I was honored to have the opportunity to serve in the United States Marine Corps. My experience was not unique; in fact, most of my fellow Marines considered it a privilege to serve their country. You wouldn’t know that from some of the rhetoric coming out of Washington, though, where some lawmakers are trying to turn military service into a penance for those who break the law.
Representative Jeff Denham’s (R-CA) “Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training”, or “ENLIST,” Act (H.R. 2377), would allow DREAMers–unlawful immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors–to acquire lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in exchange for military service.
These bills undermine the important social narrative that allows our all-volunteer military to thrive, namely that service is a benefit, as opposed to a punishment. As a Marine, I can attest this is the wrong approach.
It is a privilege to serve in America’s all volunteer force, and that service instills some of the most valuable virtues a citizen could hope for in a Republic. Military service also builds within one the vital moral warrior ethos that every peaceful society must maintain. The United States government also spends significant amounts of money to impart enduring skills on military servicemen and women. The financial compensation for my time in the military pales in comparison to the betterment of my character that military service and combat experience gave me.
In proposing the exchange of amnesty for military service, politicians not only create the wrong incentives for military service and potentially expose security risks, they also undermine the military’s service-oriented ethos.
Heritage Action has explained this course of action circumvents federal law and poses security risks, but we must also consider the holistic effects this would have on how society views the military and what role the military should play in civil society. These legislative efforts, which effectively create compulsory military service, fly in the face of the citizen soldier mentality which values the virtue of volunteering to defend one’s nation as well as the benefits society reaps from such professional and rigorous training when those citizens reenter civil society.
Military service shouldn’t be a treated as a punishment for those who violated our laws to come here. It should be a reward for citizens who are committed to ensuring the posterity of liberty.
Wade Miller, a Marine combat veteran, is south central regional coordinator for Heritage Action for America (heritageaction.com).