Would You Want Your Child to Serve?

On Veteran’s Day I received a sweet note from a friend – she thanked me (back in the day I was in the Army) and my husband for serving, as well as a handful of her other military (or former military) friends. My friend mentioned that she would be very proud if any of her sons (she has 3) ever joined the military.

Two of the other recipients of this note from my friend did a “reply all” and I was surprised at their reaction to my friend mentioning her sons ever possibly joining the military.

The first response I read is from another friend of mine who has served close to 20 years. He said, “…I implore you, regardless of the state of the world in the future, encourage (your sons) to find another way to contribute. Though honorable, a soldier’s life is far too hard for me to wish for anyone.”

The other response is from someone who recently retired. I don’t know her personally, but she mentioned in her e-mail that she is retired and her husband retired in 2005. This was her response, “…the military is a hard life and has many sacrifices. It changes you in some great ways and in some unfortunate bad ways. Your sons really, really need to be committed to a life of service and accept the fact that what they want might not ever happen because of Uncle Sam. Your civil liberties are out the door when you sign the dotted line…”

I’m curious to see what you all think of the above statements. I am not trying to make this a controversial issue and I truly believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I guess I was bothered by this, but I can’t really put into words “why” these responses bother me so much.

For me, I would be very proud if either of my children decide to serve in the military. I don’t expect them to, nor will I “make” then join. My kids are young (9 and 6) and are developing into wonderful little people. I can only hope that whatever they choose to do in adulthood is because they chose to do it. And that they are proud of their choices.

What do you think?

About the Author

Joan D'Arc

Joan D'Arc has been an Army spouse since 1997. She started her marriage as a geographical bachelorette and experienced her husband's first deployment before their first wedding anniversary. Since then, she has had two beautiful children who amaze her (and frustrate her) every day. Joan fought her way through graduate school and is now a Licensed Social Worker. Joan enjoys volunteering with Soldiers' Angels and giving back to the military community in any way possible. Joan feels very blessed to be an Army spouse and wouldn't trade this life for anything!

  • I was considering a blog post on this same topic. At our cenotaph service, someone at the mic made a comment about being proud if their children joined. The retired veteran beside me got quite agitated, and said to me that “No one who had ever been in a war zone would want to see their child ever carry a (expletive deleted) rifle in anger”.
    I think, in his mind, it was not about wanting his children not to serve, it was about saving them from the horrors of war.
    I had not really thought about it until I saw the tears in his eyes as he said it.
    My soldier has said to me before that he would love to be unemployed because there was no longer any need for people like him to do their jobs. I think, in their cases, this is versions of the same sentiment – that they wish to see an end to the need for war. Not because they don’t value the service of those who came before, and those who will come after.

  • Armywife299

    My husband is in the middle of a overseas tour and my daughter told me that she had signed up to serve. I was taken aback by my own “internal conflict”. My focus was on my husband and his safety and now my daughter’s safety also would be in question. As proud of her as I am for her choice, I am deeply torn with two family members laying their life on the line.

  • Michelle

    I think there is a difference between being proud of your child’s choice to serve and being afraid for their safety and your wish that they had made a different choice. I think in the case of the original email message where she said she would be proud, that was a wonderful sentiment expressing her gratitude for all your husband is doing and all the other military members she knows (and I’m guessing that’s why she sent the note) I think it was a little rude for others to take that feeling away from her. She didn’t say “I’d be so thrilled that my boys had the easy job of the military.” Or “I’d be so happy if they could go to war and see horrors.” NO, she just said she would be proud. I’m sure she’d never wish her children to see war, and I”m sure she’d never wish them to have a difficult life, she is just proud. Perhaps that’s why it struck you strange?
    I also think the two responses show soldiers who have been unhappy in their career or never quite knew what they were getting into when they enlisted. My husband has been in since 1982 and he’d tell anyone that while it’s a hard life it’s a glorious and honorable life, and a career that you can be proud of, and it’s afforded him the ability to provide a good life for his family. How many people can say that?

