I took a young man to an Armed Forces recruiting station yesterday to meet with an Air Force recruiter. He had made the appointment, and just wanted to hear the recruiter talk about the Air Force and why he should consider signing up. The young man, let’s call him John, has been thinking about joining up for a while, and--for reasons I can’t quite fathom--showed interest in the Air Force. The twenty minute conversation went like this. The recruiter began by saying that there are great educational benefits (it turns out that all the branches have the same educational benefits). And finally, when pressed as to why a young man should consider the Air Force over another branch of the military, the fellow said this (my paraphrase is close to a quote): "Being in the Air Force is least like being in the military. It feels more like a regular job, you come to work at eight, and you leave at five." I could see that John wasn’t exactly swayed by this reasoning, so he had no more questions. We left his office, passing the Marine recruiter’s office on our way out.
We were both disappointed by the meeting. I asked John if he thought the Marine recruiter would talk the same way. He said he hoped not. I said, why don’t we find out?
So we walked back inside into the Marine’s office. Clearly, we had interrupted him, but he saw us anyway. I asked him a simple question: "Why should a young man consider joining the Marines over another branch?" This was his response (again, a close paraphrase):
"All the branches offer the same tangible benefits. But we offer the intangibles. Pride, honor, patriotism. When your signing bonus runs out after joining another branch, you still have to look yourself in the mirror every morning. I do that. And I see that I am the tip of the spear. We go in first, and we have been doing this since 1775. We are always ready. We protect our embassies abroad, and all the other hard work. We are Marines."
The Lance Corporal kept talking, and our hearts were lifted. It was five o’clock exactly as the Air Force recruiter passed us in the hallway on his way home. Soon after that we had to put an end to the conversation--the Marine wanted to keep talking--and stepped out into the sunlight. Well, John, what do you think? That was more like it, said his faster beating heart. On our drive home, we heard a news report that over one hundred bad guys were killed in heavy fighting near the Syrian border, and three Marines met their maker. Good ratio, we said. My wet eyes made it hard to see the road ahead.