Teens and the Military

Parent Reviews

What about the military? It can be a good option for young people who aren’t sure about college and career.  And it will still be hiring in the midst of an economic depression, unlike most other sectors of the economy.  If he were to go to trade school or something like that, I think there’s a good chance he wouldn’t be able to find a foothold in the trade after finishing. I imagine the economy will take a few years to recover enough for relatively inexperienced people to be able to find work, more time than the likely duration of a vocational program. I’d just make sure he understands that the job market will be terrible, maybe worse than any in our lifetimes, and it only be harder for those without significant experience or educational credentials.  Serving in the military or pursuing higher education for the next few years don’t seem like bad options while the economy recovers.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

18 year old son has to register with selective service?

Feb 2013

My son, who recently turned 18, received a letter saying he must register with selective service or face serious consequences such as heavy fines and possible imprisonment. I have heard that it is more likely that he could be denied financial assistance for school, etc. But I'm wondering why I've never heard about this. Does he have to register? I don't like the idea of him being at risk for the draft, as unlikely as that may be. On the other hand, I also don't want him to be at risk for not following through with something required by law. I would love to hear what other people know about this and to be advised about what to do. Thank you! Amy

Just a few days ago, I attended a financial aid information session given at a local high school. The speaker, who works at in the financial aid office of a well known Bay Area university, said that on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) there is a question regarding the selective service. My understanding is the if your son is 18 and has NOT completed the selective service forms, then he will NOT be able to apply for federal financial aid. David

Simple answer: Yes. Your son has to register. http://www.sss.gov/fswho.htm

Yes. He must register. Here is government website for more information. http://www.sss.gov/fswho.htm Almost all male U.S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U.S., who are 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service. It's important to know that even though he is registered, a man will not automatically be inducted into the military. In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. Then, they would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces. East Bay Mom

Of course your son has to register for selective service! Every male citizen of the US is required to register when he turns 18 - whether you like the idea of a draft or not - it is his obligation as a citizen of this country to register in order to be called if needed to protect this country. Incidentally there has not been a draft since Vietnam so you probably don't have anything to worry about - nonetheless this is part of the quid pro quo you participate in as a citizen! If you don't like it then work for peace in the world, in the meantime he needs to fulfill his responsibility as an adult in this country, which technically he now is! Do Your Duty

The upshot: yes, men are legally required to register for the draft upon turning 18. The penalties on paper are stronger than the actual enforcement; however, federal finacial aid (Pell grants, Stafford Loans) is cross-matched with the draft registration lists, so unregistered guys are automatically ineligible for a huge amount of college funding. I worked many jobs with men who were unregistered and working their way through a few credits at a time. The historically Quaker colleges (Earlham, Haverford, Swarthmore) will have earmarked funds for tuition assistance to support men who do not register for the draft. Central Committee on Conscientious Objection and the American Friends Service Committe have both been advising families and young men since World War II and can readily advise you about current draft registration policies. My son is young so I have not researched this in a while-- but again, both organzations can provide good information. Not raising a soldier either

Mailings from the US Military for 16-year-old son

April 2012

Greetings - we just collected the mail, and found an over- sized folded mailer from the Marines, addressed to my 16- year-old sophomore son, inviting him to ''protect America's future'' and to ''call on a friend to defend with you.'' WHAT?! So here are my questions: how did he get on this mailing list, are schools and/ore testing sites required by law to provide this information to the Department of Defense (or other agency), is there any way to get off this mailing list, how long will we continue to get these mailings? My son is as likely to go into the military as I am likely to become a neuro-surgeon, but it's still a curious thing and I find myself interested to know a little more about this whole aspect of the government's involvement in his young life. Heading to Canada like in the old days if need be

It was part of Bush's NCLB (No Child Left Behind) that military recruiters must have access to information for all kids in public high schools. You must sign ''Opt Out'' forms and return them to the school or district if you do not want that stuff sent to your house. You should find out from your district how to get the opt out forms, but you may be closing the barn door after the horses have already left, and may just have to deal with junk mail now and potential phone calls in the future as he gets nearer to 17 or 18. Berkeley High offers these forms en mass to all students at the beginning of every school year but I have no idea how others schools/districts handle it. --Opted out

The main way military recruiters get student names, amazingly, is from the high school.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) contains a provision that says that high schools that receive federal money- so, basically, public schools- must turn student home contact information over to military recruiters and give access to military recruiters to students in schools or risk loosing federal funding!

This is just one of the ways military recruiters get student information from schools. Another common way is when students take the ASVAB. ASVAB is the Armed FOrces Vocational Aptitude Battery, given to recruits as a placement test, and is marketed in high schools as a free career test. But this is a primary recruiting tool, and unless the district chooses option 8 and withholds student information, it is send to military recruiters.

