10 Awful Things About the Army Nobody Tells You

Updated on August 8, 2017


Now, I know what you're thinking already but this isn't that. I'm not bashing the military or America. Also, I don't want to scare you because the Army isn't scary. If you sincerely want to serve, then that's awesome!

So what's this about? Let's put it this way: if you want to buy a car, you can go to the dealer and stare at it endlessly. You can walk around it as many times as you want, maybe even kick the tires. But remember: tires can be changed. You have to look under the hood. If you want to make the right decision, you have to do your homework. This article will help you do that.

I focus on the Army because it's the only branch I served in. I can't speak for other branches. To be fair, I have another article titled 7 Awesome Things About the Army Your Recruiter Will Never Tell You. Take a look at it after you read this one.

Finally, I refer to the soldier as a "he." I do this only to keep things simple. I know there are many female service members. I am proud to have served alongside them. Thank you for understanding.

Ten Awful Things About the Army No One Tells You About

10. Identity theft is a threat and it's just as bad for veterans.

You might think that if you worked for the Army, you'd be safe, but let's get this out of the way right now: identity theft is rampant for service members, veterans, and their families.

If you haven't memorized your social security number by now, you will within the first few days of in-processing. Throughout your entire military career, it will be used so often on so much paperwork that you will get numb to it. It's even on your dog tags! Why? There are so many people in the military that the quickest, easiest way to identify each individual is to do so by number. You'll notice a lot of private sector companies do this as well.

Every form you fill out is another opportunity for a criminal to get your name, social security number, and date of birth. In minutes, you can become an identity theft casualty. If you're fighting in the latest war, you won't know for months! Instead of confetti in your ticker-tape parade, you'll have bills and more paperwork—this time with the credit bureaus and collection agencies. Oh, and this doesn't end after your time is up: It's just as easy to nab a veteran's identity.

But why would criminals go for a single target when they can carpet bomb millions of hardworking, taxpaying Americans at once? Computers are stolen from the homes and cars of government officials so often that the media thinks it's old news. Do any of them get thrown in prison? Fired? Disciplined? No. Also the government has never been shy about hiring contractors to handle office work that contains such sensitive information. I don't know if this makes it better or worse for our troops.

So why does the Department of Defense insist on social security numbers? If anyone has that one figured out, please post your answer in the comment section below. A soldier was once issued a serial number that served the same purpose. No more. Now, he's fighting on two fronts.

9. The Army is not adult daycare. This misconception gets people killed.

One of the things I despise most is the idea that the Army serves the soldier. The Army doesn't serve you: You serve your country by joining the Army. Fortunately, there are few people that believe this because Basic Combat Training (BCT) does an outstanding job of smoking that idea out of their heads. But still, they're out there, making life for other soldiers far worse and sometimes more dangerous.

The Army does have benefits that help soldiers and families throughout their lives. These benefits are not available anywhere else, so it makes sense for civilians to join the military to get them. That's not what I'm talking about. In fact, I highly recommend you get involved in all the programs you can. You will be a better soldier now and a better civilian afterwards. You will make America great!

What I am talking about is the idea that the Army is just a job that's impossible to get fired from, a steady source of income for anyone who can twiddle his thumbs and stay out of sight. Usually, I don't care what people think. However, this kind of attitude usually leads to sub-par performance.

A soldier might get out of shape, forget minute but important parts of certain procedures, not take inspections seriously, and so on. Everyone else in the team now has a larger load to bear.

Friend, the days of Beetle Bailey are over. It's funny to see it in a comic strip but to see it in real life is disgusting. If you're the guy who thinks the Army is Club Med for slackers, then the rest of this article will scare the living you-know-what out of you.

8. It will destroy your soul.

David Wong published an outstanding article on Cracked.com, 9 Types of Jobs that Will Destroy Your Soul, which aptly describes the roles people play in the workplace. I must warn you that the language is rough, but every word of it is true. Every soldier has experienced at least seven of these roles at some point during his military career. I will not re-write what the article says, but I will tell you that every soldier can, at any moment, become:

  • The punching bag, who bears the brunt of complaints but can do nothing to help.
  • The walking dead, facing sleep deprivation and irregular hours.
  • The laughingstock, doing a job everyone makes fun of.
  • The cog, performing endless tasks with mindless repetition.
  • The rat in a cage: A manager responsible for those he has no authority over.
  • The assistant cromulationist: A highly-specialized job that is impossible to explain.
  • The Bob: The job that makes everyone else's job harder.
  • The girl or the "lone representative of your gender in the workplace" (this applies to female soldiers).

