Spare your life: please, don’t enlist in the military

Illustration by Marcus Jefferson | The Signal

Please do not join the military. Don’t risk losing your life at the hands of your comrades.

There are absurdly high levels of sexual assault and retaliation in the military. Who is not only allowing this to happen but covering it up?

If the military cannot respect and treat their own service members with dignity, what can we possibly expect overseas?

Protect Our Defenders, a non-profit organization that advocates for service members’ human rights, states just how pervasive sexual violence is in the military. In the 2018 fiscal year, 20,500 service members reported being raped or sexually assaulted, a third of whom were men. In just two years, 2016 to 2018, reports of sexual assault and rape increased by 40%, including 50% for women, the highest since 2006.

According to the 2018 Protect Our Defenders Fact Sheet, “Of women who reported a penetrative sexual assault, 59% were assaulted by someone with a higher rank than them, and 24% were assaulted by someone in their chain of command.”

Those who do speak up are likely to be retaliated against.

Vanessa Guillen, a young Latina attempting to serve her country with dignity, died in the most undignified way earlier this year: her dismembered remains were found in a river — three months after she was reported missing from Fort Hood.

According to her family, she was about to make a sexual harassment complaint when she was bludgeoned to death in the armory.

The military killed her.

Many cases also go unreported; 76.1% of victims did not report the crime in FY18.

We must remember LaVena Johnson, a Black woman following in her father’s footsteps, killed 20 years ago.

Johnson was murdered two months after being deployed to Iraq. Her body was found with a black eye, loose teeth and corrosive chemicals over her genitals to cover up any DNA evidence of rape. She was also found with a gunshot wound to the mouth, which the Army contends proved her death was by suicide.  

The military dehumanized her.

Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, but his fellow service members burned his body, and his family would not be notified until weeks after his memorial service.

The military disrespected him.

Enrique Roman-Martinez from Fort Bragg went camping with fellow service members for the Memorial Day weekend. He went missing; a week later, his partial remains washed onto the shore by the campsite. If his comrades did not kill him, they certainly did not protect him. 

The military abandoned him. 

This is violence, pure and simple. An institution dedicated to violence, whether on the offensive or defensive, depending on the president. Why does the institution claiming to uphold our rights violate the lives and bodies of those willing to do so?

We are losing our sisters, our neighbors, our parents to violence within their ranks. 

These are the names we know; may we also honor the countless victims whose names we will never know.

Do not join the military; do not risk becoming another name on this list.