The benefits of military service far outweigh the negatives. There are tangible as well as intangible factors that make military service a worthwhile career that will have a very positive influence on younger Americans’ lives.
There are several benefits to military service that should be emphasized in recruiting events and pitches to potential recruits. Several positive factors of military service include, but are not limited to:
- Advanced and specialty training that can lead to increased civilian opportunities;
- Highly sought-after skills, leadership, and training experience;
- Competitive paycheck and cash bonuses which can go as high as $50-80,000 for certain Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs);
- 30 days of annual paid vacation. In contrast, most civilian jobs start with two weeks’ vacation;
- Option for full-time or part-time service. Part-time service is available through the Reserves or National Guard;
- Tax-free room, board, and allowances;
- Free health and dental care for active-duty servicemembers and low or free for the reserves and National Guard;
- A good retirement package;
- Family health care and insurance;
- Use of commissary and military exchange stores.
Related: Army’s special operations are coming to a high school near you
Some great benefits of military service in detail
Healthcare after service
After a service commitment or retirement is reached, servicemembers can access the Veterans Administration (VA) for free or low-cost health care. Despite many challenges the VA has faced in recent years, the care given there is still excellent.
Some of the medical benefits include preventive, primary, and specialty care, diagnostic services, and much more.
VA home loans
This is a benefit I used to purchase my home. Servicemembers can use a VA loan after they complete 90 days of continuous active-duty service. These loans are provided by private lenders like mortgage companies or banks. One huge cash-saving feature is that they require zero down payment. You can use a VA loan to:
- Purchase a home or condo in a VA-approved project
- Build a new home;
- Buy a manufactured home or lot;
- Refinance an existing VA-guaranteed or direct loan for a lower interest rate;
- Improve a home’s energy efficiency.
Because the VA guarantees the loan, it usually provides a better interest rate than market prices, and with home interest rates rising, it is worth checking out. And, perhaps most importantly, as long as the loan isn’t defaulted on, servicemembers or veterans can use this benefit again and again.
Related: Joining the military: How to choose the right branch for you
The Post-9/11 GI Bill
Current servicemembers and veterans are eligible for up to 15 years after discharge to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for higher education funds. And the best part is that some or all of its funds can be transferred to a spouse or dependent children with the U.S. Department of Defense’s approval.
The money available can be used to pay for higher education or trade school, on-the-job training, and even flight school. I was offered helicopter flight training as part of my Vocational Rehab, and I regret not taking advantage of it.
Sandboxx News Editor-in-Chief Alex Hollings has written about his personal experiences using the Bill to finish his Bachelor’s Degree and pay for half of his Masters’ Degree by using the benefits allocated to veterans.
Related: How to write a veteran to civilian resume
Airline and airport benefits
Servicemembers can save money to spend more on vacations by taking advantage of Space-A Travel, which is a privilege for servicemembers and veterans that provides air travel at virtually no cost. Military aircraft with unfilled seats can be used to travel to countless destinations around the United States and the world. Although DoD has cut back on the program in recent years, it is still an effective and cheap way to travel.
Many civilian airlines offer unpublicized discounts for current servicemembers and veterans and, sometimes, even for spouses and children. At times, the airlines will also waive some fees and allow free checked bags.
Intangible rewards are incredible and last a lifetime
One of the biggest benefits of service can’t be seen or touched by service members do last a lifetime. I still have contact with countless guys I met in Special Forces that go back over 30 years. The brotherhood that exists is incredible and lasts a lifetime.
But service also teaches a great deal of self-discipline and reliance, and the sense of purpose, selfless service, and leadership that military service instills in people are the things that future employers look for in new hires. And even if a servicemember does a 20-year hitch, they’ll still be young when they enter the civilian workforce and will offer many positives to offer a prospective employer.
I wouldn’t change a thing from my service; even the injuries suffered. And that is a good place to start.
Many young people, after high school, are not sure what direction they want to take in life. It isn’t uncommon. Life in the military can provide tremendous clarity and direction, as it will allow young people to travel and gain valuable real-world experience.
Related: 6 nice perks of joining the Special Forces
Overcoming the recruiting crisis by focusing on the benefits of military service
The military is in the midst of a recruiting crisis, with a couple of services just barely meeting their recruiting goals and with the Army facing a shortfall of 15,000 soldiers from its projected 60,000 soldiers. (However, the Army did exceed its retention goal of 50,000 troops, re-enlisting 58,000 this year.)
There is a variety of reasons behind the recruiting crisis. A major reason is that about 76 percent of young Americans (age 17-24) are not even eligible to serve due to being either too obese to qualify, or having other medical issues or criminal histories that would make them ineligible to serve without a waiver.
Another factor is the negative press that the military has suffered in the past few years, which has caused young Americans to lose trust in the American government as well as the military.
But if recruiting emphasizes the above benefits of military service, it only stands to benefit.
Steve Balestrieri is a proven military analyst. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer in the 7th Special Forces Group. In addition to writing for Sandboxx.com, he has written for 19fortyfive.com and SOFREP.com; he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.
Feature Image: Master Sgt. Shawn Emmerling, Air Force Recruiting Service events marketing, grabs a selfie next to his “Thank You” sticker on the Air Force-sponsored car before the Talladega Superspeedway NASCAR race April 24, 2022 in Alabama. The race was Emmerling’s last in his NASCAR recruiting role. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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