The article is hilarious. If you are a civilian, you will appreciate it, but if you are a soldier, you live it every day.


7. You are on call 24/7, even when you're not.

Ever wonder why service members tell time differently? For example, it's not 11 p.m., it's 2300 hrs. This is because war never sleeps. Those who think otherwise have another thing coming. Battle is about maneuvering units and materials at a moment's notice to secure a tactical advantage. This can easily happen at night and easily make no sense to you.

No matter what your rank or specialization, the Army can wake you up at 0200 hrs and make you guard a port-o-potty in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from any national security threat. All you'll have to protect yourself is a broom and a canteen. You have no say in the matter, and nobody is required to explain anything.

You're not even safe on vacation. Oh, did you know the Army includes weekends and holidays as vacation days? That came as a shock to me. When you go on vacation, you are expected to fill out a lot more paperwork than you would at a company in the private sector. The Army wants to know where you are even when you're on vacation, down to the hotel you'll be staying in.

Why? In case of national emergency, the Army has to know where you are so it can summon you if they need you. Even if you are far from your base, you may be contacted to report to a closer one. This is highly unlikely, but it is a soldier's responsibility.

6. Your First Amendment rights are gone—this is the cost of protecting everyone else's.

Most service members easily accept this. I did. Even though I knew what I believed in, I also knew it wasn't fair to use my uniform to push my personal beliefs on anyone else. The people who love to sell their beliefs wrapped in a flag with a pretty yellow ribbon on top will be annoyed to see that their rights to free speech are tossed right out the window.

Don't get me wrong, you can always be an armchair activist. Maybe even go to a few events. However, the second you identify yourself as a service member, you're in deep trouble: You fight for America, you don't speak for it.

Still, the Army seems to favor Christianity. "Oh Lord" this and "praise Jesus" that. This shouldn't surprise anyone as the United States is populated by many Christians. As a Christian myself, I never did take it personally. However, many other soldiers—Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc.—to this day are forced to put their beliefs in the back seat while fighting for a constitution that guarantees religious freedom.

There is even a non-profit Military Religious Freedom Foundation that fights for the religious equality of American soldiers in the US military. But don't bring it up at any of the "prayer breakfasts" you might find yourself at. Think that was a joke? Join and see. Just don't spill the salt.


5. When you join, so does your family—it's everyone's sacrifice.

I was born in a military family. Later, when my mother was pregnant with my brother, my father decided not to re-enlist. By then, he had saved enough to start his own business. He did so and never looked back. Decisions like this are terrifying. Who do you turn your back on: Your family or your country? Of course, it's not all always black and white but it does make life tough for everyone--even for parents of soldiers.

Although military marriages are no more likely to end than civilian marriages, they are faced with unique challenges that not every couple is prepared for. For example, a military spouse is not as likely to find a career. A potential employer has to face the possibility that the employee might leave with only a few day's notice if the spouse is stationed elsewhere.

An Army wife understands that her soldier can be deployed at any time, many times. During this time, she holds the fort. I hate to say this, but it's a lot like being a single mom. It takes a very special woman to be an Army wife.

Resources on the base are there to help, but they are overwhelmed. It's becoming so much of a problem that countless non-profit organizations are popping up to fill in the gap. There is no reason you can't have a happy marriage and great career in the military. Just remember that when you join, so does your family.

4. You will be broke.

In the service, nobody gets rich. A person may join for the bonus or to pay off student loans. These are definitely great benefits. Also, the military pays for housing, food, medical, and so on. Further, bases have gyms and recreational facilities. So what's going on?

All these benefits are real, but the actual take-home pay is low. Take a look at the take-home pay chart and look towards the bottom at "Enlisted Military Pay" E-1 through E-4. That's what the youngest of our troops have to subsist on, per month. Most young, single soldiers survive, but it's our military families that are getting burned. The reasons a military family may live in poverty are many—too many.