  • Michelle, I think you hit the nail on the head. The people who responded “took something away” from the sentiment that my friend was expressing.
    Basinah and Armywife, I agree with what you both are saying. There is a difference between being proud of your child and scared for them – at the same time! After I wrote the post I thought about that and realized that yes, I would be proud, but I would also be scared that something “bad” could happen to them. I can also see why service members who have been in combat would react the way the veteran responded (in Basinah’s comment).
    Thank you for sharing and bringing me some “enlightenment” to my own thoughts and feelings.

  • Scott

    i retired in 2001 after 23 years in the Army. My daughter entered the ROTC program this year. I am proud of her and respect her decision. I can’t help but reflect on some of the hard times I went through but at the end of the day, enlisting was a great decision for me. When she I asked my opinion I told her what I honestly thought. I also told her I would respect and support her decision, what ever it was.
    My wife, who spent many sleepless nights waiting for me to come home, had a different take and is absolutely terrified.
    As far as being scared for my child, bad things can happen no matter what route she takes.

  • Semper Fi Wife

    When Dark Prince was growing up, we never EVER pushed him towards military service.
    We both figured he’d probably be fed up of being moved around that he wouldn’t want to do that.
    Boy, were we wrong…
    As worried as I get about where he is and what he’s doing, I have to be very proud and respectful of the adult decisions he’s made.
    When he graduated from bootcamp, I had pride and worry for the future battling it out.
    I guess that’s a parent’s burden though.

  • I don’t think that these people had a right to “reply all”, in any case. They do have a right to their opinion, however, I think it was in poor taste to piggyback it upon the sentiments that were stated.
    While I know that it’s many years till my daughter and son can make the choice to serve, I will let THEM make the choice. As “milbrats” they already experience some the heartaches and hardships that come with military service. If they feel they can contribute to society in another way, they are not morally obligate to follow the path their father and I chose.

  • FbL

    I recently attended a conference with a lot of WWII veterans. The sentiment of “I’d do it again in a heartbeat, but I wouldn’t want my kid to”–as expressed by a veteran of Iwo Jim–was rather prevalent. It definitely seemed to a spring from a feeling of not wanting their child to go through the hell they did.

  • Yes, I am giving the Air Force my oldest son. He’s in the ROTC at Univ. of Wash. I am more than proud to see him serve his country. He’s a good boy and the Air Force is lucky to have him.

  • Sarah

    I think Scott made a good point that “bad things can happen no matter what route [your child] takes.” Your child could choose to be a logger, or a firefighter, or any number of dangerous jobs.
    I don’t have children yet, but my husband has expressed the sentiment before that the Army has provided him with many opportunities for growth and maturation that he likely would not have had in other types of jobs. I don’t think he would be dismayed if our child made the same informed choice he did.

  • dizzylizzie

    as proud as i’d be, i wouldnt want this life for my son, my future daughter-in-law or future grandkids. i’m pushing my son to go to MIT. his engineering skills at the age of ten are better than some college sophomores i know (and i’m IN engineering!)

  • Our eldest daughter just started college and is already looking into military service. My husband and I know that we have NO SAY whether she serves or not and I can’t say that it doesn’t worry me but Every generation in my family for the last 3 have served. Same for my husband. She feels she has a calling and my husband and I know how that feels. So despite MY worries, we will support and be proud of her regardless of what she decides to do.
    For me, my biggest fear is to have both my husband and daughter in the sandbox. I don’t know how I will handle that yet.

  • Semper Fi Wife

    Lemon Stand,
    That has been my biggest fear for years. I totally understand.

  • kathy

    husband served,sons served, now grand-daughter. i am both proud and afraid

  • Barb

    I married a veteran (who was active when we married), and always wanted to serve in the military (but was prevented for medical reasons). I always thought I would encourage my kids to pursue a military career, but as government continues to “evolve” into a criminal enterprise that has seemingly lost all sense of what it was set-up by our Founding Fathers to be, I dread hearing from any of my kids that they would want to join. Particularly under the current administration!!! Our government leaders have failed us miserably, and are undermining our country in ways I never dreamed. I don’t want any of my children at the vanguard of this assault, or used as a pawn to further the interest of the Washington liberals.

