Reflecting on the military as a way of life
I think it can be, but not necessarily so, especially in the West with its materialistic and secular values.
Example: I know people for whom military service is a passion, some for whom it is a profession, some for whom it is employment, some for whom it was better than time in jail. Some find the military as an option when there may not be other options around. Some seek ewxcitement and thrills; some serve out of a sense of dty and tradition to family. For them, service is expected. Some enter from a sense of drama, some are seeking…something. I know some for whom the military was a chance to start something new, with a new name.
Reasons for continuing to serve are as varied as the reasons for joining, and it is normal to see reasons change through time, as circumstances, and life experiences, and life phases change.
For me, service was a coming together of familial tradition, educational opportunity, a desire to do “walkabout” and a way to establish myself in my career apart from the automobile and steel industries which had been home to all my kin. I had taught for a year in highschool after college graduation but was sure I was not prepared for a career as a HS teacher when I saw what 40 yr old HS teachers looked like in the teaachers lounge.
After entering, and having my romantic notions of service exploded, i found a sense of color-blind, achievement based excellence that was very attractive in 1980. Here was an organization explicitly committed to sevrice to the nation and others, with a foe who represented a clear and present existential threat, and where what you did mattered more than who you were or where you were from. Not perfect by any means, but filled with good people trying to do their best.
I found myself adopting a career orientation as I decided to go to officer school and committ to a career of service.
As you know from my “Big 5” the warrior role is important for me, in the sense of beginning weith self mastery, and then servic ein defense of the defenseless. This for me feels like a calling, a duty that transcends every other value I have. Duty, for me is my dominant value, and it is expressed in service to others. My decisionto reitre a few years ago came after deep reflection on the tipping point between duty to family and community, and uty to the nation and Army.
For those whom the military is a way of life, I’d say they are spoken to by the martial values, and the code of conduct and the comraderie of friends whose love for each other is forged in fire; friends for whom they would give their life without thinking, whose names and memories they can never forget.
I think it can grow to be a way of life; the experienceof many retired soldiers is of a deep hollow inside when they hang up the uniform, and there is a surreal sense of disconnect and separateness that is very difficult to name and deal with. The Band of Brothers captures this sense very well. Veterans have an unspoken conenction that is a comfort at these times, and i cannot attend a parade, and see the old timers marching or watching with the old timers and the youngsters troop past wearing our colors. I get a disembodied feeling at these times. I get misty when I hear the national anthem sung properly, and “Taps” makes me break down. And i wait by the front door of the college at 5 o’clock so i can hear the cannon fire and the sound of Retreat echo across the lawn.
So I would say, yes, the military can be a way of life for some, if it chooses you. I wouldnt say we really choose it, we seem to be chosen, or at least there is a natural fit