Oddly enough, many people actually believe that poverty in the military is a myth. As a medic, I've seen military family members attempt suicide because they are living this myth. I've seen countless programs such as Army Emergency Relief and Adopt a US Soldier try to save our soldiers' families. I've seen laws such as FY 2007 Military Authorization Act passed that, among other things, clearly make it illegal for payday lenders to prey upon our soldiers.

Poverty in the military is very real. Here are 7 Reasons Our Troops are Poor. You can always join and try to strike it rich if you want to prove me wrong.

The Working Poor: Invisible in America
The Working Poor: Invisible in America

Soldier is a blue-collar job. Thousands work from desks, cubicles and offices but in the end combat readiness requires sweat, stress and pain. Those already in combat tack on even longer hours and danger.


3. You will see government waste. You will burn taxpayer money.

Okay, let's take a break. Hungry? Make yourself a snack: two eggs, any style (I like mine scrambled). Once you've made these eggs, throw them away, right into the garbage. Then make some more. These are for you. Enjoy!

It was heartbreaking, right? Throwing away those perfectly fine eggs? Well, that's what happens in the military. And I'm not talking about war profiteering, I'm talking about regular, day-in-day-out procedures. I used eggs in my example because eggs must be tossed if they're sitting around too long after being cooked. The military throws away a lot of food every day. When it comes to feeding the troops, it's better to throw away food rather than come up short.

Now that I think about it, the real reason KP (kitchen patrol) is so tough is not because we're scrubbing pots and pans in the steaming kitchen. The real punishment is that you see so much food being thrown out. Perfectly good food that nobody will eat but must be thrown away to prevent food poisoning. Can you throw away a whole chocolate cake no one has touched? How about a tub of ice cream? Can you do it again and again? You will if you sign up!

In fairness, there's a lot of waste in any organization. Even the most profitable companies on earth throw things away. Sometimes it takes too much time and effort to save little things like staples, paperclips, or attack helicopters. Sometimes it takes too much time and effort to bring home thousands of perfectly functioning assault rifles. It's just easier to order new ones from the defense contractors. It gives people jobs, too. Everyone wins! Well, except for the taxpayers.

This was one of the toughest parts of being in the Army for me: throwing things away when, on the other side of the base, the family of a junior enlisted soldier was living in poverty.

2. You might get seriously hurt.

Casualties happen in war. War is hell. People know the risks when they join. It comes with the territory. Yeah, but I'm not talking about that.

What people don't know is that this can happen at any time, even stateside. Even if there is no ammunition or ordinance around, a soldier can get seriously and permanently injured.

After years of PT (physical training), a soldier may have problems with knees and other joints. He can easily have the same problems pro basketball players have but without the same salaries. Any civilian can get injured, but it is more likely in the military because you are more active and working longer hours with more dangerous equipment.

Medics are ready, safety policies are in place, and your buddies are looking out for you, but sometimes this isn't enough. As a medic, I've seen twenty-year-old trainees walking with canes. Canes in the 21st century.

1. You are held to a higher standard. . . forever.

And the number one awful thing about the Army nobody tells you is that you will forever be held to a higher standard!

Lexington and Concorde, Gettysburg, Normandy... soldiers before you have paved the way. It is now your turn. If you think this is an honor, then you are right. What you might not know is that this is also a huge responsibility, and it will last until the day you die.

Your friends will expect you to be in great shape even after you are discharged. Your family will expect you to be calm and patient. Your coworkers will expect you to lead the way and handle stress easily. Everyone you know will expect you to win. Nobody will expect you to complain. If you oversleep, get drunk, get poor, gain weight, and so on, then you will disappoint the Army in the eyes of the civilian.

This responsibility brings out the best in soldiers and veterans, but it lasts forever, and it will never be easy.

If you can do it, if you want the chance, you are ready to join the Army! Good luck!

Nobody's stopping you

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  • Jay C OBrien profile image

    Jay C OBrien 5 weeks ago from Houston, TX USA

    I suggest service in the National Guard instead of the military. The purpose of the Guard is to assist/help people; the purpose of the military is to kill people. Getting paid to kill makes you a paid killer. Humanitarian aid is better than bombs for overseas actions.

