Grateful for roads not taken

Just looking through the images of JROTC people and other militaria, I do want to quickly note that as positive as the experience of NJROTC was for me in High School, I am very glad I never actually joined up with the actual US military, either as an enlisted man or as an officer.  I’m glad I was not on active or even reserve status of any kind the morning of 9-11.  I did not feel motivated to sign up the way so many young men did.  I was “too old for this sh*t”, in my own words, and also felt dubious about our national wars of apparent revenge then ramping up.  I had been ambivalent about the first Gulf War back in college and was decidedly opposed to the Afghanistan operation and later Iraq War.  My ex-wife agreed with my anti-war views, though for decidedly different reasons.  I feel badly for all the young men who got swept up into that national hysteria and war, willingly or otherwise.  My own disillusionment with the actual military dates from my High School years, where I began to separate propaganda claims from reality, starting with a good Associated Press History of the Vietnam War.  While I was still in college ROTC at the time of the first Gulf War, I was in no rush to join the conflict.  Moreover, the war would be over and done by the time I found out I was physically disqualified for commission through the NROTC program anyway, and thus my entire raison d’etre for remaining in the TAMU Corps of Cadets vanished and I exited gracefully to go enjoy civilian student life.  I’d been very ambivalent about that first Gulf War.  I wasn’t knee-jerk anti-war (though perhaps I should’ve been), but I wasn’t rah rah pro war either.  My thinking was still evolving.  I did briefly consider other government service options like working for the FBI or maybe doing a CIA internship, but thought better of those options and just wanted to devote myself to Academia and purely academic pursuits.  I did once take the Foreign Service Exam but did not make it past the first round.  I could see my views on economics were not in line with the “Washington Consensus”, from whose POV the test had been constructed.  Diplomatic service was alas not in my future.

As dissatisfied and frustrated as I sometimes feel about the actual course my life has taken, it does sometimes help to reflect how much worse it could’ve gone if I’d gone down a few different roads instead of thinking better and avoiding them.  I’m eternally grateful for some of those paths not taken.


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