Military journalist Tom Ricks writes many young men are sacrificing promising careers to join the military, and speculates about the reasons:
What is going on here? I think two things, one negative, the other historical.
The negative trend is, I think, that a significant portion of students are finishing at our best universities feeling let down and unfulfilled by the experience. It just wasn’t all it they’d expected it to be. There is too much drinking and dope-smoking and too little sense of commitment to anything larger than one’s own ambitions and appetites. Ultimately, they tell me, they didn’t feel challenged to be more than themselves, intellectually or morally.
The historical moment is that these young men are from the 9/11 generation. Most of them were 13 or 14 years old then that attack occurred — that is, barely conscious of the larger world. Since then, for all their conscious lives, they have lived in a nation at war. So what I think fundamentally is going on is that they are deciding that al Qaeda’s attack and its consequences are becoming the defining event of their lifetimes, and they want to be part of that.
Both of those reasons make sense. As a community college teacher, the first one is particularly striking to me.