The United States military transitioned to an all-volunteer force during the same time the war in Vietnam was coming to an end. On June 30, 1973, the induction authority that had called so many men to service officially ended. To draw a comparison, in 1968, more than 455,000 men and women joined the United States Army, with more than half entering as draftees. In 1974, just over 166,000 joined the military; all had volunteered. This has held true to today’s Army, where all who join do so by choice.
Service to one’s country is a noble position. Whether it be through the military, police, fire, EMS, or otherwise, the notion of providing safety and service to others gives us cause to take pause and recognize these figures – until they speak up. Let a service member point out an issue where the showers don’t work in the barracks, and the response is generally the same, “you volunteered for this.”
With all due respect, people volunteered to join the military. They did not volunteer to live in squalor here in the United States. They did not volunteer to be treated with disrespect, or to have their family living on WIC. The reality is that volunteering to join the military is not volunteering to live a life of misery.
What causes this concept that this is an appropriate response? Much can be credited to the concepts of the people who came before and consistently believe that they always had it harder than the people who came after them. Shared misery is considered a bonding experience, and since one person had deplorable conditions, everyone else should be able to deal with it too.
In 2012, a group of military spouses sued the company that was providing military housing for families over mold in their residences. In 2013, Soldiers stationed at Ft. Polk complained about the mold and contaminated water. In 2014, the amount of lead in the water was two times higher than the required federal action level to initiate an investigation, with more than 20% of houses tested having unacceptable levels of lead in their water.
These are just a few examples seen over the years of run down infrastructure and substandard conditions provided to service members and their families. Couple this with multiple PCS moves, and a seemingly constant discussion about downsizing and reducing benefits, and is it any wonder that service members begin to question their decision to join the military in the first place?
Sure, there are a variety of responses that are likely. “Don’t re-enlist” is a common one. In reality though, the one answer should be, “We will fix it.” Military life is not an easy life. It involves constant moving, the potential for deployments, and threats from adversaries that are both known and unknown. It should not also include a hostile and dangerous work environment due to a lack of care or attention to basic health issues.
When something is wrong, it is the responsibility of leaders to identify, mitigate, and address the issues. The status quo is not enough, and the military will quickly find that when they stop caring about the livelihood of service members, those service members stop joining.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.