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Military Service: A Brief Look at Benefits and Drawbacks






When individuals consider joining the military in some capacity, many will consider the benefits one receives by serving, such as money for college, military discounts at retail stores, the opportunity to see more of the world, etc. However, many currently-serving or future-servicemembers don't realize the full extent of resources available to those who serve. Below are some of the biggest benefits available to those who choose to pursue military service in the US Armed Forces, as well as some considerations to keep in mind.


GI Bill:

As mentioned above, one of the most well-known benefits of serving in the military is receiving reduced tuition or in some cases free college or trade school. These benefits come in many forms, the most universally applicable of which is what's known as the GI Bill. "GI" is shorthand for Government-Issue, which is a nickname given to American soldiers coined during WWII. There are several variations of the GI Bill, depending on the manner in which you serve. For example, for servicemembers who enlist in a "part-time" component such as the Army Reserve or the Army/Air National Guard, you will likely be entitled to what's known as the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), which is a stipend received every month you are attending classes. For those that enlist in, or are activated to Active Duty (full-time service), benefits received are even higher. There are other tuition-assistance programs depending on branch and component, such as the Federal Tuition Assistance (TA), The Ohio Army National Guard Scholarship (ONGSP), and more, and those considering joining the military should inquire about all of these programs to see what they are entitled to.


Health Insurance

While serving in the military, you are eligible to obtain military health insurance, known as Tri-Care ( This coverage is more expansive and oftentimes substantially less expensive than civilian employer-sponsored healthcare coverage or policies you may find on the open market. This benefit alone keeps many servicemembers in the ranks long-term.


Military OneSource:

A great resource for current or prospective servicemembers is a military website called Military OneSource (, which groups and consolidates available benefits for servicemembers in one website. While you need an active Common Access Card (CAC, colloquially referred to as a Military ID) to access the detailed website, services available to troops include but are not limited to:


  • Free tax preparation - Through Military OneSource, servicemembers can obtain free tax preparation through a service called MilTax, which uses TurboTax as an online filing software.
  • Financial, Family, and Legal Counseling: Military OneSource helps link you to free counselors who can assist with basic problems troops may face such as budgeting help, answers to legal questions, or family counseling services.
  • Links or codes for steep discounts with businesses such as tickets to sports events, discounts on plane tickets or hotel accommodations, sporting goods stores, and more.


Soft Skills

Serving in the military is something that instills traits in you that are useful in all walks of life. The first step in your military career after joining is attending and completing some form of Basic Combat Training ("boot camp") and more specialized job training specific to your military occupational specialty. Contrary to what many imagine, the most intense aspect of this training is not physical, but mental. Servicemembers will develop soft skills such as attention to detail, organization skills, discipline, and many will realize a type of intestinal fortitude that they would have otherwise never known they were capable of. These skills will benefit you regardless of where your post-military career takes you.


The Trade-off

The benefits for serving in the military are vast and expansive and frankly, too broad to list sufficiently in this article. However, it is important to note that these benefits are not provided out of appreciation for you choosing to enlist. The military expects a return on their investment. Make no mistake about it, if you enlist in the military, you will almost certainly be mobilized at some point during your service, and there is a very good chance this means deploying to a combat zone. One should be cognizant of these realities when considering joining the military. Serving your country means you will have to make many sacrifices over the years, including regularly missing important dates and events, being called up on short notice, and sometimes having a wrench thrown in your short-term plans (such as attending school).


For those that genuinely want to serve their country, or feel compelled to join an organization bigger than yourself, serving in the military is a great option that will likely open many doors in life. While this unavoidably means making sacrifices during that timeframe and no way of knowing what your service entails ahead of time, the benefits and skills you earn are hard to beat and will benefit you for the rest of your life. Those considering serving should research the branches of service, the available jobs you may qualify for, and speak with current and former servicemembers to make an informed decision.





About the Author:  Justin Seidenwand is a six-year veteran of the Ohio Army National Guard, serving from 2013-2019 as a Military Police (MP) soldier, and from 2018-2019 as a Military Police Sergeant and Team Leader. Justin can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and he is happy to speak about his experiences or answer questions to the best of his ability.


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