When military recruiters come to schools, they often offer climbing walls or challenges to do a number of pushups, but get the students' signatures and use that to recruit. And it isn't only mailings: recruiters will call, and even show up at a house.

And, of course, JROTC in high schools is a ready made source of contacts.

Lastly, kid's names are everywhere, and those lists are sold. Driver's license applications, SATs- a lot of this information makes its way to the military through the web and through the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies (JAMRS) http://www.jamrs.org/, where military recruiters work with marketing firms to get student information.

There is some good news. NCLB also says that parents and students have the choice to opt out of having student information sent to military recruiters, and schools are supposed to let parents and students know this. Maryland is the first state to make it illegal for schools to send names to military recruiters when taking the ASVAB. Activists in schools are making policy that restricts military recruiting in the school so that it isn't more invasive than college or job recruiting.

The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth has information, pamphlets, and contact information for local activists. You can also find the Oakland and San Francisco policies at http://nnomy.org. Kathy

Selective service registration for 20-year-old

March 2008

I have a 20 year old son who has not registered for the selective service. Since he has not had to apply for financial aid or citizenship, this has not affected him, but I'm wondering what the risks and consequences are? Last year, he had a scrape with the law in another state (shoplifting) and now has a misdemeanor on his record. If there were a draft, he would likely claim conscientious objector status. I would appreciate hearing from other parents or those knowledgeable about the law. Thank you. anonymous

For more information about Slective Service Registration you can contact The Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO). There's an office in Oakland: 405 14th Street, Suite #205, Oakland 94612. Phone 1-888-231-2226. Ask for a pamphlet ''What the Government Doesn't Want You to Know about Draft Registration.'' They give the guidelines on the issues if one chooses not to register. If you won't and can't be part of the military, then they recommend that if you are a Conscientious Objector (CO) that you write on the form in bold ''I am a Conscientious Objector,'' and photcopy the card several times. Mail one copy to Selective Service and one one copy to yourself the same day. The actual card is destroyed after processing, so the only exisitng record would be your own notice. It is important to keep a file of all activities, papers written, photographs, etc. that might support one as a CO over time. Mother of a CO

Daughter wants to enlist after she graduates high school

March 2008

Last night our daughter (an only child) informed us that she wants to enlist in the Military when she graduates from Berkeley High in June. She will be 18, and legally we will be powerless to stop it. I feel like I've been hit by a truck. My wife and I are totally devastated.

We would like to hear from people who have sons or daughters in or know people who have been to Iraq or Afghanistan. We are not looking for expressions of sympathy or necessarily any advice. We would like to talk with people who know the realities first hand of what being in the military AT THIS TIME this can mean. She has been talking to the recruiters. We have to be certain that she understands the reality of what she will be getting into. We may like to have her talk with your knowledgeable person. I would like to contact people off list via e-mail if possible. If you do not have first hand knowledge, or know someone who does who would be willing to talk with us/her, please do not respond. I don't feel that a political discussion or uniformed opinions will be of help to anyone in or outside of our family. People, this is as real as it gets. Ray

Dear Ray, My nephew was stationed for a year in Iraq. He enlisted in the National Guard in Nebraska and was sent over a year ago this Christmas, arriving back home in time for Christmas this year. If you would like to contact him about his experiences while in Iraq and his experiences dealing with the military (though the different branches of service are different), I can forward his e-mail address to you. Similarly, if you are interested in hearing how families cope with having their members stationed in the war zone, I could forward my brother's e- mail address. These are Nebraskans and so their political attitudes tend to be more conservative than those of people in Berkeley, but they have had the real experience (loss of life in my nephew's unit, for example) and have worked with the institutions and the support groups in their area, so perhaps they can answer some questions. Write to me if you are interested. Good wishes to you and your family in this difficult decision, Linda

An excellent resource would be Iraq Vets Against the War: www.ivaw.org. I'm sure they would have someone with recent real life experience in the military who could talk to your daughter. They also have a ''Truth in Recruitment'' project. Good luck. Sympathetic Parent

I have two suggestions for you and your daughter. Get in touch with the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma, http://www.peaceandjusticesonomaco.org and watch the ''Before You Enlist'' video on Youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFsaGv6cefw. My heart goes out to you. anon

Hi, For the person asking about dealing with his daughter enlisting in the military, I have a friend who went through this hell with her sons. She is very willing to speak to you or e-mail privately. Contact: sue_______. I hope it's helpful. Anon

Giving Our Army Enamored Daughter a Clue and an Alternative

April 2007

Our 18 year old daughter, about to graduate from high school, has become enamored with the military. In fact, despite (or perhaps in in spite of) our pacifist, leftist leanings, she has already signed up for deferred enlistment in the US Army later this summer. Although this in entirely revokable, we see no signs that she is going to change her mind.

