Is the military a good way to turn boys into men?

I love my son dearly and he dearly loves me right back.  He’s bright, exceptionally well-coordinated and, if I do say so myself, he’s very good-looking.  He’s also selfish, hyper-competitive, lazy, ill-mannered and a total slob.  I have been working for years on all those traits and there has definitely been some improvement, but we’re not even halfway there.  Thankfully, as he’s not yet teenager, I still have a while to work on him.  I’m worried, though, that the traits I mentioned all tend to worsen, not improve, as young boys turn into young men.  As a parent, I foresee I tough road ahead of me.

I often find myself saying to myself, “Boy, the military would be good for my son.”  With a coercive power I can’t hope to equal, it would teach him discipline and neatness.  Also, because of unit cohesion, it might take him out of his selfishness.  Lastly, the military’s hierarchical nature would be good for such a hyper-competitive person, because there is clearly delineated room for upward movement, complete with external proof (ribbons, stripes, etc.) that the person is improving.

Even as I have this thought, though, the mother-voice in the back of my brain says, “What are you doing, woman?!  Do you actually want to send your darling little boy to a tough, often cruel environment, one in which he stands a much better chance of being killed than if he stays safely at home with you?”

Well, right now, while he’s still a beardless little boy, and the questions are hypothetical, my higher brain answer to that mother-voice is “Yes, yes I do want him to go to the military.”  (By the way, I’ve probably just qualified myself for a visit from Child Protective Services for admitting that I think the military would be good for my child.)

Here’s my thinking:  People need meaning and purpose in their lives.  Some people are internally driven.  They define and seek out their own goals.  Others, especially young men, drift.  Nowadays, that drift is made worse by computer gaming.  I know a man who was a top college student in the computer sciences, with computer companies frantically wooing him.  He ended up getting a great starter job, and quickly rose through the management ranks.   Then, something terrible happened to him:  his mother inherited a lot of money.  He knew, as of that moment, that he too would inherit a lot of money one day.  He no longer needed to work.

All of us dream about insta-wealth and early retirement, of course.  We imagine pursuing our passions, and believe that will give us complete pleasure.  Maybe that’s true.  I don’t know.  All I know is that, at 28 years old, this man quit his job and started a new life playing computer games.  That’s all he does:  exercise and computer games.  That’s all he’s done for twenty years.  He doesn’t seem very happy to me.  He’s playing his games, which is what he wants, but mostly he seems lost.  When I look at him I see a stunted life and wasted potential.  He’s never grown up.  Given the opportunity, he opted to remain a 13 year old boy forever.

This man is the most extreme, but not the only example, I know of a young man who simply decided to stop living and growing.  One of these young men, however, and I’ve written about him before, was moved by 9/11 to join the military.  He’s served in Afghanistan and Iraq; he’s lived under horrific conditions; he’s been under fire — and he’s as happy as he’s ever been in his life.  His life has meaning.

It seems to me, therefore, sitting with my smooth-faced little boy, that his life will be a happier one if he can find meaning in it.  There is no meaning in life as a computer gamer and slacker.  You fill your time, but you may as well be a cow chewing cud, or a pig rooting around in the mud.  We humans are better than that.

In a way, women have it easier, because having babies forces them to grow up, to look outside of themselves, and to have responsibility.  But in this day and age, young men don’t have responsibility thrust upon them through fatherhood.  Assuming the mother doesn’t abort, she still makes limited demands on the guy.  Certainly, few women nowadays demand marriage, and the notion of dad standing there with a shotgun is truly dead and gone.  The military, however, does thrust responsibility on young men, and they seem to be the better for it — assuming, of course, that they survive the experience.

All of this is not quite as hypothetical as it seems.  My son has always been military mad, and still talks about going to a military college one day.  He’s too young to understand what that really means, but it’s definitely part of his mental make-up.  While I won’t ever push him to the military — that’s a path I think a young person has to find by himself — my current thinking is that I won’t argue him out of it if that’s what he decides to do.  Certainly, I think it would help him with a lot of the behaviors and personality traits that currently prevent him from (yes) being all that he can be.

