An underestimated path to prosperity


I read an article that military recruitment is down. In fact, one of the military branches, and it’s not the Marine Corps, is considering a significant lowering in standards, including allowing some to enlist without a high school diploma, in order to appeal to young adults.

There are various reasons why that seems to be so, but I personally think that one reason is that an enlistment is seen to be a waste of time. And for some, it may very well be.

For me and other members of my family, military service was an open door to a better life and a bright future. In my case, there was no way I could afford college. I tried for a term at the local university and then ran out of money. I considered enlisting in the military and settled on The United States Marine Corps. I have no regrets about my serving and, when my enlistment was up and I was honorably discharged, I had attained a wife and a very young son.

I enrolled in East Tennessee State University and, with the help of the G.I. Bill, graduated with honors and later went on to graduate education. I still had to hold down a job while I was in school, but that earned benefit helped me graduate and start a career.

Years later, my son, James, would also choose to enter the military, enlisting in the United States Air Force. He met his future bride, Leslie, who also served in the Air Force. Both went on to secure university degrees with the aid of the G.I. Bill. James graduated from the Honors College of the University of New Mexico and his wife obtained both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

Two of my grandsons, cousins, both decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. They ended their enlistment and, having earned the benefits of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, a much more generous version of the old G.I. Bill, both enrolled in college. Tristen, the oldest, graduated from Georgia Military College and is currently in Florida and continuing his education. Isaac is enrolled at the University of West Georgia and will graduate this year.

My wife is an indirect beneficiary of the G.I. Bill. After I obtained my degree which brought about a better lifestyle, we could now see our way to her going to the university. And did she ever!

She received an associate degree in nursing (ASN) from my alma mater, ETSU, later a BSN from the University of West Georgia, and then, an MSN and a PhD from Georgia State University.

She never made anything less than an “A” in all four programs. She finished her career as a full tenured professor and the Associate Dean of the Tanner School of Nursing at the University of West Georgia and was honored by both ETSU and UWG.

Actions cause ripples and that can be an incredibly good thing. I don’t know if my grandsons would have joined the Marines without my continual stories but, regardless, they did enlist, served honorably, and, among the other results of their enlistments, they will always bear the title of “Marine.” James and Leslie can both gloat that they joined the “smart kids in the class.”

Certainly, joining the military carries with it some risks. It may help to realize that for every member of the armed forces who might see combat, there are nine others who serve in support and will likely never be in mortal danger. None of the people mentioned in this column saw combat. But all bettered, or are about to better, the rest of their lives because they served.

One benefit of a lowering of standards is that an entire new group of young people who truly seemed handicapped at a young age might just see a door open to a new path of accomplishment and prosperity. Not one day in my life (well, after boot camp, I mean) have I ever regretted becoming a United States Marine.

At any given time, less than 1% of the population is protecting the other 99%. It’s not the so-called “elites,” or the Hollywood crowd, or most politicians who, for some years of their lives, choose to put their lives on the line for the people of this nation.

Helping with education is only one of the ways the nation rewards those who have stepped up. We all owe a debt to those who serve and have served in the nation’s military. I am grateful that part of that thanks was to enable me to go to college.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]