'I almost joined the military, but...' is a weird flex and it's not OK

Recruits take the oath of enlistment before a NFL game in Arizona, November 2018. Photo: Alun Thomas/U.S. Army Recruiting

Jacob Wohl, noted conspiracy theorist, internet fraudster, and contender for the youngest person ever to operate a bogus hedge fund, recently promised via Twitter that he would join the military. That is, he'll join the military, "probably the Army," if President Trump attacks Iran. He even specified that he would enlist within ten days.

The ten day timeframe would itself be laughable if it weren't for the fact that children born on September 11, 2001 are now eligible to enlist and possibly go to Afghanistan. So, if Wohl actually did follow through on his promise, he would conceivably still get to fight after spending a few months in poolee status, boot camp, MOS training, etc.

That said, Wohl will never enlist, war with Iran or no war with Iran. Is the hypothetical war with Iran somehow more worthy than the ones we've been fighting against the Taliban, Iraq, ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Al Qaeda in Iraq, or Al Qaeda original flavor for nearly two decades, i.e. nearly the whole time Wohl has been alive?

Wohl is more famous, or at least internet famous, than the average person in the "I almost joined the military, but" club, but he's only one of millions of members. People as prominent as HUD Secretary Ben Carson and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton "almost" joined the military, but for quirks of fate.

But famous people aren't the only ones in the coulda, woulda, shoulda club. Almost every service member or veteran has encountered this phenomena. Whether in your hometown, a park, or a bar, if you end up in a conversation with a stranger and mention that you are or were in the military, someone will make the remarkable confession that he (and it's almost always a he) almost joined the military...but…

He had a knee injury from being a star athlete in high school. This one is great, because it combines studliness with a complete lack of studliness, as if they cancel each other out. He's saying that the reason he didn't risk an actual combat injury is that a gridiron injury prevented him from doing so. Sure, Uncle Rico. Somehow that debilitating injury didn't keep you from Instagramming that 5K finish last week.

He went to college instead. This one is great, because it simultaneously reveals that person's belief that everyone in the military is an uneducated moron with admitting a complete lack of actual research into the military. That poser could have gone to college before the military, after the military, and even during the military. If this person had stepped into a recruiter's office just once, as anyone who "almost joined the military" could have done, he'd know that service and college go together like peas and carrots. Speaking of peas and carrots, even Forrest Gump got a college degree before going into the military, and he had an IQ of 75.

His parents didn't want him to. Really? You would have been a Green Beret or SEAL, but your mommy said no? Just think about that one.

He would have if there was a real war, like World War II or something, as if the military has just been pulling its pud for the past 20 years. When it's obvious that the country will be invaded if you don't serve, or if the draft forces you to serve, then service in itself isn't a differentiator. It's what you're expected to do. It's like saying, "If a criminal ever robbed me, then of course I'd call the police." Thanks for your civic-mindedness, Captain America.

Just like character is what you do when no one is looking, true service is what one does when your own ass doesn't depend on the outcome.

Perhaps people feel compelled to come up with these excuses because this country idolizes military service so much.

Military service is an important, perhaps even the most important, form of service, but it isn't the only one. Human beings naturally desire validation, and if the only means of getting recognition is to carry a gun, or even to "almost" carry a gun, they will latch onto that.

If you really want to impress me, tell me about the time you were a volunteer firefighter, or even volunteering at a senior center. Hell, talk about the foster dog you took in. That impresses me far more than your fake story about how you almost joined the Marines, except you wanted to go to college. I'm a Marine. I went to college. So did a whole lot of others, not to mention those in the Army, Navy, and Air Force.

Cops are important, firemen are important, and teachers are important. But beyond the obvious service professions, there are so many ways to leave this country and this world better than you found it. Talk about those. And as long as we're at it, we should perhaps spend a small fraction of the time we spend honoring the military at every possible opportunity to salute a few other types of service.

Perhaps then we wouldn't have so many saying they coulda, woulda, shoulda been in the military.

Carl Forsling is a senior columnist for Task & Purpose. He is a Marine MV-22B pilot and former CH-46E pilot who retired from the military after 20 years of service. He is the father of two children and a graduate of Boston University and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @CarlForsling

Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.

The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.

During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.

"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."

"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."

Read More Show Less
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (Reuters photo)

Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.

Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Rangers resting in the vicinity of Pointe du Hoc, which they assaulted in support of "Omaha" Beach landings on "D-Day," June 6, 1944. (Public domain)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."

Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Read More Show Less
Senior Airman Marlon Xavier Cruz Gonzalez

An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.

Read More Show Less