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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