  • Leland Johnson profile image

    Leland Johnson 6 weeks ago from Midland MI

    you made some good points; didn't agree with all of them, eg you don't have to be broke to be a soldier, and being one doesn't have to break you. In fact it's a great place to learn how to manage money. Plus, you learn a vocation and get the GI bill post service to go to college. Not a bad deal- if you survive! Thanks for serving. I was Army too.

  • newjerusalem profile image

    victor 2 years ago from India

    It's a great hub. "You're held to a higher standard...forever" is the ultimate reward we get from the people for the sacrifice we have done. Having served in Defense for 20 years, I agree with your approach. At any point of our life when we look back the sacrifice we made, we can't find any regret. Well written.

  • Jay C OBrien profile image

    Jay C OBrien 2 years ago from Houston, TX USA

    My step father had PTSD after the Korean action. He took it out on us, until my mother divorced him. Someone please explain to me why we fight overseas when we are separated by two great oceans.

  • Anthony J Vita profile image

    Anthony J Vita 3 years ago

    Thank you for this great lens that will be very useful for anyone considering joining the Army.

  • rob2922 profile image

    rob2922 3 years ago

    After serving 22 years in the British forces I can relate to a few of your points but not all , in any walk of life there are difficult times, But as a soldier there is also some great times and benefits, and for those who try a great sense of achievement and pride can be had that very few others ever experience.

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    Echo Phoenix 3 years ago

    Thank you for your service and this excellent lens :D what is most frightening to me are the millions of war veterans now homeless on our streets, I have heard many of their stories and it is a disgrace the way our gov & society treat the situation with such indifference. This must change, it should be a genuine priority.

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    austinsfaux 3 years ago

    Been in the Army for 16 years, and got another 4 on my contract......I SHOULD HAVE JOINED THE AIR FORCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    True story: I was in charge of 2 younger soldiers, and we were with three Marines. The senior Marine and I were of the same rank and he had 2 younger Marines with him. The 2 young soldiers and 2 young Marines started fighting over which branch was better. The 2 young soldiers kept saying, "Army Army Army!" The two young Marines kept saying, "Marines Marines Marines!" The Senior Marine and I both looked at each other and said, "Air Force!"

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    yellowdogdemjab 3 years ago

    There's nothing awful about the Army. George Washington hired Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben to institute these basic rules for service men's behaviour because They were getting their behinds kicked by the British. Colonel Steuben's "soldiers are property" mentality saved the US Army & was adopted by every branch of the military. That's why we have enjoyed 327 years of military superiority. If u wanna have more rights? Join a union! If you wanna have it easy, study web page design. To quote Drill Sgt. Har twig from The Movie Full Metal Jacket, "You know the one thing I hate is an unlocked Foot locker, if it weren't for @&$);;$@@ like you, there wouldn't be any thievery in this world now would there?"

  • RobertConnorIII profile image

    Robert Connor 3 years ago from Michigan

    Its all what you do with the resources given.

  • RobertConnorIII profile image

    Robert Connor 3 years ago from Michigan

    We salute your lens and our troops!

  • profile image

    yellowdogdemjab 3 years ago

    @wiwiwi2: It just depends what your recruiter can get you qualified for, There are thousands of jobs in the navy that transition very well to civilian life. In the Navy, you will most likely spend the first 4-5 years aboard a ship, & come home if you're lucky every 3-5 months. Navy Seals are combat troops, & I'm sure the brave men aboard the USS Cole never thought they would be bombed by a fishing boat? If you join the Navy, try to get into some type of Radar school. That type of engineering is cutting edge. You will be qualified for many electrical engineering jobs as a radar tech. Make sure you get what you are promised from your recruiter in a contract. You don't want to end up being the chief barnacle scraper, but everyone will participate in basic maintenance duties.

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    centralheating24 3 years ago

    Nice information about army. Not everyone knows that. Thanks!

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    docwhalen08 3 years ago

    Not the worst experience in my life and the after service benefits are completely worth it along with other things, such as getting to serve your country.

