I'm asking this question here on E, as I know we have some military personnel in our midst :)
The question I want to ask is, basically... aren't you afraid? Weren't you afraid, back when you enlisted? I mean, it's not an ordinary job. The chances of getting killed are quite high, I think. So... why enlist? It seems suicidal...
Let me be clear: I'm not criticizing you. I definitely see why the military service might seem attractive. Heck, there are times I think I would consider joining myself, were I in a better physical and mental shape (as I am, no military would touch me with a ten-foot pole... I actually asked a recruiter about it ). But then, I remember the whole "getting killed" thing - and it stops me completely. I would never sign up for anything that could get me killed...
So... why did you, if I may ask?
(it's a serious question, really)
To go along with what the others have said, my take on the original question is this --
At age 18, death is always something that happens to the other guy. Sure it can happen to me theoretically, but it never has
, so the smart money is on it never will
. There's usually not just one reason a person joins the service -- it's a combination of reasons. The benefits we keep hearing about -- it's what the men in our family do -- peer pressure from like minded friends -- patriotism -- maybe the need to test one's self.
In training, there is rarely emphasis on "you're going to die" -- in the Army and Marines the emphasis is usually on "kill the other guy". If the possibility of "our" death is raised, it's going to be done in a way that says "If you don't do it this way, you will die" - therefore, if you do it right, you'll survive.
After basic training and you settle in to the job, it's a job. For a lot of people, it's a job they commute to in the morning and drive home to the wife and kids in the evening. And when you do find yourself in a situation in which people are getting killed, there certainly is the "that could have been me" thinking, but the fact you're still alive reinforces the idea that it always happens to the other guy.
Finally, it's a fairly well established principle now that in a combat environment men (sorry for not being more PC, but I'm in a hurry) don't fight for the things they initially enlisted for -- mom, money for college, or making the world safe for democracy -- what keeps them in place when every instinct says to run is the bond they feel with the other men in their unit. "If you aren't going to run away, then neither am I. Besides, if I ran away, who would protect your sorry ass!"
It's the same thing that causes cops to speed to the scene of another officer calling for backup, and firefighters to follow another into a burning building.
I'm sure you can find a lot of literature on the subject, but you can never go wrong reading a guy named Dave Grossman.