Time and again, people on the left assume that the military preys upon the poor to man the ranks. Time and again, we must present the truth to them.
It should no more be necessary to write this article than to prove that there were Jews killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11. And yet the mythology refuses to die. Just last week, two well-educated and well-known writer acquaintances of mine remarked in passing on the “fact” that those who serve in the U.S. military typically have no other career options. America’s soldiers, they said, were poor and black.
They don’t mean this to denigrate their service—no, they mean it as a critique of American society, which turns its unemployed into cannon fodder. Especially today with high unemployment, the charge goes, hapless youths we fail to educate are embarking on a one-way trip to Afghanistan.
These allegations—most frequently leveled at the Army, the military’s biggest service and the one with the highest casualty rate—are false.
As a recruiter, the area I covered ran from destitute to quite upper middle class. I’ll admit that the best neighborhoods were difficult to recruit in. The issue was primarily one of access. Getting a chance to tell the Army story to young men and women was the challenge. Once they heard it, they often had a very positive response.
The poor regions of my area were a challenge. There was an inherent suspicion to an authority. And for the fair number of folks that were inclined to enlist, large numbers failed to meet the enlistment standards, either physical, educational, or for prior police records.
The Army faced some real challenges earlier in the War on Terror finding enough people to fill the ranks. Did they lower standards? Yes. But not a whole lot. And not surprisingly, many of the folks that were allowed in self-selected their way back out of the service, either by failing to successfully complete their enlistment, or by simply moving on to civilian life at the end of their term.