I’d be very interested to hear from active duty military people, vets, and the parents of current and former military people.  Am I blinded by the beauty of the uniform, or am I on to something here?

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  • Swathi Sheppillayar

    In my opinion, I disagree with the woman in the article because the military isn’t the only way to make someone strong and hard. There are lots of other simpler and less drastic ways to put rules and goals into someone´s mind than a harsh environment like war. Going from a soft and innocent boy in school, to a man in war with fighting and rough conditions, is a big jump and might be a little too big of a jump.

    The way war is described in this article, doesn’t satisfy the actual reality of it. War is a lot more cruel, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well. Seeing destruction and unhappiness everywhere makes you feel some kind of way and yes, toughens you to some extent, but also breaks a barrier inside. In the story, ¨The Separate Peace¨, a young boy named Leper wants to join war. He was a frail and innocent ¨snail-loving boy¨, but after he came back from war, he was described as mentally ill or insane. His thoughts were completely unorganized and scattered ,which is the complete opposite of what the woman in the article wanted her son to gain from war.¨ Leper suddenly begins sobbing and tells Gene of his odd hallucinations at training camp: officers’ faces turned into women’s faces, soldiers carrying detached limbs, and so on.¨, this line from the story shows how much the war affected Leper.

  • Fatima Castro

    I agree with the mother’s post. I believe that the military is a good way to turn boys into men, especially those who have been raised to become one of the many ignorant people in this world. Military schools will whip your child into shape, teaching your child discipline and how to respond to parents and other figures of authority. Not only does military school help shape you up and make you a better person, but it can also provide new opportunities and motivate kids to pursue their careers. However, there are certain risks and consequences of sending your child to a military school. The strict, tough environment can cause mental breakdowns and open doors to new anxiety problems. The exposure to war can also cause permanent damage to your child, making them paranoid or war-crazed.

    This post relates to “A Separate Peace” because of Leper. Leper is one of the main characters in this story, and wants to enlist in the military. Before he joins, he is a snail-loving child. However, instead of shaping him up, the military ruins him. In the story, Gene states that, “If Leper was psycho it was the army which had done it to him.” Leper becomes a war-crazed lunatic, and has crazy hallucinations about the war.

  • 1067098

    In my opinion, you shouldn’t send him to the military, at least not at this moment. You don’t know what he might become. You discussed how this man that joined the military after 9/11 became more happy because he found a living in the military. Even though you said that the military builds discipline in a person and good manners, you don’t know what’ll happen to your son after he returns from the military. He might change in a way that you might dislike. I wouldn’t know how your son might respond because I don’t even know him, but if you do believe that it’ll help discipline him and help him to become a better person, then send him. Just keep in mind that he might change for the worse.

  • Brent Insua

    From the mothers post, I disagree and agree with the mother. The mother explains how her young, amazing son. Yet her son is lazy and has no structure or priorities in him. From a school boy turning into a war-torn man, that’s a pretty big jump for physical health, and a huge jump for mental health. Yes, joining the military does have benefits and can help some people, but for other people they aren’t mentally prepared for the onslaught of war. The consequences of sending your child to war can damage them, or make them better. There are other ways for boys and girls to be taught manners and self-respect at boot camps or programs. Though if a boy was mental prepared it’s possible for boys/girls to do well in the army.

    In an “A Separate Peace, ” Leper is a weak, naive, small snail loving boy. Leper is one of the important characters in the story. Leper represents what happens to boys who aren’t ready for war. Leper becomes a crazed man divided by the thoughts of war, and reality. Leper wasn’t ready for himself to go into the war, he was scrambled in his thoughts. This shows how “War affects the youth” on a mental level.

