Two months ago one of my Soldiers in the US Army Reserve was accepted into the Officer Candidate Program. Until they saw him that was. His earlobes are distended big enough to hold a beer bottle cap, and they informed that unless he paid for plastic surgery to have them altered, he will not be allowed into the program. He joined later in life, and the “ear plugs” had already stretched that far before he joined the Army.
I procrastinated for two years before finally joining the US Navy at age twenty. I just didn't want to cut my hair, and even kept it down to my knees when I reported to Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center on October 28, 1998. After two days of not showering or being able to pull it back in a pony tail I was dying to get a haircut. I had to go to the female barbers to have it done, which followed me through the next 8 weeks of training. While I stood in that line along with female recruits, I started to feel bad about wasting the twenty dollars my great grandmother had given me to get a haircut on a bottle of Bacardi Rum and cigarettes the night before I left home. Newly shorn, I was allowed to rejoin the male recruits to quickly don uniforms and then have them inspected by Recruit Division Commanders (the Navy's equivalent to Drill Sergeants), who cussed us out and made us take them off, put them on again and then started inspection creases and badge placement levels with a laser pointer. This was a completely different world from the last two years I'd spent surfing and laying around beaches in Hawaii, and I cold tell it would be a struggle to conform to its rigid standards, and yet keep any semblance to the person I was before.
Twelve and a half years alter, I'm a Fire Team Leader in the US Army Reserve in charge of men younger than me, some of them by fifteen years. And I'm the one doing inspecting uniforms, checking that they shaved and showered that morning, and other endless things to make sure they are conforming to the Army's standards forty-eight hours out of every month. The rest of the time we're allowed to grow full beards, where what we want and if we so choose, to have really, really poor hygiene. But for the most part they clean themselves up and conform to what's expected for those days.
I tend bar at a place in Huntington where its a much younger crowd, actually much closer to my younger Soldiers' age than mine. They're massively covered in tattoos, piercings, young “men” skin tight genes that look like capri's (I believe these individuals had poor male role models growing up and this is what they think “getting in a girl's pants” means), and earrings that stretch their ears out enough to hold a fifty cent piece. How they'll ever fit into society, hold a real job or get any father's permission to marry their daughter's is beyond me. And what mother would want to see her heavily tattooed and shrapnel decorated daughter walk down the aisle? And the majority of their spending money is acquired by donating plasma or other ludicrous pursuits.
I know military service will never be mandatory, that we'll never have a society in the USA like Starship Troopers where you have to serve to vote. And that the draft can't be reinstated because its sexist. But I do feel that the majority of today's youth would benefit greatly from the swift kick in the ass some form of federal service would provide. Of course, I could just be getting old.