Is military service a good way to pay off student loans?
People who speak often or write a lot in the public arena sometimes make mistakes and leave themselves open to criticism. That has happened to me a couple of times on this blog and it will probably happen again. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article responding to a question about college loan payoffs. If you read down to the comments, you will see where a regular reader who goes by the moniker, “Damsel” shared how her husband’s military service has been good for their family finances.
My response, a hastily typed comment via my Blackberry, came across as rather flip:
The military can be a great financial option . . . as long as you don’t catch a bullet in the head . . .
My statement was not intended to show disrespect toward military families. I highly value the sacrifices made throughout our country’s history by military families. My brother is a Marine and did a tour in Iraq, my intent was not to diminish or make light of the dangers faced by our volunteer servicemen. My point was simply that one’s reasons for pursuing a career in the military should not be financial – and I’m not implying that Damsel’s husband enlisted with that goal in mind, my intention was to put some perspective on her comment. Granted, my attempt was poorly phrased.
I work with college aged young people and I have know many who have signed up for the military over the years. I believe that it is a high calling, however, much of the marketing that surrounds military service is misleading. Over the years, we have had military marketing campaigns that sell the following ideas:
- Join the Army and maximize your potential!
- Join the Marines and be one of the few and the proud!
- Join the Air Force and use your video game skills!
- Join and you will be a leader when you get out!
- Join and you will get great job’s training!
- Join the National Guard and you will get paid for not much work!
- Join the military since you have nothing else to do!
- Join ROTC and you will graduate from school with no debt!
My point is not that these benefits of military service are not positive benefits and much deserved, my point is that military service is for an individual who has a strong desire to serve his country and is willing to lay down his life for that country. I wrote an article along similar lines last summer that made the point that while there are financial implications and concerns surrounding the decision to marry, the heart of marriage is not a financial arrangement.
I know that Damsel understands this idea, but any young person who is considering military service needs to balance all of the benefits against the real (especially nowadays) possibility that military service could result in major injury or death. The person who is motivated to join the military because he is unemployed or wants to pay for college has not considered all of the implications of his decision. I think there are two Scripture passages that have value in this situation:
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth. Luke 16:13
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
There are certainly great financial and life benefits to successful military service, but if you are not prepared to “lay down your life” or as someone once crudely wrote, “take a bullet in the head”, then you need to find a different way to pay off those school loans.
By the way, I have a blogger friend who specializes in the financial idiosyncrasies of military life at The Military Wallet. If you are in the military, I recommend adding TMW to your blog reader. I also would like to pass along condolences to the family of a college acquaitance of mine who was recently killed in action in Afghanistan. It is my belief that Dale served with the purest of intentions: to provide spiritual ministry and comfort to our military men and women.
Photo by Nevada Tumbleweed