U.S. servicemen and servicewomen often face conditions when they return from their service that are worse in many respects than during their service. Even though they may have endured life-threatening combat and great discomforts, they were fed and clothed and sheltered (to some extent) by the military establishment. But when they leave the military they often are on their own, and often suffer from mental ilness, homelessness, alcohol/drug abuse, and other woes. Fortunately, there are a number of initiatives started, or supported, by well-meaning people that can help these veterans in their new civilian lives. One example is super-star country-western singer Tim McGraw, who is an ambassador for Operation Homefront, which has a long list of very basic current needs such as housing, utilities, food, and car. If things are so bad that they are barely surviving, it’s little wonder that a survey by the Disabled American Veterans charity released on November 10 found that just 44 percent of veterans report they have received the health, disability, financial and education benefits they were promised and only 18 percent believe disabled veterans have received the benefits they were promised. So they have to scramble to find jobs. But many veterans have found that the natures of the military environment and the commercial one are so different that many of them end up being entrepreneurs by necessity; according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than people with no military service. One new nonprofit organization that is trying to help them become entrepreneurs is Patriot Boot Camp, a series of three-day workshops intended to give veterans some basic training to get started. And there are some notable exceptions among big organizations, e.g., Bank of America, which supports the U.S. military through contributions to military-focused charitable organizations, differentiated banking services for military servicemembers (especially through the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)), and a commitment to hiring military veterans.
As we noted in our June 15, 2015 post, the institution that has the highest confidence among Americans is the military. So it is logical that Americans would want both its fighting troops and their leaders to be as qualified as possible. As pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article a lot higher fraction of the enlisted personnel in the military have high school diplomas than does the American populace as a whole. And a lot higher fraction of the officers in the military have college bachelor’s degree than does the American populace as a whole, though this is because it has historically been a requirement for becoming an officer. However, there is growing evidence (including surveys such as the 2013 Gallup-Lumina Foundation Report) that the capabilities needed for a military officer might actually be better gained by actual experience—particularly (though not necessarily) in a specialized capacity or four years of actual military service as an enlisted person.
The armed forces have long been a default choice for young adults who aren’t prepared for, or cannot choose, a different occupation. One of the more unusual enlistees, author Tom Robbins, explains his reasoning in his new autobiography, Tibetan Peach Pie: “Why? – one might fairly ask. Well, for precisely the same reason the 90 percent of all enlistees join the military, which is to say, I was at a point in my life when I didn’t know what else to do.” Unfortunately, the number of qualified enlistees continues to decline because so many (71%) of the 34 million 17-24-year-olds in the U.S. don’t meet the basic standards of education, fitness (many are very obese), and absence of visible tattoos, according to The Wall Street Journal. The tattoo requirement is because not only do these youths have to be able to fight but also they have to look good in uniform. This seems like a frivolous requirement when put into the perspective of their fellow soldiers who have been physically injured or mentally traumatized in actual combat. And with the increasing number of injured/traumatized vets not being properly cared for these days, and thus not willing or able to re-enlist, the U.S. military is going to be hard-pressed to defend our country.