Two weeks ago, theChive posted a picture of an enlisted combat veteran in the U.S. Army holding up the anti-OWS sign below. Neglecting the fact that it is inappropriate to wear a military uniform while making political statements (not that this blogger can criticize too much), this image struck me as odd, even contradictory. Bear with me as I deconstruct this a bit, sentence by sentence, in a stream of consciousness. There are some interesting forces at play here.
"I joined the Army during a time of war."
Undoubtedly, this soldier is to be honored for his service, knowing full well that he would be deployed several times in a war that has lasted over a decade and stretched our forces thin. However, it would be naïve to think that the economy hasn't been a contributing factor to the military's recruitment success the past couple of years. In 2009, for example, the military met all of its recruitment goals for the first time in35 years. Coincidentally, economists predicted that the 2009 economic crisis was to be the worst the world had seen in 60 years.
How much did the economy play into this young man's decision to join the military? Regardless of the answer, it doesn't take away from his bravery and his sacrifice, but if joining and maintaining our forces was purely a matter of public service, the need for sign-on bonuses, pensions, and benefits would be nonexistent.
"It didn't pay well at first, but that just made me work HARDER."
Promotion in the military is more or less a function of time, not talent. Tim Kane's article in The Atlanticdiscusses this at great length. John Nagl, a Rhodes Scholar, West Point graduate, tank-battalion operations officer, and one of the crafters of the Army's counterinsurgency manual, left the military without having achieved a full-bird (rank of Colonel).
If you're looking for a less extreme example, think about how common it is to congratulate a servicemember for being selected a year early for promotion. A year early? The promotion window is so specific that a year differentiates the absolute best soldiers at a certain rank from his or her average counterparts. Hard work in the military is even less determinant of income than in civil society.
"I have multiple deployments to countries you '99%' would never occupy."
I'm concerned with the fact that this soldier is voluntarily distinguishing himself from