Pursuing The American Dream Through Military Service 

“For today’s youth, the American Dream may already be dead.”

Of all the preposterous things spoken and written repeatedly in the media over the last year, this singular statement ruffles my feathers more than nearly any other. This simple thought promotes fear, intensifies pessimism, and erects artificial barriers to success in the hearts and minds of our citizens. It kills hope, reinforces discouragement, and feeds a pernicious narrative of the meaninglessness of life.

Oh, and one other thing — it is completely and utterly incorrect.

The United States of America has endured a year unlike any other in recent history. As we continue emerge from our “long, dark winter” over the next few months, daily life will start to resemble the pre-pandemic era. Children will return to classrooms, state economies will open, and the customary rhythm of life will return.

Despite the significant upheaval of the past year, both personal and universal, the exceptional excess of opportunities available to United States citizens will far outlive the momentary difficulties of today. At no other time in human history has a nation’s citizens enjoyed the abundance of liberty to pursue their dreams than in the present-day United States. Men and women, young and old are free to follow their passions and stake their claim to the American Dream.

Sound fantastical? Undoubtedly, hard work and sacrifice are required to achieve most dreams. In fact, significant personal or professional failures may occur along the winding road in pursuit of those dreams. God-given opportunity, however, is there for the taking.

For young adults who remain skeptical of the American Dream, mired in tragic present-day narratives and unable to see through the fog of hopelessness (both real and perceived), let me offer a solution to jump-start your own dreams – the United States military.

The U.S. military takes men and women from all walks of life and molds them into the finest protectors on the planet. These supporters of the Constitution work as a joint team to ensure the liberty of our citizens. As the best-trained force in the world, the U.S. military stands eternally ready to defend our Nation against all enemies.

These well-advertised themes speak to the nature of service to one’s Country. Less advertised, but equally true, are the individual benefits that allow U.S. military members to begin the tangible pursuit of their own American Dream. Consider the following:

  • The early stages of a military career involve preparing newly-minted Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardians for the physical, mental, and emotional demands of service. Individuals become teams, acquaintances become brothers and sisters, and character is refined by the fire of a common pursuit of excellence – first in basic training, then in technical school or other follow-on training. Servant-citizenship will infuse members’ daily walk through life from that point forward.
  • Service members learn followership….and in short order, they learn leadership. It is customary for adults as young as 20 to lead fellow military members. Leadership is pervasive throughout both officer and enlisted ranks, and these experiences become “tools in the kit” for members’ pursuit of their future American Dream.
  • Service members are well-compensated while becoming inculcated in the job and culture. Most importantly, members earn educational opportunities while in service. The Post-9/11 GI Bill will pay for 36 months (four academic years) of tuition, fees, books, supplies, and housing toward pursuit of a college degree, technical training, or other approved educational pursuits. A member earns full GI Bill benefits after just one three-year active duty enlistment. Additionally, many military jobs require study and testing that may translate directly into college credits while still in service.
  • Service members may actually find their American Dream within the U.S. military. Career types are nearly as endless as one’s imagination, and many members intending to depart after one enlistment or commitment ultimately decide to pursue their passion through continued military service.
  • Post-military civilians become a symbol of service to the American people. Programs through the Veterans Administration are available for support. Certain government jobs give priority to veterans. Veteran preference also pervades the civilian sector, enhancing job and economic opportunities in nearly every career field. While Americans are sometimes unable to directly relate to prior service members’ military experiences, most Americans understand the value of those experiences and the character, excellence, and work ethic that veterans bring to the workforce.

If you are between the ages of 17-39 and ready to put aside society’s pessimism and start along the path to your American Dream, an enlistment or commitment in the United States military may be the boost you need. Recruiters for all services are located throughout the United States; decide which Services interest you and schedule appointments. Requirements for service include a high school degree or GED and achievement of minimum physical fitness standards. If you do not meet these requirements but strongly desire to kick-start your dreams through service to your Country, schedule an appointment with a recruiter, who can point you to the correct resources to help move you toward eligibility.

The American Dream is alive and well. For those who desire to pursue their dreams through hard work, the opportunities have never been more abundant. The diving board for your own American Dream may just be a term…or career…of service to your Country.

Colonel Denny R. Davies, United States Air Force, is a National Security Affairs Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.  A former C-130 squadron commander, he has deployed six times in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.  

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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