Thinking about joining the military? Here’s what you should consider

Luca Dickten, Opinions Editor

At the beginning of my senior year, I wanted to go to medical school. By the end of my senior year, I had enlisted in the Marine Corps and was preparing myself to ship to bootcamp.   

It took me months to finally make the decision to enlist and it’s a decision I would urge anyone to make very carefully. 

The military isn’t a job you can walk away from. If you’re enlisting or commissioning, you will serve the duration of that contract or longer.

Before I swore the oath of enlistment at military entrance processing, I signed papers like every other American joining the military. And if a war is declared, my contract can be extended for the duration of that conflict.

The majority of service members I’ve met joined straight out of high school. Their diversity in background and personality is only rivaled by their diversity in reasons for joining. 

All reasons are of course valid, but I’m troubled by the amount of young Americans I meet who enlisted or commissioned just to fund a degree.

If you are considering joining the military for the sole reason of paying for college, I’d think long and hard before doing so.

If you make the decision to join the military to pay for college, you should consider that events out of your control may extend your contract. It also cannot be guaranteed that you will not be deployed into a combat zone.

To put it bluntly, you have to be willing and ready to enter into combat and possibly kill or be killed for your country if you just want a college education paid for by the government.

If you have different reasons for joining, you need to understand that in the military nothing is guaranteed. I can’t say when I’m going to be home or if I’m going to be able to take leave for a birthday, wedding, funeral, or any other important events with my friends and family. 

You can’t be guaranteed a specific job or a certain duty station and more often than not, you’re not getting what you want.

Despite all that I genuinely enjoy being a Marine and I wouldn’t go back on enlisting.

I understood the drawbacks when I joined and I accepted them. Now, I enjoy the sense of brotherhood the Marine Corps prides itself in. The next couple years of my contract is going to contain a lot of adversity but it’s the fact that I’ll be dealing with them, with my brothers and sisters, that keeps me motivated and excited for the coming years.

The experience of joining the military isn’t something I’d push someone to do.  They have to find the commitment and courage within themselves. If you feel it’s the right path for you, I encourage you to speak with someone currently serving in the branch you’re choosing in addition to getting in contact with a recruiter.

It’s not for everyone. But if you believe serving your country is something you have to do, then put your head down and get ready to work. It could well be the most worthwhile decision you ever make.

Luca Dickton was the opinions editor for The Californian and graduated in 2019. He is a U.S. Marine.