While dining at a restaurant recently, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between two young couples at the table next to us. One of the young men was telling his group that he is considering joining the Army, because he’s been out of high school for three years and cannot find a good job, and really has no work experience.

His friend, a typically testosterone driven young man, said something to the effect of “Oh yeah, being a gunner on a Humvee would be so cool!” One of the young ladies then advised “No, man, you should become a Blackhawk pilot. Now that would be radical!”

It wasn’t my place to intrude into their conversation, but I really wanted to speak up and say “Kid, you obviously don’t have the education to qualify as a pilot. If you’re going to enlist, use your head and volunteer for a technical job where you can learn a skill that will serve you back in civilian life.” Being a mechanic, a heavy equipment operator, or an electrician may not sound as glamorous as riding in helicopters and shooting machine guns, but those things won’t get you a job back in the real world.

I believe every kid in America who is physically capable of doing so should be required to do at least two years of compulsory service of some kind, once they graduate from high school, and they should have to do it at least 1,000 miles from home. Not necessarily in the military, but in some capacity where they can give something back to their country, and where they can learn something that will help them earn a living.

If they want to study medicine, this service might be working in a hospital, a free clinic, or in a veterans’ facility. If their interest is in construction, maybe they could work restoring public buildings, on road improvement projects, or building and maintaining hiking trails in national or state parks. If they have nothing they’re interested in, they could serve in an assignment chosen for them based upon their skills and aptitude.

Everybody would win with a program like this. We would have a young, energetic workforce doing a lot to improve the quality of life for all of us, the young people would learn job skills, and could possibly earn credit toward a college education.

Even more importantly, they would have an opportunity to get away from home, learn to stand up on their hind legs and take care of themselves instead of relying on Mom and Dad, and they would come out of it with new self-confidence. If you don’t have anyone to fix your problems for you every time something comes up, you grow up quicker.

I know that my time in the Army helped me in many ways in life, even though I never had the benefit of an older person advising me to learn a skill while I was in uniform.  I wish my own kids would have had the benefit of a program like I’ve described. What do you think?

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33 Comments on Every Kid Should Go

  1. Bill and Annie says:

    Good blog, Badnick! You’ve touched on a place where I’ve been truly conflicted all my days. I’ve always felt that a draft (military or otherwise) is indeed involuntary servitude. We (well, our forefathers) fought long and hard over this in our Civil War.

    On the other hand, there were days when nearly every man in this country became a man in boot camp. So many of us learned so much about ourselves and how we fit:

    *You can do so much more than you think you can.
    *You can perform at a near-peak level for many days when cold, sleep-deprived, dirty, sore, tired and really wanting your Mommy.
    *Your self-respect is directly related to your ability to produce.
    *What you do does indeed affect those with whom you work and live, and upon whom you rely.

    In short, the major portion of our Nation’s work ethic goes un-developed since we ended the draft. We are poorer for it.

    See you in Yuma!

  2. G says:

    i think too many kids these days look for attention in the wrong places. I mean, how many years do you have to be in the army before they hook you up with a blackhawk? I assume, they don’t give you that responsability right away. I think poor kid’s delusional, aiming for some sort of respect by owning a gun and heavy machinery, when clearly he’s unaware of what actually goes on in the army. It’s kind of sad.

  3. I absolutely agree with you, Nick! I’ve said the same thing for years. Most kids coming out of high school have no clue what they want to do (and why should they? They’re still kids!) and service would give them opportunities beyond anything they could imagine. Too bad no one listens to us! :)

  4. Jim says:

    Oh boy Nick, you really hit the nail on the head. When you say “every kid”, that’s exactly the way it should be …. ladies too. I believe the young men should all get a taste of the military, IF they could qualify and looking around our area it would be a big IF.

  5. Margie says:

    Great wisdom, Nick. That would be good for our country and our young people.

  6. Orv Schinke says:

    It worked for me. I graduated from high school in 1949, just barely 17 years old. I worked in a grocery store as a stock clerk and delivery boy until I was 19. At that time I still didn’t know what I wanted to do (didn’t know about all the educational grants and scholarships available). I joined the USAF, was trained in electronics and “graduated” — retired after 20+ years. That training stood me in good stead when at the age of 40 I went to college to upgrade my knowledge of electronic theory and was hired by Rockwell-Collins where I worked until retiring again at the age of 58. I wish young people today would take advantage of military training available.

  7. Jerry Hedges says:

    I agree with you 100%.

  8. SAL Bellomo says:

    I agree too with you but most of the young Kids that come out of school don’t care , all they think they know it all , and we can not tell them anything that would better for them in life . Some
    of them can’t come out of the rain or do some thing good ,or let
    someone us older people tell them how . My Father like many others
    made you go out learn to work to get some were in life and do for our self , I wish I would have had the opportunities like you said
    to do more , but we all did our best .

  9. Amen! I was not able to even get into ROTC when I went to college, and I was deferred by the draft board. So I just worked my way through the University of San Francisco, amrried a sweet young thing from the little coffee shop next door to where I was living. I was darned lucky, even without your proposed two-year service assignment.

    I might have learned something in those two years, but I might never have met the love of my life!

