On Selfless Service
An Open Letter to Anyone Considering Military Service
“On Selfless Service” by K. R. King
The Army Values.
LDRSHIP is one of many abbreviations. It forms the primary bedrock of our lifestyle and values in the military. It shapes us, informs us, and it still courses through me each day. Even all these years later.
Each day we serve our countrymen & allies, whether we are in or out of uniform. Each day, we make choices. Each day, we choose whether we will live our values.
So, whenever a student asks me about whether he or she should join the military, I like to highlight one of the letters that is so often overlooked: Selfless Service.
I tell them that in order for them to be ready, they must understand that the joining the military is not a selfish act, nor is being IN the military.
I tell my kids that they can’t be ready until they understand how prepared a person must really be to sacrifice oneself for their countrymen & allies. It must be a choice of love.
I tell them that taking that Oath means something. It means you are protecting and defending every citisen, every ally—even that guy you hate cos of whichever side of the block he’s from. You are serving him, too.
Until you are prepared to lay down your bitterness, your rivalries, your fears, your selfishness, then and ONLY THEN will you be ready.
Here I am, years later admitting I was not ready at 17. And now I will always and forever be marked as “apart”.
I ask my students if they could follow orders. Was there a line? How far would they be willing to go to prove their patriotism-their loyalty?
Ah, loyalty. Yes. Another highly esteemed Army value-perhaps the highest.
Kids talk about loyalty and how no one understands loyalty. They rely on each other because the cops are either a joke or the enemy to them.
I tell them: we have to remember our World Wars. We have to keep the burning memories and lessons of the past alive within us. We must also recall the mistakes at Nuremberg. It was a blatant miscarriage of justice for so many Nazis to be released home after all they had done.
The men and women who sacrificed their own lives to stop an axis of lunatics from taking over the world are owed a debt that can never be repaid. They saved us from Hell. Those lunatics are still out there. And the Hot and Cold Holy Wars continue to rage on.
The ones who went to Vietnam? Many of them tried to live up to the Greatest Generation. They went. They served; even when they did not support the cause, they went, anyway. Many protested when they came home, but still. They went.
I tell my students about my dad being a conscientious objector during Vietnam. I pass on his best friend TJ’s memories of that conflict. It was something else. Nothing like WWII. It came with its own horrors.
In the end, when I tell my students all these things, they know it is because I care. I believe each of us needs to go into a thing as solemn as military service with wide open, unclouded eyes.
It is my most fervent wish for anyone who is seriously considering joining the military to read my words and think very carefully on it before signing a contract.
After all, we assume our people are always the good guys, right? Our President is our Commander-in-Chief, and we’re the guardians of democracy and freedom, aren’t we?
Look, I am not saying we’re always out there intentionally trying to make everyone like us, but aren’t we?
Putin wanted to prove that democracy doesn’t work. He wants us to believe that we’ve been duped by wealthy oligarchs who only care about their own interests…!
It’s important that kids know-that everyone knows and fully understands the person others claim is their enemy. How can you believe and fight against people you don’t understand?
That’s our trouble. Kids joined for college money, for a stable job, for 3 square meals a day, for a second chance or a new lease on life, for a chance to kill, for a way to escape their own realities. For so many reasons.
To anyone seriously considering military service, I ask: What will be yours?