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    EnthusiasmMadame 3 years ago

    Thank you for serving and for the information you shared. I respect everyone who has served and who is willing to serve in our military. I have had family members who have served and some still doing so. My one regret is not having signed up when I had the opportunity.

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    Niktravelfit 3 years ago

    Important info, thanks a lot for sharing.

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    jwinningcorless 3 years ago

    If you are scared your pussy ass doesn't need to join. It is obviously something that not everyone can put up with. They treat you the way they do to get you mentally tough for the times you are in war and people are dying around you. You need to be able to do what is told to make sure not only survival of yourself but of the squad,platoon, company etc. If you are weak minded and weak in general joining the military isn't for you.

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    misserinc 3 years ago

    @anonymous: I'm a future soldier and I was informed by my sergeant that the minimum score requirement is a 31 in the army but if you want better mos options a higher score would be best you say you have a score of 36 that's pretty high score

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    squeezemysausage 3 years ago

    Why join a military that doesn't care about you, just ask that Marine sitting over in that Mexican Prison not that far from the US. No man left behind is BULL! naw,, be all you can be by raising your own family. Death isn't cool. making all these commercials like Death is cool. IT'S NOT. That child wants her Father back not a freaking picture! Tell her why he died, for nothing. Sucks.. Money hungry mafia.

  • HakunaMatata19 profile image

    HakunaMatata19 3 years ago

    I am an Army wife myself. My husband joined because he couldn't find work even though he has a degree. He recently just got his security clearance after being in a year. He had debts that he had to pay which was one reason he joined. His MOS was changed because of the security clearance so now he's doing something he doesn't really want to do. It has tested my strength when he was gone for BCT and AIT and now it has tested me being away from my family. I am trying to find work and hopefully get a job on base in my field. It's hard with one car though. There are definitely a lot of positives and negatives to serving.

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    wiwiwi2 3 years ago

    @vineliner57: hi vineliner im a male just getting out of high school I want to enlist in the navy 1:do you have to fight on the ground like in Iraq or Afghanistan

    2: what are the basic things you do as a sailor like a day in life

  • profile image

    Donna Cook 4 years ago

    Amazing lens! Thank you so very much for your service.

  • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

    OUTFOXprevention1 4 years ago

    Interesting! Some things I haven't thought before...

  • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

    Dawn Romine 4 years ago from Nebraska

    My sons are Marines and I've heard the same thing from the oldest. It's for some people and other people military life is not for them. It's the attitude you take with you in any profession, there is waste, there is politics, there is the "I have to do this to keep my job" there are on call professions. There are your jerks and slackers in many fields.

    But go in with your eyes open. Know that you will not change anything, accept and embrace whatever job you do in life, even if it's the military.

  • TerriCarr profile image

    TerriCarr 4 years ago

    Personally, I could never join the military. I am just not cut out for it. I hope the changes so prevalent elsewhere in the world sweep through the military as well. There is an article in GoodVeg....hmmm, don't have the link handy, that says that the Norwegian army is going vegetarian one day a week. Sounds to me like a sign of hope.

  • vineliner57 profile image

    Hal Gall 4 years ago from Bloomington, IN

    My son in law came back from a tour in Iraq with PTSD, and has been exposed to DU. I would not recommend to anyone joining the military at this moment in time, especially with the war mongers we have running our country. And yes, I did 11 years in the Navy. "Join the Navy, see the world". Well the world is 76% water!

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    anonymous 4 years ago

    @anonymous: I think the US Army is still taking anyone who even put their name on the ASVAB and spelled it correctly. They have a habit of taking the immoral and low class whereas the other branches don't. I wouldn't let your score get you down. The Army will take you

  • SBPI Inc profile image

    SBPI Inc 4 years ago

    Everyone has their own perspective o everything. Agree or disagree is a freedom for all Americans. I say, thank God for the Freedoms we have and lets ALL make sure that no foreign or domestic actions will ever cause a loss of those freedoms. In that cause we should all act as One.


  • Mr Criminology profile image

    Bigwas 4 years ago from Philippines

    want to live longer,join the airforce,hooray army.

  • chuckholmes301 profile image

    chuckholmes301 5 years ago

    I did my time and enjoyed it, but don't miss the bull crap, government waste, and having someone own me. Civilian life is great.

