DeKALB – Tyler Fowler comes from an Army family, but tradition alone didn’t push him to join the Army’s Future Soldier program.
Fowler, who graduated from Rochelle High School this year, recently enrolled in the program designed to transition fresh recruits from civilian life to military life. His mother’s work with foreign exchange students has shown him how many wish they could live in a society with the educational advantages and the quality of life Americans enjoy.
One friend from Vietnam wants to come to the United States and serve in the Army.
“He said: ‘If you haven’t noticed, people are trying to get in your borders, but nobody is trying to get out,’ ” Fowler said.
The decision to enlist isn’t always clear-cut, but as the Fourth of July approached, Fowler and other new recruits discussed why they wanted to defend America’s freedoms.
People join the military because they are looking for education, job training, new skills, a direction in life or an opportunity to travel, said Pat Grobschmidt, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Milwaukee. But their affection for their country also makes them want to do something greater than themselves, she said.
Since July 1, 1973, the military has been an all-volunteer force, she said. People join the military because they want to, not because they are compelled.
“We have a better military as a result,” Grobschmidt said. “We have a higher quality force.”
The military has many traditions soldiers value, she said. Young men and women who join because they want to travel may stay in the military for more patriotic reasons if they want to make a career out of it, she said.
“They see they can make a difference and the traditions of the military have become a part of them,” Grobschmidt said.
One tradition that is valued is the change in command. For example, when a commanding officer relinquishes command of a unit to another officer, there will be a formal ceremony to mark the transition, she said.
Alyssa Baars, a DeKalb High School graduate, decided to enlist because she wanted to be the first woman in her family to join the Army. Several other family members served in other military branches.
She said she wants to help the United States in any way possible.
“I feel like as Americans, it’s our duty to do what we can to help those who need it,” Baars said.
Freedom is one American ideal Baars and Fowler find important and worth defending. Baars said everyone in the U.S. works hard and has no reason to give it up.
Justice is ideal another they think America is obligated to carry out when atrocities are committed.
“I want to defend, because the people who try to make the world worse don’t take a day off,” Fowler said, paraphrasing Bob Marley.
While the U.S. has many privileges other countries do not have, everyone can work together to help make the world a better, he said. With changing technology and laws, one thing that doesn’t change is the moral values everyone shares.
“Whether you know it or not,” Fowler said, “everything you’re doing is helping someone else.”