As my children were growing up I encouraged them to join the service. The Peace Corps would have been just as good, and in many ways better, but for some reason our society doesn't voice the same degree of gratitude toward people who aid other people as it does toward those who defend them.
As with most things in life, there are several reasons I encouraged enlisting. The most obvious and materialistic is that once having successfully completed a term of service, they will be eligible for the GI bill and a great deal of aid in paying for college. Additionally, the service will assist them in paying for classes taken while they are on active duty.
A second reason is the military can serve a valuable function in the maturing process. In Western culture the body matures long before the psyche. In many people the psyche never matures. Early adulthood is a period when the self should really come of age. The service can assist this maturation process, teaching young men and women important concepts of duty, responsibility, and self-respect while at the same time providing for their physical needs. Being a member of the service widens the mental, and sometimes physical, horizons of the individual. Many people grow up, live their lives, and die without ever leaving the area where they were born. Yes, they see the world through the eyes of television, radio, newspapers, and the internet, but this is not the same as encountering a foreign culture at first hand. That foreign culture may be as simple as someone from an urban area meeting someone who grew up on a farm, or it may be an American living in Japan or the Middle East. The mental map changes completely compared to what it is for someone who never leaves their hometown - whether that hometown is a little place in Iowa or Los Angeles.
Most important is the social responsiblity demonstrated by enlisting in the service. I don't believe in drafting people into military service. To me, if a country cannot get enough people to volunteer to defend it, whether the country is actually worth defending is debatable. I do, however, believe we all need to have a social consciousness. By this I don't mean just a letter to the editor. I don't mean just talking to your friends. These actions are important and worthwhile in themselves. If I didn't think so, I wouldn't be here doing this. Words are important; they can to stir people to action, not necessarily to pick up a sword, but to do the right thing, to take some action to changing themselves and their corner of the world. It is the action that is most important, not the words. Many people use their words in lieu of action, and feel their duty done thereby. I don't. Enlisting in the service is the one selfless act that many people perform. It says to the world "I care about something other than myself. I am willing to lay down my life for my countrymen. I will put myself in harm's way so that you may live without the fear of harm." There are other ways to demonstrate that you care about something outside of your own desires. You may be a volunteer. You may teach. You may enter into social work. You may show another person they are not alone. Enlisting in the service is one that is easily available.
The articles here are primarily devoted to personal development and working with your beliefs to create the world in which you want to live and create the person whom you wish to be. As with many personal development blogs, this focus can seem pretty self-centered. In a way, it is. In another very important way, it is not. The one thing over which we all have control is our selves - our beliefs, our emotions, and our actions. We directly and forcefully influence those around us through what we do, what we say, and how we react. From this viewpoint, world improvement begins with self improvement. One of the most important aspects of self improvement to remember is that you are not alone.