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    anonymous 5 years ago

    i want to join but only got a score of 36 in my asvab idk if I should try to join the army with that score pleas help advis anything

  • Loretta L profile image

    Loretta Livingstone 5 years ago from Chilterns, UK.

    An interesting lens. I don't intend to join the forces - which is to their benefit, to be honest. But respect to those who do and who are good soldiers. I guess there are good and bad in every walk of life, but a good soldier deserves respect.

  • Alex-Gopson LM profile image

    Alex-Gopson LM 5 years ago

    Really interesting insight, not the type of thing you normally see. #3 really surprised me, had no idea so much was wasted, thought it was rather the opposite.

    Thank you for service.

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    RussKeith 5 years ago

    I had to laugh at the guarding a port-o-potty line. Been There! Done That!

  • InfoCoop profile image

    InfoCoop 5 years ago

    Thank you for your candid writing and for your service to our country.

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    anonymous 5 years ago

    A very interesting lens. I didn't know the army didn't issue serial numbers anymore. With the danger of identity theft, it would seem that the army would not put their soldiers at risk by using their Social Security number.

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    dream1983 5 years ago

    Interesting lens, well done! Thumbs up

  • rawwwwwws lm profile image

    rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

    WOW.. Thanksf or sharing.

  • TwistedWiseman profile image

    TwistedWiseman 5 years ago

    I done my time, barely could stand it, the amount of human borderline stupidity is amazing! I can't stand it when one mamas boy starts whining that it's hard...NO IT'S NOT YOU PATHETIC IDIOT, deal with it.

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    combat-support 5 years ago

    Resiliency training; hunt the good stuff.. Over 15 years of service between the Army and Army National Guard in support of OIF. I love it, but doesn't mean everyone will, I do agree with many of your points, we humans are fragile.

  • Phoenix2361 profile image

    Phoenix2361 5 years ago

    Yes, this is the stuff the recruiters don't tell you. Glad you did.

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    anonymous 5 years ago

    As a citizen I am aware and thankful of the many sacrifices our Army does for our country.

  • WriterJanis2 profile image

    WriterJanis2 5 years ago

    This has been a real eye opener.

  • flycatcherrr profile image

    flycatcherrr 5 years ago

    As a Canadian civilian, what I know about the US military is somewhere a fathom below nada, but I found this an interesting glimpse into what's really a very different world. You write very well and engagingly, Sarge; I'm always keen to see what you'll come up with next.

  • MJsConsignments profile image

    Michelle 5 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

    Army retiree with 22 years. Yes, the Army has it's faults. It also has it's great points. How about a top 10 list of those too?! Great lens!

  • Melissa Miotke profile image

    Melissa Miotke 5 years ago from Arizona

    It seems criminal that those in the army are broke. They should be paid well for their service.

  • intermarks profile image

    intermarks 5 years ago

    Sometime, some people need to experience by their own self for them to believe it.

  • sockii profile image

    Nicole Pellegrini 5 years ago from New Jersey

    A very thought-provoking and honest lens. Your personal experience really shines though and gives people a lot to think about before they consider joining.

  • Trixiesmom2u profile image

    Trixiesmom2u 5 years ago

    I enjoyed this lens. My son was in Iraq in 2006-2007 as a gunner for a generals security squad in Baghdad. Would love to also see the other argument, 10 Great Things etc.

  • IMKZRNU2 profile image

    IMKZRNU2 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest

    My son is considering joining the armed forces when he turns 18...this lens has some very good information for him. Thanks!

  • cgbroome profile image

    cgbroome 5 years ago

    This lens just makes me more proud of the men and women willing to make sacrifices for the rest of us. Thank you!

  • Paul Ward profile image

    Paul 5 years ago from Liverpool, England

    Interesting and entertaining.

  • kburns421 lm profile image

    kburns421 lm 5 years ago

    By the way, Catch-22 is one of my favorite books. Intense with a somewhat horrifying glimpse into what soldiers go through at times but still entertaining.

  • kburns421 lm profile image

    kburns421 lm 5 years ago

    This is a great lens. It's very well written and gives people more information to make the right decision, information that they don't often get. It's good to know though as many people rush into the army expecting something it's not.