It isn’t an uncommon practice for young men and women in our country to join a branch of service, whether it be the army, navy, marines, or coast guard. From the time we are children until the time we are consenting adults able to make our own decisions we are barraged by non-stop ads and movies that glorify fighting for our motherland. This is all well and good when there is a fight worth fighting, but during times like now when we are fighting a war against an enemy we cannot clearly identify and find, it makes one wonder what would push the young future leaders of our nation to go and fight.
I talked with a young American who is an Iraq veteran to see why he joined the service, and learned from him some of the positives and negatives he’s encountered as a member of the Marine Corps.
Rob Singley is a 26-year-old who graduated from Central High School in Berwick. Rob joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school before the war in Iraq had begun. When asked why he joined, I got the simple response: “They said they would pay for school.”
This is a very common reason among enlistees for joining, especially in poorer areas of the country. The government knows youths are looking for a way to pay for school, and they appeal to a vast amount of people with promises like this, but the government is not always telling the whole truth. Singley went on to explain: “First time recruits are told a lot of things by their recruiter. Just like any other job there is a contract involved and the kids who are joining are 18 or 19 years old and really don’t know what they are doing when it comes down to the contract. I was told that all the details in the contract would be taken care of when I got to basic training and that I should just sign it and deal with it then.”
Little did Rob realize that once he signed the contract it became an official binding document and there was no discussing the terms after that moment. “I should have known better at the time that once it was signed it was done. I was fresh out of high school and wasn’t expecting my recruiter to deceive me like that. The Marines have only covered a small portion of my tuition bills since I’ve been in school, but it’s better then nothing.”
This happens more than one would think. A recruiter’s job is to get as many people to join as possible, and if he has to bend the truth a little bit to get someone to sign a contract, well then that’s what they do. Young enlistees that are new to contracts don’t realize that the small details should be discussed and reviewed before the contract is signed.
Other than the initial disappointment over the financial situation, Rob had much more serious matters to brace for.
“I was part of the first wave of troops to cross into Iraq from Kuwait on March 20 . It was a very scary experience for all of us. We had been in Kuwait for a month getting everything ready for this initial invasion, but even all that preparation wasn’t enough to brace all of us for what we were about to enter.”
The first wave of American and British troops entered Iraq at 12:35 a.m. on what Rob described as that “cold dark night.” Singleywas deployed to Iraq to serve an initial nine months overseas with the President’s option of keeping the Marines there for another year. This option became available for George W. halfway through Rob’s first tour when the United States Government announced the Stop-loss Act.
Rob explained, “I was fortunate that the Stop-loss Act didn’t apply to me. It was weird how that worked but my unit was not affected by it. I was a friend with another marine who got screwed by that though. He had four days left on his first tour when he found out that his unit would be in Iraq for another 12 months.”
Needless to say this made a lot of Marines very angry and is another reflection of the lack of information that recruiters have to disclose when young men and women are joining. Regardless of all the turmoil and misinformation that Singley had to put up with during this whole experience, he feels that the Marines were a good choice for him.
“If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t change much. I would take the contract to someone who knows more about that type of thing, but I would still enlist.”
Rob went on to explain how the military actually did a lot of good for him “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life and the Marines gave me a lot of direction. They also showed me what I am capable of; as it turns out I’m a very resilient person and am capable of working really hard. I didn’t really know that about myself in high school. They basically turned me into a new, more determined, more driven man.”
Apparently a lot of good can come from joining the armed forces, and the commercials aren’t full of crap when they call their men “the few, the proud,” or encourage potential recruitments to “be all you can be.” This is a life-changing journey that many young Americans take and tend to reflect positively on.
“The armed forces are a great opportunity for a lot of young people that are unsure about their futures. It can provide a lot of direction and drive, but it isn’t for everyone. It can open up a lot of opportunities to people stuck in lifestyles they don’t enjoy and enable them to continue growing by opening doors to education and jobs that weren’t there before.”