    • Chris

      Barb, I agree with you in terms of politics in our nation today – especially the current administration – but it’s also one of the reasons I’m in the Air Force. We have high standards and such a strong belief in core values that the rest of society often falls short on that when compared to staying civilian, I’d much rather be by my military family – for the good and the bad.

  • Christina

    Barb has a good point, and I do worry about my husband’s welfare under this administration as he is serving. However, that’s the very reason we need good men and women to serve in our military. We need men and women with good morals to stand up and defend our freedom. My husband wouldn’t wish some of the things he’s gone through on anyone, but at the same time, it has helped him to grow tremendously as a person and in the way of education and experience. It has also given him the opportunity to serve others and put himself aside. Although he won’t force them, it is his hope that at least one of our children decides to join the military. His career hasn’t been all fun and games, but he appreciates the opportunity to serve other people. I can’t say our lives have been easy because it’s definitely been hard on both of us as my husband serves, but we’ve been able to see the many ways our lives have been blessed because of his service.

  • Barbara

    I am the daughter of a sailor and the mom of two activity duty sons, and a third who is a veteran, and a daughter who is looking at going into the Army after college. I have had both of my sons in a war zone at the same time. Our military history goes every generation up to WW11, that is on my moms side and further on my dads.
    I slept very little as a child when my father was in Vietnam and when my boys were at war together, but different zones. And I will be going through them going to war at the same time again. I will be stressed out, scared to death, but they like the military. They have seen things that they wish no other person to see. But would they join again. Yes, they have said they would. They have said that being in the military has given them a chance to see and do things that many people would never get to do. That is the good part of the military. It has taught them to stand on their two feet, respect, alot of which is not out there today, to work as a team and to be able to stand alone when necessary.
    I am proud of my sons and the contuined history in our family that they have provided. It is hard to breathe when you hear the phone ring, wondering if it is them. I live with the motto of every day is a good day but when the boys call me it is a great day. When they come home I hug them a little bit tighter. I treasure the time that I have with them.
    Am I proud of them, you betcha. If I had to watch them go through bootcamp again would I be there. You betcha. Because without men and women such as ours we would have a draft-sending people who do not want to go to war. I have heard many a soldier say they only want men and women who volunteer to join not forced.
    I may live in fear for the year or more they are over there. I pray for every man and women out there. I assist with our veterans in any way I can. I thank a man or woman in uniform because only one percent of our country stands up voluntarily to be in the military. And even though we may not agree with what is going on in this administration-we at least have men and women who are willing to stand up and fight for what we are.

  • Tracie

    My husband and I don’t have kids YET, but in my family there are 12 of us. I don’t have contact with my oldest 3 siblings, and the 4th in line passed away…but of the remaining 8, all 8 of us either are Active Duty, prior service, or married to Active Duty. My Dad was also prior service. So I guess its in the blood. If my children ever came to us and said they wanted to join, I would ask why. Just to make sure they are clear on what they are getting into. Then its up to them and I would support them no matter what. And be the proudest Mom around. =)

  • CJG

    Barb, what is it that the current administration or “Washington liberals” have done that is so bad? Veterans are actually getting more help from the current administration then from the last one. As a prior service member with 4 active and 11 reserve years behind me as well as a military spouse for 22 years I for one had problems with the last administration. And since this wasn’t a blog about politics why did you have to bring it into the discussion at all? In response to the question, as a mother of a child old enough to go into the military I would be proud if he decided to enlist. As long as it was a choice he made looking at all the aspects of military life the sacrifices as well as the benefits that going along with the military lifestyle. On the other hand I am proud of him no matter what his chosen profession will be.

  • Jeri

    There seems to be alot of feelings over this. I too feel torn as my son is starting his ROTC soon. I want to protect him, but I know I can’t any more than I could his father.
    Still, he wants to be a 4 star general someday. The other part of me can’t wait to see what the next generation can accomplish!

  • H. H. H.