John F. Kennedy once said, “A young man who does not have what it takes to perform military service is not likely to have what it takes to make a living.”
The Department of Defense indicated in a report in January 2012 that 75 percent of all young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to join the military because they are physically unfit, lack proper education, or have criminal records.
After graduating high school, senior communication major Benjamin Bergfelt served in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard from July 2003 until March 2008.
Bergfelt, 27, said he didn’t know what he wanted to do at the time, so joining the Army became an opportunity for his future. The military offered him a job and an opportunity to live on three continents, but another benefit he said he is really proud of is graduating without debt.
During his service for the National Guard, Bergfelt said he gained “a little bit of wisdom,” and real world experience. He said this helped him later on to get a greater sense of who he is and to identify the flaws in his own belief system, as well as his own weaknesses and strengths.
“The service teaches you how to interact with people who are different from you,” Bergfelt said. But he said what he lost is his theological belief that people are basically good.
”I think that people try, but they are not basically good, [and] I think that at the end people will do whatever is in their interest,” he said.
Bergfelt said there were several moments when he regretted his decision of joining the force. The first time, he said, was when he got into basic training and realized how real everything was, but the more he embraced the experience and accepted it, the better it got for him.
“The military is a good thing because it teaches you to be careful what to commit to and be careful what dotted lines you sign for, because when you say you are going to do something, you have to do it,” he said. “Even if you regret it, there is no way out.”
While he said his future is not clear, Bergfelt said he sees himself going back to the Army after graduation as an option, if he is unable to secure a career in his major in communication.
Senior management major Michael Dzon, 25, currently serves in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, but began his service in January 2004.
“I was 17 years old and I wanted to blow things up, plus the money is good, plus the educational benefits because if it wasn’t for the Army, I wouldn’t be able to go to school,” Dzon said.
Dzon said with his service, he gained more than he lost. He gained a lot of knowledge of things like geographical locations, other cultures and weaponry.
“Sure, sometimes there are things that you don’t want to do, but at the end of the day it is kind of like marriage – even if sometimes you are absolutely miserable, you have to stay committed and at the end, it works out,” Dzon said.