The U.S. Army has fallen short on its recruitment goals for fiscal year 2005 by about 7,000 soldiers, attaining about 91% of its goal for the year. There are obviously many reasons for this, among them the healthy economy and concerns about going to war.
Contrast this with the re-enlistment levels of those who are already in the war. The army has been able to re-enlist a far greater number in the past year than they were expecting, with deployed units leading the way in re-enlistments. Why is this? Possible reasons include the fact that those who are already serving are more likely to be those with the sense of duty to country that one would expect to enlist. It could be that soldiers enjoy the comaradarie and sense of adventure. It could be the benefits. It makes sense that deployed units would have more re-ups for two simple reasons; one, these are the people who see what a great thing we are doing for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and two, any re-enlistment bonus they are entitled to is tax-free if received while deployed.
I have been in the army for over fifteen years now, though I must come out up front and say that I have never had a weapon fired at me or been in the vicinity of any explosive intended to take life, (accidents, however, are another matter.) I have been to places that most Americans couldn't find on a map, and have seen the aftermath of warfare, but have not so far been a participant. I mention this because it matters, in that my service might not have so far been typical, but I do want to say that being in the army has given me a great life. I have had opportunities to do things and go places that most people only dream about, even if some of those dreams are nightmares. I have met a wide variety of people, and been exposed to cultures that I would not even be aware of without my deployments.
I have had people tell me in broken English how much they appreciate what America has done for them. I have had my chest swell with pride at the recognition I received simply for being born in America. True, I have seen the reverse of that coin too, but the odds of this coin flip landing on the obverse are definitely greater than 50%.
If you know of anyone who is thinking about joining me in the Army, or one of my brothers in the Marines or Navy, or entering my father's Air Force, (yes, we have wonderful times at family gatherings) please do what you can to encourage them. The services are not government jobs programs for the unemployable. Most of those I work with would have no problem working in the civilian sector. (This is probably a good time to point out that both of my brothers are rocket scientists.) Most of them stay in the service because they enjoy what they do.
And they realize that it is a job well worth doing.