If you were to walk into a kindergarten class and ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” chances are you’d get a lot of firefighters, astronauts, veterinarians and ballerinas. Most kids wouldn’t say, “I want to be in the military.” However, to seniors Brendan Krepchin, Michael Mylen, Dylan Zorn and JJ Cruz, that was the only answer that made sense.
At a young age, Brendan’s interests first began to focus on the military. He originally wanted to join the Army, but later decided to look into the Marine Corps during his sophomore year of high school. Michael also found his interest in the military centered on the Marine Corps. Dylan, on the other hand, has been interested in joining the Air Force since the age of four.
“Combining two things I feel the need to do–flying and [protecting]… came out as [joining] the Air Force,” Dylan said.
Similar passion for his future is shown by JJ, who aims to use the Army as a stepping stone to achieve his goal of becoming a law enforcement officer. Furthermore, all four seniors said their interest in joining the military stemmed from their families’ involvement and their friends’ influence.
“I had two grandfathers in the military,” Brendan said. “I have many friends who have served in the US Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.”
Dylan also had two grandfathers in the military and both fought in Vietnam. He recounts a war story from their days fighting in the Vietnam War, saying that’s the only story he knows about his family. For Michael, it was the idea of making his father proud that encouraged him to look into joining, and JJ says his interest stemmed from his cousin’s involvement in the Army.
“Before [my cousin] went he was more physical [but] after [he] came back home [from the army], he was more disciplined.” JJ said.
In addition to familial influence, each of the students harbors his own personal reason for wanting to join. Brendan holds a unique view of his role as a U.S. citizen.
“I believe freedom isn’t free… You have to pay that back, whether that means serving or sitting behind a desk,” Brendan said. “My choice [is] going out and defending an iron constitution with iron.”
For Michael and Dylan, the events of 9/11 caused them to look into joining the military.
“When 9/11 happened, the greatest country in the world was vulnerable, and that kind of made me wish I could do something about that.” Michael said.
Conversely, JJ is driven by his own history and future goals. He discovered the military as a potential way to achieve his dream of entering law enforcement.
“[When] I was in eighth grade and I wasn’t heading down the right path, I talked to some police officers who helped me get out of that bad lifestyle,” JJ said. “Ever since then, I’ve wanted to do law enforcement… and the military has [the] discipline and training that I can use as a stepping stone to get there.”
That’s not to say there aren’t deterrents when it comes to joining the military.. Despite this, Brendan remains unfazed.
“You do sacrifice a lot to be in the military,” Brendan said. “You sacrifice a life of freedom and you also sacrifice your rights, but at the same time you’re giving those rights and safety to people who don’t necessarily have that.”
However, for some, the sacrifices outweigh the benefits and military life simply isn’t for them. An anonymous student who has previously planned to join the military says she now has some reservations. Among her reasons, her concern about the effects of deployment and military service on her potential children is the primary factor.
To some people, joining the military seems like the last thing they would think of when making plans for the future. To others, it’s the only thing they can think of. Either way, making the decision is huge and ultimately a personal choice.