterargument that the wars in which America has lately been engaged aren't wars of defense, but aggression. To that I reply that our government is, supposedly, elected and therefore represents the will of the people. I plan to serve those people; American soldiers serve the people.
So off I go, as many have before and many will after, for honor and country. To all those soldiers currently serving, I say "Hooah!" To those who have served, I hope I speak for everyone when I say, "Thank you."