We are deeply concerned (scared to death!) that she has no clue about what she is really likely to come up against in the Army. She is in love with the structured environment and the idea of belonging to a tight knit group, but seems completely oblivious to the moral, psychological, or physical realities of war and military service for the US at this time in history. Her actual experience is limited to a year participating in the Civil Air Patrol which we tolerated and hoped she would grow beyond.

Our daughter has had an up and down experience academically in high school, hasn't enjoyed being a student much, and is definitely not looking forward to college although she has been admitted to some creditable schools. We are happy to look at alternatives to college right now that are less drastic than the army.

We have had her talk to a few people we know who have served in the military with mixed to horrific experiences, but so far this hasn't seemed to have much influence.

As an added wrinkle, our daughter lives in two homes and is being supported in her military aspirations in the other home.

We are looking for:
1. Alternative activities/organizations that might provide structure and sense of belonging after high school and some creative learning.
2. More ways to communicate the downside of military service for a woman in the US in 2007.
What about the Peace Corps or another organization that is more involved with peaceful missions? Habitat for Humanity maybe? Good Luck! anon

that just sounds awful -- you must be worried to the bone. you are doing exactly the right things -- she knows how you feel and why, and it is a great idea to look for other structured places to go. there must be service opportunities that don't involve combat, and some of them at least must pay -- perhaps she will decide she'd rather be working at a school, or health care clinic, or helping old people, or at a national or regional park, etc.

but here is the hard part, for parents of legal adults -- we have to butt out and let them decide. as a matter of fact, backing off an acknowledging this is her choice may allow her to consider what she will do more seriously. it takes that oppositional ''you can't make me'' thing out of the equation.

''you are an adult. i feel this way, but it is your decision. i will always love you.'' that's what your daughter needs to hear, and even though it is rough for us to transition from our caretaker roles, it is also what we have to do, have to say. anonymom

I am so sorry your daughter wants to serve in the military. I would be upset (that's an understatement) if I were in your situation. It appears there are two things going on here. First, her decision is being supported by whoever lives in the other home. I'm assuming it's her other parent. What that means is that from her point of view, you just don't agree with her and she is not going to change her mind just because you don't like what she is doing. From her perspective, she has the support of one parent. Unless you can get that parent to stop encouraging her, you're not going to be able to have an impact. Second, she did spend a year in Civil Air Patrol and had a positive enough experience that she decided she wanted to go into the military. She has also talked to people who have been in the military and heard first hand all the terrible things that go on. Even so, she still wants to go. There are people in this world who truly desire a military career and it appears your daughter is one of them. You may have to get used to this fact no matter how painful it may be. There really is nothing more you can do to stop her. She is 18 and she can do what she wants whether you support her or not. If you were to show her another type of highly structured environment i.e. monastery, intentional community, etc. she would probably just ignore you because it's not the type of structured environment she is attracted to. There is one thing you could do, however. Suggest she join the California Conservation Corps (www.ccc.ca.gov). Not only is it highly structured and tightly knit, it also involves emergency response which might be close enough to the military for her to consider joining. Anon

In 1981, my parents were like you on this (I am also female). The compromise was that I would join the Army Reserves and attend college full time at the same time. After one year of college I could choose full-time Army if I wanted. After that one year I decided to stay in the Reserves and finish college. I stayed in the Reserves for 23 years and it was the best choice I ever made. There was no awful, horrific downside. I think because I tested high on the entrance test, and because I am also a typical Berkeley independent thinker, I did very well in the Army, winning many awards and special assignments. -- former woman sergeant

I would certainly share your scared-to-death worry if one of my kids were choosing this path at this time. I also agree with the other posts about seeking alternatives like the Conservation Corps or Peace Corp and I'd do further research on other organizations that offer structure, discipline, hierarchary and the like.

Here's what also came to mind upon reading your post - when I was a teen, way back when, my mom knew I was running a bit amok with and among a group of friends (at Berkeley High) who were all doing a lot of sleeping around. So one day, as an extension of her work (she's now a retired doctor) we went to the AIDS ward at UCSF. She actually didn't really have to say a thing after that. Very impactful. So I'd be heading off with my daughter to a VA hospital right about now, to show her the lasting inevitable price that some soldiers pay for their service in wartime. I'd also recommend the chilling HBO series about the Baghdad ER room. Very grim and very real. Finally, any chance of enlisting support from the other household? Best of luck for a safe and secure outcome