Both John Kelly and Donald Trump claimed that La David Johnson, the soldier killed in Niger, “knew what he signed up for” when he enlisted for the Army. As a veteran, the son of a veteran, the brother of a veteran and the son-in-law of a veteran, and as someone who has worked with young men and women contemplating enlisting, I can assure you that none of us enlisted to be killed. For every combat soldier, there are at least seven support members, so many enlist in the hope of acquiring job skills.
There are myriad other reasons why young men and women enlist. For many, it’s a steady job that pays relatively well. Educational benefits that will allow them to learn a trade or enter a career attract others. The military can also be a way to provide for a family through a steady income, health benefits, and housing. Many are escaping terrible living conditions at home caused by poverty or abuse or both, and some opt for the promise of becoming naturalized citizens through their service.
To say that those who enlist know what’s ahead for them is to ignore reality. Anyone who has had contact with military recruiters know they are notorious for making promises the military is not bound to honor. It also reflects the mentality of the officer corps and further points to the disconnect between the civilian population and the less than one percent who serve.
Albany (Oct. 23)