Best of luck Joe

Written by Bob on September 30th, 2009

YUCAIPA, CA – First, the newspaper headline caught my eye: “Inland poverty on the rise.” Then the plight of the 20-year-old in the story brought tears to my eyes.

Let’s call him, “Joe.”

Able bodied and willing to work, Joe is one of 35.1 million Americans nationwide receiving food stamps. Not that he wants to. But Joe has been homeless for two weeks, sleeping behind a store at night in Moreno Valley. To avoid going hungry, Joe applied for food stamps.

Joe, as with many others in the building trades in Southern California, lost his $15 an hour construction job in March 2008. Since then, he’s been able to subsist by finding enough part time work to avoid government assistance.

But even those types of jobs have dried up.

Joe was quoted as saying:

“It’s kind of embarrassing to ask the government for help when I know I’m very capable of working.”

What piqued my interest about Joe is that he said he wants to join the Marine Corps. Even though he knows he could very well be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, he said that beats going homeless and jobless.

To Joe, I say, “consider signing up.”

Joe reminds me of myself when I was 18. Just out of high school, I was working a dead end job in the summer of 1967 running a portable feed mill in southeastern Minnesota. I went from farm to farm shoveling corn, oats, and wheat into the feed mill that ground the mixture into feed for cattle and hogs.

It was hard work for little pay. I scarcely got by.

Coupled with the fact that my grades in high school were barely acceptable to receive a diploma, made me ripe for military service. A smooth-talking Marine Corps recruiter soon had me signing up for a four-year hitch from 1967 to 1971.

Do I regret giving Uncle Sam four years of my life? No. And the older I get, the more grateful I am for those four years.

Joe, if you’re reading this, here’s what I got in return for those four years: I’ve traveled throughout much of the U.S. because of the Marine Corps. I was stationed in Japan for a year. I bought my first house through the G.I. bill. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in teaching paid for through G.I. education bill.

I was able to meet people from all cultures and walks of life. And I receive excellent health care (basically free) through the Veterans Administration.

All because I signed up for a four-year hitch. And it all came about because I found myself in a dead end situation and decided to give military service a go.

So to all you young “Joe’s” out there facing this tough economy with little job opportunity, it may be worth your time to talk with a military recruiter.

Although I have no regrets enlisting in the Marine Corps, talk with recruiters from all the branches – Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Army – and then decide which branch is best for you.

Best of luck to you, Joe.

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