Veterans are pushing their family members — who represent an overwhelming majority of new recruits — away from military service, deepening U.S. armed forces’ recruitment crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Nearly 80% of new recruits have at least one family member with a service record, but these family members are increasingly questioning whether the potential costs of military service — which include rising rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and a reliance on welfare programs — are worth it when compared to a career in the private sector, particularly following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the WSJ reported. The military has faced significant criticism from GOP lawmakers over its focus on “woke” initiatives, which they say prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and deepen the recruiting crisis by alienating potential recruits.
“We’re left with the gut-wrenching feeling of, ‘What was it all for?’” asks Navy veteran Catalina Gasper, who was injured in a Taliban attack in July 2019 that has left her with lingering brain damage. “I just don’t see how it’s sustainable if the machine keeps chewing up and spitting out” the nation’s youth, she said.
Gasper said that she and her husband, an Army veteran with over two decades of service, used to talk to their children, now aged 7 and 10, about joining the military, but now she intends to ensure her kids never join, according to the outlet.
Just 9% of Americans aged 16-21 expressed a willingness to consider a military career in 2022, down from the pre-pandemic norm of 13%, the WSJ reported, citing Pentagon data.
Recruiters are facing the twin challenges of both historically low fitness eligibility and interest among young Americans, and the deepening crisis has led the Navy this week to begin having recruiters work six-day weeks in an “all-hands effort” to boost recruitment. The Navy utilized an active-duty drag queen — Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, stage name Harpy Daniels — as a “digital ambassador” from October 2022 to March 2023 in a bid to “explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates,” a Navy spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The lowest-ranking service members make less than $2,000 per month, and while this may be offset by the military paying for food and housing, some 20,000 active-duty soldiers are currently on food stamps, the WSJ reported. Various service branches are issuing large bonuses both to new hires and experienced veterans in a bid to boost both recruitment and retention.
“To be honest with you it’s Wendy’s, it’s Carl’s Jr., it’s every single job that a young person can go up against because now they are offering the same incentives that we are offering, so that’s our competition right now,” Sgt. Maj. Marco Irenze of the Nevada Army National Guard, told the WSJ.
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