‘Ever thought about joining the army?’ asked the man in uniform.
I didn’t know how to respond. Eventually I said ‘I have two small children’ thinking that that was more polite than saying ‘No way in hell.’
I thought having children would exempt me from his attempts to recruit me to join the US Army.
Instead he said, ‘All the more reason. Free medical and free dental.’
He said that he had been in the military for 11 years, and with 9 more years of active duty he could retire. I muttered something stupid about how he must be counting down the time. After we parted ways, he into the Army Recruitment office no closer to meeting his monthly quota of recruitments, and me continuing on this suburban highway, I thought of all sorts of things I should have asked him about himself, the places he’s been, and the choices he’s made.
The brief encounter with the US Army recruiter left me amused and saddened. Amused because as a 34 year old woman I don’t usually think of myself as the prime target for military recruiters. But then again, the US military is desperately in need of people to fight their wars, and have long ago abandoned the narrow criteria for enlistment of 18 year old boys.
I felt sad, too, because the idea that for some other mother of small children the promise of healthcare for her children would be enough for her to consider joining the US military. In fact, just this morning I heard a story on National Public Radio about a mother that was re-enlisting in the US Army in order to get needed medical care for her 4 month old disabled son. I can’t imagine what she is going through, the economic insecurity and concerns for her child, that she would be forced to re-enlist and most likely be sent to Iraq or Afganistan in order to provide medical care for her child.
No longer relying on arguments about fighting for your country or your patriotic duty, the US military now relies on promises of accessible healthcare for your kids in order to attract its recruits. Sadly enough, this may be incentive enough for people in desperate need of care.