In reality, military veterans represent wide diversity of US demographics

There are a lot of misconceptions about the military and veterans, but these could be cleared up quite quickly by veterans speaking out.

Every veteran has a story to tell.

I have been in the military on and off since October 2001. Veterans educational benefits have paid my way through a philosophy degree and a law degree.

I will receive my law degree in May from the University. That story of education is not unusual among my friends from the military.

Many of my friends from my time in the Marines are combat veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan or both.

I am not.

One friend of mine who was there for the Battle of Fallujah introduced me to the song “B.Y.O.B.” by System of a Down back in 2005. It’s an anti-war song, but it was his favorite. Every song means something slightly different for every person.

For me, strangely, it makes me regret missing the war. War is not a good thing, but war was happening then and is still happening now. Good friends are risking their lives doing their jobs, and I am not there with them.

Many military service members, like me, are not combat veterans. Some are.

Some military service members never left their cubicles in some office on some military base in some forgotten corner of the country.

Others deployed to Iraq three times in four years, where they got attacked, mortared, ambushed and/or remotely bombed with improvised explosive devices.

Some are in Afghanistan right now in their second war. Some veterans left to go to college or get civilian jobs. Some veterans try to put the military in the past, but some will never forget.

A minority of civilians believe that military service members are uneducated, right-wing extremists from only certain parts of America, representing only certain socioeconomic classes. Not only is this not true, but there is evidence that its opposite might be true.

The military is the most integrated part of our increasingly class-divided American society.

While it is true that both the military and the civilian worlds have a class structure, in the military’s class structure, the upper classes (commissioned and non-commissioned officers) have a duty to take care of the lower classes (junior enlisted).

Selfishness is forbidden, and everyone wearing an American uniform is considered a brother or a sister. In the civilian world, from what I gather from The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, the upper classes increasingly believe they do not have a duty to take care of the lower classes, and selfishness is not only allowed but promoted.

America could learn a lot from its military.

Irrespective of the “B.Y.O.B.” lyrics — “Why do they always send the poor?” — military recruit demographics closely mirror U.S. population demographics for race and socioeconomic backgrounds, and the average military recruit is smarter than the average American according to standardized testing.

The military, like many organizations, attempts to maintain diversity by mirroring U.S. population demographics and seeks to enlist smarter and more capable recruits.

Although some military veterans identify themselves as conservatives, others identify themselves as moderates or liberals, including the prominent Democrats Al Gore, John Kerry, Jack Murtha, Charles Rangel, Chris Dodd, Tom Harkin, Jim Webb, Bob Kerrey (Medal of Honor recipient), Daniel Inouye (Medal of Honor recipient), the late Ted Kennedy, and others.

Also remember it was Scott Ritter, the Marine Corps veteran and U.N. weapons inspector, who bravely argued in 2002 and 2003 that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

Neither I, nor anyone else, is representative of all military service members and veterans.

We are a diverse group. The only thing that unites us all is the common bond of having undertaken service in the military, something that less than 10 percent of the U.S. population undertakes at any point in their lives.

Ben Arnold is a graduate student.