The ultimate question: Why do we serve?

15 May 2005 |

The armed forces have succeeded in a secret joint mission – they have successfully changed the meaning of military service. Through careful use of highly developed tools, the armed forces obliterated any association between war, combat, and the term military. The tools used to achieve this disassociation are “Signing bonuses, money for college, … concerts, video games and iPods …” Joining out of a sense of service is a thing of the past left to those patriotic generations who freed concentration camps and kissed nurses in the streets. At least that’s what some journalists would have their readers believe. By promising education funding and job training, they say the military is creating a “poverty draft,” exploiting the needs of young people who have few other economic options. Meet 25-year-old, Chicago-native, Sgt. Brooks S. Abramson. A member of Chicago-based 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Abramson joined the Corps at age 19 because it was a family tradition. He didn’t need college money. He could buy his own iPod. “Becoming a Marine was on my list of things to do before I die,” said Abramson. “I wanted to be part of something bigger than me … doing something not everyone can do.” Abramson experienced the risks of serving in the military first hand when his battalion deployed to Iraq last year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He returned in April with a souvenir from his trip to the Middle East – shrapnel in his right shoulder. With an associate’s degree in Engineering, a bachelor’s degree in Marketing, an MBA in the works, and a good career rolling, ask Abramson why he serves. “It’s hard to explain,” he said trying to avoid the tried and true, noble and cliché, but giving in. “If I die, I die for a cause. I die for a purpose. I die fighting to keep us (the U.S.) on top.” Abramson is not alone. Fellow 2/24 member and Iraqi War veteran, 27-year-old Sgt. Carlo UngoMartinez, joined the Corps at 17 with his parents’ signatures on a parental consent form. He says the benefits like college money and special home loan programs are just “extras.” Ask him why he serves. “I wanted to give back after emigrating from El Salvador,” he said. “I saw all the greatness this country offered and couldn’t just take, take, take and not give back.” So how does fighting a war to free a Middle Eastern country help give back to the U.S.? “Fighting in Iraq is giving back because I answered the call," he said. "I volunteered to go. I stepped up to the plate and am willing to sacrifice for the greater cause." According to UngoMartinez, the greater ‘cause’ is ensuring freedom for this country and ensuring the fight stays on foreign land. “I believe we must take the fight to the enemy instead of waiting for the enemy to come to us to try and take it (freedom) away.” Fresh from bootcamp, Pvt. Michel Blandin, 22, hasn’t quite defined the “cause” or experienced combat, but he knows why he joined and why he chooses to serve. “I joined for so many reasons,” said Blandin. “I truly believe I (serve) to defend the rights we have as Americans, but personally, I needed more discipline,” said Blandin. “I was up to absolutely nothing … slacking off going to junior college.” Paying for college classes was less of an issue for Blandin than forcing himself to attend those classes. Recently returned to RS Chicago on recruiters assistance, the Loyola Academy graduate said the Corps has instilled in him a sense of purpose, taught him management skills, and given him a clearer understanding of the importance of dependability. Blandin’s fellow recruiter assistant, LCpl. Joshua Schirmer brings a keen appreciation of the rights he has as an American with him as he returns to his hometown of Chicago to help his recruiters find new Marines. Serving with 3rd Marine Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in combat in Fallujah, Iraq, the 21-year-old answers without hesitation when asked why he serves. “I can make a difference and take action toward my future,” Schirmer said. “If I die, I die for a reason. I die serving. As far as the risks of serving in the military, life is full of risks. You risk your life everyday. You’re more likely to die choking on a chicken wing …” (According to the National Safety Council, each year more than 3,000 Americans choke to death.)
9th Marine Corps District