“I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.”
This is a line from the “Soldier’s Creed,” a United States Army statement that highlights the standards that soldiers must abide by. The U.S. Army is not alone in their mission to protect this nation; along with the Army, the Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps make up the U.S. Armed Forces.
Military work presents challenges, such as deployments and exposure to dangerous environments. Being a military service member also comes with benefits that include, but are not limited to, access to the Forever GI Bill and the Tuition Assistance Program, which pays up to 100 percent of tuition expenses, 30 days of annual paid vacation, and special home loans and discounts, according to military.com.
While military experience varies among each member, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s veteran community share their thoughts on the pros and cons of serving in the United States Armed Forces.
The first step to becoming a service member is to decide to join the Armed Forces. Some may join to have an outlet for their patriotism, continue a family legacy, or gain social mobility. For
UH Mānoa senior and Marine Corps veteran Jameson Moore, the military offered an exponential learning curve.
“Some people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Others just want to shoot guns. Most, however, simply want to do good for the United States,” Moore said. “As for me, there were a few factors but ultimately I knew deep down I needed to put myself through a serious challenge to grow up into the adult I wanted to be.”
While serving, Moore found the Marine Corps aided not only his personal growth, but also set the foundations of who he has become after his service: a Korean linguist.
“I was forced to mature by leaps and bounds in a very short time. I learned a lot about leadership and what really makes a person admirable, and how to strive to live my life by those principles,” Moore said. “By joining the military I ended up learning how to speak Korean, which has opened doors that I never would have imagined existed. I stopped [serving] because I ended up becoming a Korean linguist. It was fairly obvious...that as a linguist I wasn't particularly needed in the Marine Corps, and I knew I could protect a lot more lives as a Korean linguist than as a rifleman.”
Sara Bryant, UH Mānoa senior and Coast Guard veteran, believes the benefits of serving affect all aspects of your life, from physical health to the wellbeing of your loved ones.
“You get in the best physical shape of your life, learn leadership skills whether you are enlisted or an officer, and most importantly learn great discipline and integrity,” Bryant said. “Aside from those, of course health care, dental, and vision are provided for your entire immediate family, and you are also granted the GI Bill which pays for any 4-year degree of choice.”
All in ruck
A “ruck,” or “ruck march” entails troops carry their gear from Point A to Point B in their rucksacks, or backpacks, according to Military.com. These “rucks” can contain 50 pounds of equipment, and soldiers often hike with this weight for miles.
This gear can also encompass a service member’s experiences in the military, and with military benefits, the disadvantages and challenges come with it.
For Moore, the main disadvantages are war and, in relative peacetime, the separation from loved ones. What is also particularly challenging is learning to work with a wide range of people in the often high-stressed environments.
“You will meet the best and most motivated people you'll ever know and also some of the laziest and most selfish. Being in a position of leadership is extremely demanding and a massive amount of responsibility,” Moore said. “The work hours can be long, often interfere with holidays, and can sometimes be irregular when you take 24 hours shifts of 'duty' (standing guard at the barracks or otherwise) into account.”
Bryant also notes the difficulty of separation and exposure to high-stress.
“You always have to be ready to handle many tasks at once, and always have someone to answer to,” Bryant said. “It is important to be mentally tough. It is also difficult if you are unmarried and have to be separated from your boyfriend/girlfriend or your parents, and having to adapt to a foreign land, whether it be domestic or international."
Regardless of one’s experience in the military, the memories and skills learned define what service is or was like for many Armed Forces members.
For all the hardships encountered, Moore does not regret his time in the Marine Corps.
“The most stressful, joyful, difficult, physically painful, and proud moments of my life all happened [when] I was in the Marine Corps,” Moore said. “I am lucky to have been born in a country where joining the military was a choice, I was paid, and am now going to school for free. The camaraderie is real and I made lifelong friends, who really are more like brothers to me.”
Bryant echoes this sentiment.
“There were very tough times along with the good, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Bryant said. “I learned how to work really hard, and many valuable skills that would make me a great asset to my future place of employment. I would not trade it for the world.”