  10. Wayne says:

    WOW I think of my sister-in-laws kids. Those two Idiots into drugs and in and out of Jail. Mommy always say’s they got set up or something else never their fault. They each have Fathered Kids that they never supported. Well I’m sure that Military Service wouldn’t want them two dead beats, unless they let the Drill Sargent smack them around. I think the only trade they need to learn is breaking big rocks into little ones.
    Ok I’m done. Wayne

  11. Susan Cameron says:

    I get what you’re saying, Nick, but I disagree. When I was sixteen, I attended high school college-prep classes in the morning and worked in an office in the afternoon. The $80 a month I handed my grandparents went toward our $100 per month rent and kept us all off welfare. At 17 I bailed, graduated, lied about my age, rented a little house in the big ghetto, worked full-time days and took college classes at night when I could scrape up a few bucks. Pulling me out of my self-sufficient life at 18 so I could “give back”…sigh.

    Spoiled-brat lazy kids would benefit from the plan, but what about the multitudes out there who have to grow up young, and do? Didn’t America benefit enough from the taxes I paid between the ages of 18 and 20? Would it have benefited more by having me pull weeds in a park for another two years?

    Besides, let’s face it, the sons and daughters of the rich will NEVER serve. Never. They will be tucked into a rich-kid loophole/hideyhole. Those who will be forced to “give back” for two years will be those who received the least, as always.

    Just my two cents.

  12. Linda Sand says:

    Dave was a helicopter pilot in the Army which did him no good at all as a civilian. It did earn him GI benefits, though, which paid for him to go to college where he discovered computer programming. So, our benefit was not as direct but it was sure there!

  13. Bob Derivan says:

    You’ve all forgotten. The WORLD owes me!!! They should give me a house, a car, a job (even though I don’t have a skill), and of course, Medical Insurance!!! And you all should pay for it just because!!! Why should I contribute to society and make it better for future generations?? Let someone else do that. How is that CHANGE working out for you???

  14. Russ Strait says:

    Agreed!!! I was stationed in Germany late 60’s and learned that the kids there had two years of mandatory service, either the Army or the police force. There are so many possibilities for service. So many of the kids, even with good upbringing, still need help with basic survival skills. Mandatory service would be a unique opportunity for them to look around and see how the real world operates.

  15. BoB says:

    Well NICK your on the right track for the younger folks to get some training to be educated if one cannot afford to pay for it. I think training them through war tatics is a very old way of thinking and is not working in today and future existence. My Nephew came back over a year ago (lucky) or was he???…with no legs and one arm and is only 21 and now has a child he cannot look after with his military wife. He is suppose to “survive” now on $320.00 month and i could go on… This is the kind of shit we are suppose to swallow?…Not in my world!!!….Take care and lets not forget who’s fighting for us!

  16. Bill Joyce says:

    It didn’t work for my nephew, who was in for five years, or his now ex-wife, who is in the reserves now. They might be disciplined in the Army, but it didn’t take in the rest of their lives. You can hold out hope it will straighten out the “Me Generation”, but some are hard cases and won’t change.

  17. Sid says:

    First I will say that I am NOT a veteren and it is probably easy for an old fart who knows he will never have to serve to say this, but I agree whole heartedly. I can see the good it did for my two sons.

    I think there would be less problems on our streets and more community pride, more responsible parents and citizens. Looking back I think I would have done things a bit different if I had been subjected to some military discipline when I made my first steps into the world of adults!

  18. Phil Brown says:

    I totaly agree with you. Two years compulsary service for every kid after high school, if they drop out it would start on thier 18th birthday, no rich kid deferments. But we will never see anything like that in this country. Our politicians could care less about anything except padding their own bank accounts and will do nothing that is not bought and paid for by big business.

  19. Gene Teggatz says:

    It is too logical Nick. The money-grubbers in Washington would find it too expensive. After all, who would manage the program? Or maybe it would sell. The management team is another senior group of high level public servants drawing big salaries sitting in their office justifying their GS level! Never mind the peons in the field. Gene

  20. Jim Murray says:

    Nick, this is an idea that is right for today’s times. Back in the depression, a wise President created the CCC to accomplish 2 missions, needed public works projects, such as you described, and a “hidden” benefit, in that the target group of young men 18-25 were put to work rather than hanging out on street corners, drinking and participating in other non-productive behaviors. The program was successful also in that it was partially run by the folks in the Army- who had experience in the guidance and development of young men. Its a way better idea than having kids sit around collecting checks, food stamps, and other benefits because it’s their entitlement….
    Jim Bob

  21. Connie Braidh says:

    Hear Hear!!! I agree. Two years of compulsory service to your country would be great. It doesn’t have to be military but some kind of service. Look what the CCC groups did for this country. Having taught in community college for 22 years, I can tell you the 18 year old is a KID. Most of them have no idea what they want to do. Many of them get bad grades but come back later after a few life lessons and do much better. Get them away from Mommy for awhile and have them WORK for what they get helps them understand RESPONSIBILITY and the WORK ETHIC. I have been saying this for years and nice to see others agree. The young people could get grants after their service toward college or trade/technical schools (not enough of these in our country). I do believe Israel has this 2 year mandatory work/military program in place already. It does work!!!!!!

