Raising the military age

Calasandra Spray (TheLorian)

Senior year of high school, unsure of the future, underage teenagers can sign up to be in the military. As young as 17, with parental consent, or 18, without parental consent, U.S. citizens can sign up to fight for our country. At such an age these same teenagers can’t gamble (in 35 states), drink, smoke, adopt a child (in 43 states), book a hotel room, or have a Concealed-Carry permit (varying by state).

The reason 18-year-old’s are not allowed to do these things is because they are not deemed responsible enough to handle the decisions and their consequences. In the case of alcohol, this limitation is in place because there has been heavy research suggesting the human brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, according to Mental Health Daily.

“Someone who is 18 may make riskier decisions than someone in their mid-20s in part due to lack of experience, but primarily due to an underdeveloped brain.”

In an effort to protect the mental welfare of our youth and provide for them a brighter future where they don’t have to atone for mistakes made before they developed full cognitive function, we have laws placed prohibiting things that could harm them. 

Following this line of logic, why should these same adolescents be given the choice to enter the military? Categorized as impulsive and irresponsible, they are trained to fight wars. During training alone, military personnel go through a ‘hell week’ where they have to undergo vigorous physical exercise on minimal food and sleep. Lack of nourishment as well as lack of sleep are unhealthy for anybody, but for those still developing it is even worse. Sleep is especially important as deprivation can reduce attention, cause delayed reactions, inhibit cognitive function and affect mood (Sleep Foundation). Lack of sleep can also contribute to worsening mental health. Yet after this training, they are instructed on how to handle weaponry.  

An unspoken trauma that happens during training, as well as in combat, is sexual harassment. While at any age this is not easy to deal with, sending adolescents into a situation where this is a prominent thing can be harmful to their development of mental health. An astounding 23 percent of women have reported being sexually assaulted in the military. 55 percent of women and 33 percent of men have reported sexual harassment while in the military (U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs).  All of this happening before those enrolled even enter combat. As only 6.4 percent of our armed forces are under the age of 21 anyway, raising the minimum age for enlistment wouldn’t harm our military forces (National Center for Education Statistics). Thus, the benefits of waiting for adolescent brains to fully develop before enlisting them far outweigh the disadvantages.

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