I love a man in uniform

In high school, military recruiters were a permanent fixture at lunchtime. Most of the time, I saw them trying to impress kids. Students rarely approached the recruiters. Like annoying salesmen, these recruiters tried to appear interested in our future but really only cared about inflating their recruitment numbers. They always talked about how their lives would not have been the same without their service and told us everyone should serve their country. They primarily targeted seniors but were not beneath sending an interested freshman off with everything but the dotted line. This feverish indiscrimination was the quality about them I disliked.

I understand why recruiters are so persistent, never since the Vietnam war has military service been so unpopular. Without the draft, the number of those in the service is dwindling. Our country does need a military force but I believe the current structure of military recruitment is ridiculous. High school seniors should not be our primary candidates for military service. A high school senior is not prepared to enter a war zone, even with an extra year of training.

My senior year was spent studying "All Quiet on the Western Front." Thinking about it now, most of the literature my teachers assigned me was promoting non-violence and peace. Why would our school allow recruiters to come in every day while also creating literature units that broadly condemned war? The reason why I did not like the recruiters was because I am a lover of the academic. I listened more to my teachers than I did to my friends, advertisements, or principals. And in the world of modern high school, advertisements play a substantial role.

During the first two years of my duration at high school, we were forced to watch a 15-minute television broadcast. It was meant to be educational about social and scholastic matters but five to eight minutes were devoted to Pepsi commercials. While the prime directive of our school was to teach, it seemed like any time outside the classroom was spent to the advertisement of some sponsor. Pepsi, Jostens, and military service were at the top of the advertisement list.

I repeat, I have nothing against the military service. However, I think the constant advertisement for it has cheapened the reasons to join. Some of the ads look like they are promoting body-odor products. Others look surreally like video games. Yet still, others look like the end of a Hallmark movie. None of these ads show us the mental wear-and-tear many soldiers experience. This commercial version of military service is what recruiters sell. Recruiters are not likely to talk about "All Quiet on the Western Front," "Slaughterhouse Five," or "The Deer Hunter." Like the salesmen they are, recruiters are not in the business of selling a product that exists in reality. Recruiters try to sell their victims on an idealized dream-version of military service highlighted with big guns, sweet rides, and a healthy dose of non-lethal thrills. Recruiters convince many students that the military can be fun and provide a way for paying off school.

Last year, I had the pleasure of talking to someone who was deeply attached to the protest movement during Vietnam. Like many in the anti-war movement, she did not favor the lowering of the voting age. Their ultimate goal had been to raise the service age to the current voting age, 21. I have always perceived the 18 voting age as positive but now I wonder if 18 is really an age that warrants such responsibility as voting and military service.

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