Segment from Call To Arms

Why I Answered The Call

Listeners share the reasons why they enlisted in the US Armed forces.

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JOANNE: We were just talking about the various reasons Americans enlisted in militias in the Colonial Era and Early Republic. But now we want to turn to your reasons for joining the military. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been asking our listeners to send us their enlistment stories. Here’s a sampling of those voices.

JASON CANE: Hey BackStory, my name is Jason Cane. I enlisted in the army after sleeping through my midterm exam for my evolutionary biology class in my senior year of college. I was an evolutionary biology major, I realized that I would never be able to go on and get a PhD. I needed some new discipline in my life, so I ran away to join the Army. 10 years later, I went through five combat deployments, went to grad school, and finished that goal. Anyway, last year I graduated from Harvard. So yeah, it all worked out, wouldn’t change a thing.

RUSSELL FINNEGAN: My name’s Russell Finnegan, I am an army captain, currently serving in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. I decided to join the Army, in large part, because of 9/11. It happened while I was in middle school, but had a really big impact on me. And I’d say to some measure or another, most people in my generation, who I serve with in the Army, and especially the generation mainly before me, there’s just so many guys I work with who came into the force because of 9/11, because of that impact.

RAYMOND CHRISTIAN: My name is Raymond “Ray” Christian. I joined the Army right out of high school at 17 years old in 1978. My primary motivation was to escape the only life I’d ever known. Growing up living in poverty and my goal was also to realize the life I dreamed of, the only realistic way I thought was available to me. I was a blue collar person with a blue collar background, and I wanted to earn some respect. And in my community, it wasn’t uncommon to see guys who returned right out of high school in their uniforms from different branches of the military. Or older guys would always say things like, yeah if I stayed in, I would have made something special out of myself. So I had that social community motivation for joining.

STEPHEN STACEY: Hey BackStory, my name is Captain Stacey. I’m a US Army physician, paratrooper, and flight surgeon. When I was in college, I knew I needed a way to pay for medical school, and I considered the Army as a way to do that. I also wanted to be motivated by a sense of patriotism, but at the time I just felt like I wasn’t patriotic enough to be a part of the Army. To help me get over that feeling, my recruiter brought in a Lieutenant Colonel who was also a physician. Her message to me was, it’s OK if it’s all about the money, you don’t need anything else, I joined for the money, plenty of people joined for the money, you can join for the money too. I took her advice, and I’m pleased to say that even though I joined for the money, I’ve developed a strong sense of patriotism and a love for the Army as I’ve served throughout Europe and the United States. Thanks BackStory.

BRIAN: Those were the voices of Jason Cane, Russell Finnegan, Raymond Christian, and Stephen Stacey. Thanks to all of you who reached out to share your stories.