  • Jasmine McKenna

    In my opinion, I honestly agree with the mother’s post. I think that the military is an excellent way to turn boys into respectable young men. The military will completely crack someone down and then rebuild them into honest, loyal, respecting, selfless person. I, the child of two military parents, believe that it is a great system, it works well not only for men but for women as well. Although, there are also risks for making young boys join the military, for not only young boys but everyone, the war could be a very traumatizing experience. Many soldiers leave the military and war with horrible anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many other mental issues. There are not only mental misdemeanors but your physical body could also be critically damaged. Although, none of that is promised, you could leave the military as a fit, and mentally intact person.

    This post relates to “A Separate Piece” because the mother describes how the military could positively affect a young boy. In the story, the character Leper goes to war and he leaves the war mentally ill. Leper represents how the war could negatively affect a young snail loving boy, Gene says, “If Leper was psycho it was the army which had done it to him.” He says this because he recognizes Leper as insane, caused by the war.

  • Ashley Marse

    Ma’am, though I am able to see where you are coming from when you are saying that, but there are other options open. I have a younger brother and he sounds a lot like your son. My brother is completely disrespectful, and never knows when to stop pushing buttons. He is lazy as well, doesn’t really do any chores. My mother had finally had enough of him being that way, so she set up this system. This is how the system works, if he does a chore he gets one ticket, if he gets a good mark on a quiz, then he gets two tickets. Later he can cash those tickets in for sweets or time on his game. He has been using this system for about 3 years, and it is still effective.

    My point is that military may sound like a good idea, but in reality it is not. This is how it will go, he joins the military and you will be spending every day anxious, nervous, and scared because what if he doesn’t come back. The truth is that the military should only be used as last resort. If he were to go when/if he were to come back, he wouldn’t be the same. There are chances, chances no mother should ever even think about taking on her child. There are always other options.

  • Nakayla Ray

    Yes, I do agree with the mother in some ways. The military is a very good place to set guidelines and get on track. There, you are able to learn a lot of beneficial life skills that can potentially help you in the future. Although it may be several long, and hard years, it can change someone´s perspective on life in a good way. In the mother´s case, the military would benefit her son by teaching him valuable behavior traits so he can use his full potential. However, the war can be a terrible and scary experience. Many people return to their home more broken than when they left. Simple things like the way they think are altered by war. Just a simple thought can make them remember the smallest piece of a battle. So, joining the military can both be a enlightening or terrifying experience.

    This post relates to ¨A Separate Peace¨ because Leper joined the military hoping to gain some skills, However, after coming back to Devon, many others notice that Leper has changed. His thoughts are all over the place and he cannot even think straight. Leper seems to have gone mad due to the military. It is hard for Gene because he do not quite understand what has happened to Leper. In the story, Gene says: ¨it was the army which had done it to him.¨ This shows that both Leper and Gene couldn´t even comprehend what had happened to him. This is the opposite of what the mother believes will happen to her son.

  • Ormina Naveed

    A parent wants there kid to be the best they can be and be able to train them to live their lives well. You have seen people kid’s who have no goal in life, and when they entered the military that turned around. I do not agree with you sending your son to the military. People romanticize the military and how it will turn your kids into better people. In reality, people come back from war changed. People who have experienced combat in war have a 50% of being diagnosed with PSTD. The goal you sent your son with will not be achieved. Your son will have no goal that he will strive for when he sees the affect of war. On the other side, if your son does join the military, it is place where people learn the realities of real life and they learn to deal with them also. In the end, there might not be a change in how you son is, because of the harsh realities they face in war, which could affect him in either way.

    Your problem with your son relates to the novel “Seperate Peace.” In the story there is boy Leper, who seems just like your son, lazy and no goal in mind. Leper decides to enlist and when he comes back from war, he changes drastically. Instead of being an innocent boy, he becomes crazy. “A Section Eight discharge is for the nuts in the service, the psychos, the Funny Farm
    candidates.”This quote shows that the army was going to discharge Leper because he was deemed mentally ill, but instead he ran away himself. War can change people in ways that we don’t realize, and sometimes not for the better.

    • ymarsakar

      PTSD is triggered by guilt, not generally trauma. The trauma merely makes them never forget it. The guilt of not being able to justify their actions to family or friends is generally what bites them when they come home. For the Vietnamese veterans, it was the destruction of their rationalization of their service, when people back home spit on them and called them baby killers.

