To Serve or Not to Serve? Military Service After High School


Military Service

Making the decision to serve in the military can be a rewarding one.

Serving in the United States military is one of the oldest forms of public service available to Americans, and it’s a popular choice.  In 2010 alone, 2.2 million men and women served in some branch of the armed forces, according to U.S. News.  For many college-eligible individuals, serving their country tops their list of life goals after high school graduation.  They choose to attend college after service, which puts them in a unique peer group of non-traditional students.

Military service carries plenty of risks and rewards for personnel.  It’s not a commitment to be taken lightly.  Many soldiers literally risk their lives each day to keep our nation secure and free.

Joining the military can be a rewarding experience, despite the immense physical and mental challenges that await.  Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of serving in the military service before enlisting.

Rewards of Military Service

Serving in the military is a near-guaranteed path to furthering your education for qualifying personnel.  Honorably discharged soldiers can attend college on the military GI Bill.  The GI Bill provides more than $40,000 toward the costs of education, including tuition, books and housing.

There are different types of GI Bills a soldier can qualify for after finishing his or her service: the Post-9/11 GI Bill, the Montgomery GI Bill and the Veterans Educational Assistance Program all contribute to veterans’ higher education.  Financial assistance from the GI Bill can be applied to more than simply a four-year degree at a college or university.  GI Bills can be applied toward graduate school, vocational or technical schools and other educational programs.

No one can underestimate the value of continued education.  Higher learning extends its perks to life beyond the classroom.  Businesses offer discounts to college students on everything from movie tickets to cars.  This dealership, Glendale Nissan, is one of many offering rebates to new college graduates.

Serving in the military teaches soldiers valuable skills they can use in the workplace.  This can include computer, mechanical, construction and engineering skills.  It helps soldiers choose a career path that makes it easier to care for their families after they settle into civilian life.

Benefits are extensive for each branch of the armed forces.  In the U.S. Army, for example, soldiers receive comprehensive medical care, life insurance and a minimum of 30 days paid vacation each year.

Risks of Military Service

Deep reflection on the physical, mental and emotion toll that military service can take is integral before enlisting.  Many active duty soldiers are sent to the front lines to battle terrorists and other enemy combatants.  War means taking another person’s life —or sacrificing one’s own. Permanent physical disabilities are par for the course during wartime service.  Mental and emotional scars can develop from heavy war zone involvement over a prolonged period. Deployment to the battlefield can happen anytime.

Serving in the military involves strenuous labor.  All major branches of the armed forces—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard—go through rugged basic training to whip new recruits into shape.  Military personnel are routinely tested both physically and mentally.

Making a Choice

Nothing represents a more serious commitment than military service.  Millions of men and women give up a portion of their lives each year to protect and serve their country.  It comes down to making an informed decision.  Doing your homework and asking recruiters questions can help bring you to a wise decision.

Is military service right for you?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison


  1. Enlistment into a different branch of the military will not affect your benefits and may in fact make you eligible for additional benefits! The benefits you earned, including medals, awards and other qualifications stay with you during your service in the armed forces. Accumulated time in the military goes toward your retirement and GI Bill requirements. In addition, any bonuses, college funds or other incentives that prior service afforded you are retained intact during your time in the service.

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