  22. Dennis Murphy says:

    Like Sid, I am not a veteran. While a lot of you were in SE Asia I was working on helicopter components in a defense plant. I do believe however, that I missed an important part of my life by not being in the military and have felt that way for a long time.

    Every generation is rebellious and “knows it all”. We were all that way and bad mouthing the current generation accomplishes nothing.

    Mandatory public service is a magnificent idea that can give young people a chance to see the real world and decide on the direction they really want to take in life. Many people find their true calling in second careers late in life, imagine what they could have accomplished had they had the chance to find that calling earlier in life.

  23. Deb Peters says:

    Hi Nick,
    I totally agree. I did it similar to Orv. I turned 19 at the Signal School (Commo MOS) in Augusta, Georgia. Earned the GI bill, got my degree in Electronics Technology. Bought my first house at 22, went to work on White Sands Missile Range at 22 also as an Electronic Tech. That skill has opened doors for me throughout my life.
    I remember when I was on the road in the RV and looking for work. I applied at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City, FL. The boss looked at my app and hired me on the spot, because of my military service, he said. Even though I told him that was 25 years ago, he looked at me and said that he didn’t care, it proved that I could pass muster.
    I think that all of the services…armed, Peace Corps, AmericaCorps, etc. should start marketing to teens AND their frustrated parents. In fact, I’ll mention it to my sister who has a 20 year old daughter still on her couch!

  24. George Stoltz says:

    Having passed 70 years of age and being unfortuante to NOT have served in the military, I think Nick’s idea should become public law. Two years is a very short amount of time the the lifetime of an individual, but for 99.9% of the paticipants it will pay rich rewards to society and to the indiviudual.

    Footnote: at 64 I found a way to give back and served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in the Juvenile Court System of Lake County, Illinois for two years, where I advocated for three young children whose mom was a drug addict.

  25. Nick, We are in 100% agreement even though neither of us nor our 2 sons were in the military. None of us really knew what we wanted to do at age 18 and, in retrospect, think that this would have been an excellent time to give back to the country while experiencing life in a disciplined environment away from the nest.

    I have spent quite a bit of time in Finland where they have a very successful conscription model very similar to your vision, offering both military or cilivian service options. The requirement is the same whether Daddy is top dog at Nokia or a street cleaner.

    Why is it that every one of the responses you have here is in agreement but we can’t get something like this in place? Have we elected too many congressmen who don’t want their children and grandchildren in such service?


  26. Claire says:

    Nick for President!

  27. MichaelG says:

    So the plan is 1) waste $120,000 giving them 12 years of public education which does them no good. Then 2) draft them for a couple of years of slave labor to put some “backbone” in them. 3) Expect them to be solid productive citizens now.

    How about you actually raise your kids right while they are at home, then give them an education that’s worth something?

  28. ken says:

    Two years in the military will help make you a better person!
    however if you are luckey enough to get in a field where you can
    really learn a trade or stay in long enough to get good experence all the better. it’s hard for me to believe Linda when
    she says Dave’s training in whirleybirds left him no benifits in
    civilian life!!Ever heard of flying news reporters,or cropdusters,how about flyin fishing or hunting? I could think of
    dozens of others. Where our big problem is today with our youth is no place to go if they don’t finnish high school.! In my time
    if that happened you could join the military with a good basic
    education.I think if most of the stimulas money we just pissed away would have been spent on something like CCC programs we would be headed in the right direction.Yes I didn’t finnish
    school,joined the Navy at 17 Married at 19 had twin girls and a son all before I was 20. Gave the Navy 18 1/2 years,retired at 36
    and stayed married for 47 years. I lost my wife when she was 58
    and we were planning to rv for many years.Be carefull with medication and bad doctors,as they can and do kill people!
    1/2 million is not nearly enough for your loved one!!

  29. Cal Hall says:

    As usual you’re right on.

  30. Tony says:

    Nick, You’re right on this one. Some type of mandatory service is something I have advocated for years. No get out of service cards for anyone. Without that rule then don’t require service for anyone. No such thing as a “fortunate son”.

  31. Rocky Frees says:

    I agree with the advise. I know it is easy for me to say not having been in the service, but I see a lot of people that could have “grown up” for it too. mmmm, maybe that is whay I say I refuse to grow up? But wait… then you have Bad Nick………

  32. Bill B says:

    It almost sounds as if you are describing VISTA.

    V olunteers
    I n the
    S ervice
    T o
    A merica

    unless I miss my guess. State, National parks also come to mind. I think that another thing that should also be included is a
    ??3?? month part of that in the care of the elderly. And before they do that, 1 week in a wheel chair, walker, foggy glasses, in a way that will let them experience (minorly speaking) some of the effects of ageing.

  33. .capybill says:

    Nick ,if you think those kids had a problem, listen to this,when I was getting my security license a few years ago, a couple of kids were talking about the next level class for a gun permit and they were saying they could not wait to graduate so they could shoot someone! I spent five years as a volunteer in Laos and felt safer there!

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