      • Rachel Varghese

        This is a school project.

        • SCOTTtheBADGER

          What sort of project?

          • ymarsakar

            It was probably a two part question essay.

            1. Tell us whether you agree or disagree with this internet post about the mother doing X.

            2. Tell us how it relates to this fictional character in Separate Peace.

            2. This post related to a separate piece because the boy relates to Leper. I link the boy to Leper because they both are not yet accustomed to real life. A quote in the story, “he is going to enlist in these ski troops.” when most students are focused on joining the military to play their part in World War II.

            Was one of the comments written by another down below.

          • NightQueen

            Just to find out the difference between liberal and conservative.

  • ymarsakar

    Did someone link to your archives or something Book?

    Because all the old comments here were wiped but these aren’t old, they are new.

    • Bookworm

      Good question, Ymarsakar, and one for which I don’t have an answer.

      • SCOTTtheBADGER

        They all seem to be variations of the same comment.

        • ymarsakar

          I checked and most of the accounts were created Sep 23 and this is the only comment on them. Must be a paid viral grass roots ad for Sp Peace. Good thing for us the Left would never do something like this, right? Right?

          • Bookworm

            Thanks for the info, Ymarsakar.

          • ymarsakar

            You’re welcome, although it looks like my first instinct was correct and the second analysis was over thinking things. Given propaganda tends to make the subjects experience a reaction first and then have the subjects consider the experience as their own thinking and desire, I refrain from indulging in emotional reactions until I sleep on the subject and let my subconscious process and filter external stimuli and memories.

            Got to run the virus check on executables before just double clicking on them, you know.

          • Rachel Varghese

            Actually, this is for school, and for an assignment.

          • Bookworm

            Thank you, Rachel.

          • ymarsakar

            That was actually my first guess, but I erased it. That’s because some of the responses were very rote in what they were responding to.

          • NightQueen

            His name is Hak.

          • NightQueen

            From Yona of the Dawn

          • ymarsakar

            I remember watching that series.

          • SCOTTtheBADGER

            These students have been failed by thier school, if they do not realise that there are things far worse than war. War was certainly better than allowing the Germans to complete The Final Soloution, or the extermination of the Slavic Untermenchen in the East. It stopped the medical research of Dr. Josef Mengele, and the German research into the atomic bomb, and it’s delivery system, Projeckt Silbervogel, was made impossible by the bombing of the 8th AF, and the RAF’s Bomber Command.

            In the Pacific, if Japan had been allowed to carry out the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, it is questionable as to wheteher there would be any Chinese around today, other than as slave laborers, and guinea pigs for Unit 731’s experiments. Bookie could tell them what Japanese victory would have lead to.

            They should look at the difference in the living conditions in Norh and South Korea, and ask themselves of the Korean War was worthwhile. They should look at what happened in Vietnam and Cambodia, after the Congressional Class of 1972 cut off fnding to the Republic of Vietnam, and ask if the “re-education camps ‘ and the killing fields were better than stopping the NVA from using an armored corps to defeat the ARVN, who had no supplies, thanks to the Class of 1972.

            Finally, they should remember that A Seperate Peace is a work of fiction, and ends the way the author wants it to end Were there people who were irrepairably traumatised by the war? Yes, of course there were, but well over 99% of the combat troops ame home, and got on with their lives. They had had horrible experiences, but were able to deal with them effectively.

          • Bookworm

            Thank you for saying that, SCOTTtheBADGER. You are quite right that there are things worse than war. It’s estimated that, in the 20th century alone, totalitarian nations killed 100 million of their own people through executions, forced labor, starvation, and imprisonment. The citizens of those nations would have fared better had a war ended those regimes.

            These students are also probably too young to remember the relief with which ordinary Iraqis greeted Americans who liberated them from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, something that saw him gassing thousands of his own citizens, and brutally murdering hundreds of thousands more during his long reign.

