The interviewees often expressed a belief that the military offered the promise of an opportunity at stable employment and education during stagnant economic times and hardship. The service offered to provide training, housing, food, and discipline to help people stay out of trouble. They saw their decision to join the military as a way up in the world because they felt like they were “striving for something”[1] more in their lives, whether through interesting jobs, educational prospects, travel, or looking for a way to escape their current situation.

  

Evette joined the Air Force in 1983 in hopes of traveling and of a stable, well paying job in a bad economy as, “there weren’t a lot of jobs out in the Regan administration and the military seemed like a career that I could travel. I was always into traveling and getting away, so the military served that for me.”[2] As an only child, she knew the military would give her the opportunity to travel and see the world that her single mom wouldn’t necessarily be able to provide. In 1970, during the midst of the Vietnam War, the military was made up of only 4% volunteers with the rest having been drafted. In 1973, the draft was suspended and the military began to move toward an all-volunteer force after running volunteer recruitment trial runs in 1970 through Project VOLAR.[3] Project VOLAR was designed to establish a successful volunteer recruitment and maintenance of a strong all-volunteer force.[4] Congress appropriated a large sum of money in for the fiscal year of 1973 to the military for enhanced operations and volunteer recruitment purposes.[5] They set out with the intentions of growing the force by offering enlistment bonuses, money for education, and better pay.  After encountering difficulties in reaching recruitment quotas and in order to meet recruitment quotas, recruiters often targeted economically depressed areas where people were more likely to be enticed by these incentives.[6] In retrospect, this has often been labeled as an economic[7] or poverty draft, as individuals from lower socioeconomic classes felt compelled to join as a means to support their family and thus became disproportionately represented in the armed forces.[8] Evette saw a future for herself that sat outside of the confines of the life she had growing up. When she saw the potential for different life opportunities in the military, she decided to try and change her circumstances.

Like Evette, Richard, Wilbur, Thomas and Carl, all joined in the early to mid-1970s and could be seen as potential victims of this economic draft. Richard says, “really there wasn’t too many jobs and I hadn’t thought about my career straight out of high school. And I took ROTC so I kinda fell in love with the Army lifestyle and discipline and everything …”[9] This shows how from an early age, Richard viewed the army as a stable job option for a job following high school in the same way as Wilbur who says:

…when I graduated high school, I did not want to carry any more books, so my father asked me what I was going to do because I wasn’t just going to sit around the house, so I said ‘I’ll join the air force.’ He said ‘alright’ and off to Texas I went.[10]

When asked about his job in the military and if it was challenging, Wilbur said:

Basically load bombs on airplanes.  And that didn’t get me anything but people’s telling me you are training now to get a good job when you get out but I couldn’t see myself loading bombs on airplanes after I got out of the service.[11]

The military provided Wilbur with an avenue for a stable job for a truncated period of time. His friends and family believed that it would help him develop job skills for the future, although he remained slightly skeptical, yet glad that he made the decision to join. Many of the interviewees joined the military in the midst of the Vietnam War, a daunting prospect as the casualty rates were very high; and so to make the decision to voluntarily enlist and potentially be deployed to a combat zone shows a need for a temporary break from an unstable civilian life.

 

[1] Brooks, Thomas. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 18, 2016.

[2] Lewis, Evette. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 17, 2016.

[3] “Rebuilding the Army- Vietnam to Desert Storm.” Ebook. Accessed 10 April, 2016. http://www.history.army.mil/books/amh-v2/pdf/chapter12.pdf ** IS THIS RIGHT?

[4]  Moore, Harold and Jeff M. Tuten. Building a Volunteer Army: the Fort Ord Contribution. (Washington: U.S. Dept. of Defense, Dept. of the Army, 1976). Ebook. 87.

[5]  PUBLIC LAW 92-570-OCT. 26, 1972

[6] Lutz, Amy. “Who Joins the Military?: A Look at Race, Class, and Immigration Status.Journal of Political and Military Sociology, 36 no. 2 (2008): 167-188.

[7] English, Allan. Understanding Military Culture: A Canadian Perspective. (London: McGill-Queen’s University, 2004), 71.

[8] English, Allan. Understanding Military Culture. 71.

[9] DeLoch, Richard. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Audio. Richmond. March 17, 2016.

[10] Evans, Wilbur. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 18, 2016.

[11] Evans, Wilbur. Interviewed by Kelsey Glander. Video. Richmond. March 18, 2016.