*Mentions of domestic violence and trafficking operations.
Military men can be controversial. I spent many of my formative years living in a town with a large military base, where most of the people living there had some form of connection to the military, and another significant portion on a military base in Japan. Being surrounded by the military is a unique experience in itself, but being a teenage girl living around young marines felt like I was in the trenches, so to speak.
Statistics for crime committed by military personnel are bleak. The island of Okinawa, Japan, hosts multiple large US military bases, and there are around 30,000 active duty military members stationed there. This is only about 1% of the total population of the island; however, in 2010, military personnel accounted for 20% of violent crimes committed according to Gitnux. In a survey completed in 2017 and then written about by Military.com, it found that military members drink alcohol more days out of the year than any other profession. This data didn’t come as a shock to me because growing up in a community that is largely associated with the military, it felt as though almost every time a news story was released about some kind of crime being committed, it was committed by a military service member. Now this is easily explained; if you live in a town where most of the population is service members, of course it would make sense that they would be linked to the most crime statistics. However, most of the violent crime reported was committed by young Marines. When a particularly disturbing domestic violence crime was discovered, it was a military member, when a trafficking operation was discovered, it was military members, and when driving under the influence (DUI) incidents were written about, it was almost always a military member. Each of these examples were reported on WRAL News, Marine Times and Military.com respectively. Because of this, men in the military had developed a negative reputation in the community.
Before I begin talking about more personal experiences, I want to note that this isn’t a critique of every single service member. The actions of a handful of military men don’t represent all of them, and most people who join the military do so to escape their situations. The reason news stories and negative statistics about military members are so sensationalized is because the military is supposed to be a cornerstone for American values and discipline.
Military men have a reputation for dating and overall being inappropriate around teenagers. In my experience, Marines sometimes proctored state exams, and when they did so it made people uneasy because occasionally they would flirt with some of our classmates. After my freshman year, I stopped going to the county fair because of the young Marines. The first time I went as a 13-year-old with my 13-year-old friends, a group of young marines began asking some of my friends for their snapchat, even after we had made it clear how old we all were. When I was 16, my friend and I were followed around a mall by a group of marines. There were military recruiters in our cafeteria every day, and while they were there, one of them started dating a student.
In addition to this, men in the military have garnered an awful record of infidelity according to Gitnux. Most men join the military very young, usually right after high school, and after completing boot camp they are required to live in the barracks while single and under a certain rank. To move out of the barracks, members will get married quickly, oftentimes to people they haven’t known for very long. And despite the fact that the military has its own code of conduct that prohibits adultery, it’s so common. Oftentimes, women will marry a service member, move in with him, he’ll get orders to move to a different state or out of the country, and she’ll go with them. Due to this, a lot of women end up isolated from family and friends, and most of the time they won’t be able to build up their own careers because they’ll have to move with their husbands whenever they get orders, which is usually every three years.
For years I’ve heard women say that they avoid dating men in the military because of the lifestyle it could force them into and their overall reputation. What’s more interesting, though, is that I have also heard many military members themselves say that they would avoid dating service members. Overall, men in the military aren’t all bad, but a handful of them have created these stereotypes for themselves and the organization as a whole.
By Liese Devine, Features Editor