I always wondered about how anyone in their right mind could be a volunteer front line soldier and accept the possibility of death in exchange for money to support their family or themselves. I guess I always — certainly selfishly — valued my own life more than any return I would get from such service. In any case, if it was a just war and I felt like I should perform some duty to a deserving — currently, not the case — country, I would probably pick something playing to my unique strengths like drone or robot hardware designer or programmer. It’s another story that I could not serve in the military anyway…
If the military is the only employer who will hire you, and you absolutely need the money to live, like you’d starve otherwise, it would be a different question. Or if the money was exorbitant and the risk of death only slightly elevated versus dying in a car crash, it would be a different question. But in America, there are still a number of options beyond the military which seem to provide a more reasonable trade-off. Sure, you do run into similar possibilities like policemen and to lesser extent fireman — both of whom tend to be well compensated anyway –, but there is practically everything else.
So what drives men and women to do such dangerous, mortal work when it is voluntary, and there are conceivably other safer choices?
One possibility is to impress the girls by making a name for oneself as a ferocious fighter. This I sort of doubt because fighting today is rather a little less physically impressive. You can be scrawny and kill lots and not be impressive to the girls, I think.
So perhaps it is some fascination with and fervent belief in honor, duty, or patriotism. I guess these are possibilities, but I wonder if idealists having such ideas would reconcile well with the practical reality of the hard work of killing.
There is also the possibility that some people are just well suited or addicted to the hyper-adrenaline task of being a soldier. The human race might have evolved a warrior gene. Since I clearly don’t have that gene, I can’t begin to understand the rush one might get because I just can’t get past the permanence of the mortal animal end. But still, for the adrenaline junkies: computer games anyone?
So I came upon another explanation. One which is rich in irony in my view. I think Americans have Christian Heaven to thank for all those volunteer fighters. If your view is that you or your soul or consciousness will “live” again, not just for a little while, but forever after death and in a wonderful place of no suffering, well, then, golly, there’s really nothing stopping you from joining a mortally risky endeavor like the army for a little fun and adventure. And so, this is how finding soldiers in America doesn’t quite break the bank as badly as I might expect.
Now, you might think this is a crazy idea and that our fighting men and women would never be so irrational about risks and mortal life. But just think about how suicide bombers for the other side, for the terrorists, are thinking the same damn thing. In their case, the incentive is even better. Heaven is not only devoid of suffering, it is full of pleasure. Tons of virgins, and it is sex day and night!
So I should thank God that this is not a country full of atheists.