            Also, as I’ve pointed out in other posts, i’ve known many men over the years who adored their military service. It was a time of camaraderie and purpose in their life, next to which everything else appeared rather dull and gray.

            One of the funny things about our society is that we view it as perfectly acceptable that young people routinely risk life and limb in extreme sports, but we see it as morally wrong that they do the same in defense of their country. If we had a draft, one might be able to make a moral distinction but, given that both are voluntary activities, it appears to me that one is every bit as good as the other — with the sole distinction being that military service provides useful skills that last a lifetime.

          • SCOTTtheBADGER

            It was my pleasure to back you and ymarsaker up. It is our rsponsibility as adults, to see to it that the young get told the truth about history, not the fictional history of the Left. Perhaps it might be as well to have someone teach them about spelling and grammar, as well.

          • ymarsakar

            The writing I thought was okay, you should see what some other people came up with back then.

          • SCOTTtheBADGER

            I meant the spelling/grammar in the postings.

          • ymarsakar

            Most of the trauma suffered by US troops are the result of top down “management” by Democrats in office or by traitorous domestic rebels that spit on the veterans once they come back.

            Psychologists like Hasan at Ft Hood 1, also contribute, by programming returning vets with mental issues as “rapists”, “imperialists”, “baby killers”, and what not. After being conditioned by their therapist, they go out on a rampage or drink themselves to death and then the media starts talking about “crazy Vietnam vets”.

      • ymarsakar

        Looks like you got hit with a pro ad campaign for grassroots there.

  • Aneesh

    I agree with the mother’s post because I believe sending your child to the military helps them improve their discipline, fitness, and responsibilities. There are also consequences to sending your child to military school. Some damage could also happen to your child when the go to war and get hurt, scared, or mentally ill. Overall sending your child to military school is a good idea because the consequences that can happen are really rare. If the damage does not happen to your child when they go to war they will come out more disciplined, responsible, and stronger.This relates to “ASP” because in the story it says “If Leper was psycho it was the army which had done it to him.” This quote shows what the war can do to people.

    • ymarsakar

      At certain times, the military suffered more fatalities from training accidents than IEDs in Iraq.

  • Rachel Varghese

    I agree with mother partially. Sending a child like yours, who is a slob, will give him discipline and responsibilities. It is also bad, because your child can be haunted by war and the deadly vibe of it. If war does not affect your son, then your son will be disciplined, but there is no guarantee that your son will be ok from coming back from war. This relates to “ASP” because it says ” If Leper was psycho it was the army that had done it to him”. THis shows what horrid things can happen from war.

  • ymarsakar

    Concerning your other comment, Book, I think that in extreme sports or x martial arts, the systems in place are not hierarchical as the military. In the military if Hussein gave you an order, you would have to obey, even if that meant going against your conscience, unless you just went AWOL or go to the court martial. In extreme sports, a person still has the ability to opt out, he just won’t be paid or he won’t gain any prestige.

    Thus concerning a decision to join, it’s more permanent and often ties people down with duty. Duty is not something the younger generations see in a very positive light.

  • Reona Islam

    I have to say that I both agree and disagree with this mother’s post. She seems to be going both ways in the sense that she wouldn’t force her son to join the military, but if he decides to join himself, it would potentially help him. It really just depends on a lot of factors on whether the military will turn a boy into a man (although women join the military also). This issue is debatable, and there are no exact answers; just opinions. War can change people, but whether it’s negatively or positively really just depends. Being a part of the military is a rough lifestyle, and it can either make you go crazy and depressive, or drive you to be a better person. For that matter, I see both sides of the argument.

    This post related to the story, A Separate Peace, as Leper enlists for the war. Before the war, he is a kind, nature-loving child, oblivious to the world. In the story, Leper says, “I admitted a hell of a lot to myself” (137). The war changed Leper in not such a great way. It drove him to be a little bit crazy, and changed him from a child to a torn man. The way Leper changes shows that war won’t always induce positive change within individuals. This suggests that the military and war isn’t fun and games, and it certainly isn’t meant to be used as device to change people positively.