I read the other day that the Army – our Army, the United States Army, the army still fighting two wars in dangerous, far-away places – is offering re-enlistment bonuses as high as $90,000.
For an old Marine, it’s initially shocking to hear that sum, but in fairness to the Army, the bonus is understandable. The army has $380 million to spend this year to enlist and re-enlist men and women for critical positions in an increasingly high-tech war.
Cyber posts, cryptologists or other intelligence or high-tech jobs with certain language skills are being rewarded with these juicy bonuses.
Can’t argue with that, but we’ve sure come a long way, baby, from the day I was offered the chance to re-enlist.
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It was July 1962 when I was summoned to the sergeant-major’s office – not for the first time, I am sad to say – for a routine re-enlistment offer.
I, of course, had the feeling that he didn’t want me to re-enlist any more than I wanted to re-enlist.
The conversation didn’t go well. He gave me the standard spiel about re-enlisting, the security, the esprit de Corps, the bonus money I would get.
Oh, yes, the bonus money. Was it $600 or maybe $1,000? I don’t remember. And was that the amount for each year for which I re-upped? Again, don’t remember.
But I do remember one thing. The words “90 thousand dollars” were never mentioned. Yeah, that I remembered.
I, of course, thanked him for the generous offer, but said I was hoping to begin college once I mustered out and started life as a sloppy civilian (we kinda talked that way back then).
He asked about my plans and I told him I was already enrolled in a night course at the local college, where I was studying psychology (the hot subject of the day, as I recall).
Then I added, in a sort of smart-alecky way:
“Actually, I took a psychology test the other day. It showed that I was especially suited for military leadership.”
That was true, but I probably should have kept it to myself.
The sergeant-major, a no-nonsense Swede from Minnesota who once told me he knew a lot of good people from Minnesota before asking, only half in jest: “What happened to you?” I think it was over library books I had not returned on time.
So I knew he was on to me. I loved my four years in the Marines, but we both knew I was not military material.
Now he looked at me, long and hard, shook his head and said, simply: “Those (expletive) tests.”
I never took another psychology class, but I did study journalism. Looking back, I know that if I had been offered $90,000 or $50,000 or even $5,000, I might have been a fully retired Marine long ago.
So goes life.
Contact Bob Bestler at email@example.com.