The enlisted service men and women I have had the opportunity to speak with all have different reasons and stories for how they came to become members of the United States armed forces.
Some U.S. service members joined for action, some for glory, for others it's all about the money.
A great deal of troops have no real political thoughts or feelings. Their attitude is one of acquiescence - they are soldiers and they do what they are told without question. There are notable exceptions, but these exceptions are definitely not the rule. Unfortunately, their attitude of acting without thinking has proven to be a bit naïve given the outcome of our preventive strike on Iraq, followed by the on-going occupation.
So why do they fight?
"To do my part for my Country"
This is a truly noble reason and one that shows an exemplary amount of patriotism.
CB: Do you feel like you're "doing your part for your country"?
Soldier 1: At first, yes. I was proud to be in the Army. It gave me meaning and a sense of pride. After my tour in Iraq, now all I feel is shame.
CB: Why do you feel shame?
S1: I'm not doing anything for my country. If anything, I think I may be hurting it. I'm not "fighting terrorism" I am inciting terrorism.
It's a sad situation and state of affairs when a member of the American military, the mightiest military force this world has ever seen, is ashamed to wear their uniform.
"For the Action"
CB: Why do you support this war?
S2: I don't know, I've never really thought about it. I guess I figure this will be my only real chance to kill a "bad guy" without going to jail.
CB: You're just interested in the opportunity to kill someone?
S2: Basically, yes. And it sounds better to say "I'm in the Army" than to say "I work up at the gas station"
That justification speaks for itself.
"For the Money"
Before we get into this particular reason, let me go through some of the additional entitlements troops receive while they are on a regular deployment to a combat zone.
If you are married or have dependents, you are eligible to receive a "Family Separation Allowance" good for an additional $250 per month.
For serving in "locations where living conditions create undue hardship on them" they will receive an entitlement know as "Hardship Duty Pay" good for an additional $100 per month for service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Hostile Fire/Imminent Danger Pay (HFP/IDP) is "a special pay intended to compensate Soldiers serving in locations where they are subjected to imminent danger and/or hostile fire." This is good for an additional $225 per month.
This adds up to an additional $575 month. There are a few more entitlements that depend on varying factors such as rank and marital status.
And did I mention that your normal base pay and these entitlements are all tax exempt?
Basically, a Sergeant (E-5) married with two dependents (a spouse and a child) is good for approximately $800 EXTRA a month, on top of what they normally receive. For an officer, their extra pay is much more due to the tax exemption having a more positive impression on their pay.
CB: Is it worth being away from your family to participate in war you've already told me you do not agree with?
S3: Hard to say. The easy answer is no, but we already do not get paid a great deal of money. I have debts and this is a great opportunity to get some money saved and some bills paid off. I don't see my family for a year but I come back not being in such a tough financial spot that we were in.
CB: Are you going to reenlist while you are in theatre to take advantage of a tax-free bonus?
S3: No, I'm going to reenlist. If I was, this would definitely be the time to do it. A tax free bonus. The bonus for my MOS [Military Occupation Specialty - their job] is $30,000 for a 6 year enlistment right now. How could you not think about doing that? I understand why a lot of people do. For someone who is enlisted and is never going to make a great deal of money in the military, this is a bonus of basically an entire years pay right up front - a down payment on a house, a new car, getting yourself debt free.
CB: You sound like you're talking yourself into it.
S3: I've done my time, but I think it shows why it's such an easy decision for most to reenlist.
Reenlistment numbers are definitely not indicative of a military member's support of the military, its leadership, or support for a war.
My point is we all have our reasons for doing what we do. This was a very unscientific poll I conducted and I just went through and posted the most common answers I received to give the American public a more realistic reasoning as to why military members are doing what they do. All of the soldiers I spoke with were members of the United States Army and ranged from lower enlisted to junior non-commissioned officers. I think this will also help show why so many military members would support war over peace. In addition to actually doing your job "for real" as opposed to practicing for war all day, they are actually doing the real thing and getting paid to do so.