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Service as Punishment?

Last year I was talking to the mother of a milspouse who told me that her daughter had turned her life around just by being married to the military. This mother said she had been worried about the direction of her daughter's life, but that she had really "grown up" and become a responsible young lady, and she credited her daughter's husband and military life for this welcome development. I found this to be a fascinating discussion. I've heard and read about people who joined the military to achieve some discipline in their lives and turn it around, but you rarely hear someone say it's been good for the spouse, though I suspect it has, many times over.

We've all heard stories from the older generation of judges sentencing criminals to service in the military rather than incarceration. Until a few days ago, I had no idea this practice was still going on. But apparently it is. At least in one courtroom:

A judge sentenced a former Faulkner University student to join the military and perform community service for a post he made on Facebook that led to a campus lockdown.

Zachary Lambert, 23, agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of harassing communications for a message that made reference to a deadly campus attack at Virginia Tech in 2007.

Lambert originally was charged with making a terrorist threat, a felony, and placed in jail on $500,000 bond.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Tracy McCooey handed down a suspended three-month sentence and two years of probation.

McCooey told Lambert that he must join the military as a condition of his probation.

"You are going into the military. That is not a choice," she said.

This story didn't sit well with me for several reasons. The first being that Lambert was accused of making a terrorist threat. My military family has been fighting for nine years thanks to a real terrorist attack. I doubt our spouses want to serve alongside someone who thinks it's a hoot to terrorize people.

The Army says Lambert will have to meet the same requirements all recruits meet. But even so, and I'm no attorney, but doesn't this sentence amount to taking the "volunteer" out of the "all volunteer force?"

One of the intrepid commenters on our Facebook page had this to say:

I personally can't stand it when serving the country, serving in the military is used as a punishment, because it's degrading to the military.

How did the District Attorney's office view this sentence?

Deputy District Attorney Scott Green said McCooey's terms were appropriately strict. "This is a serious set of events, and it needs to be taken seriously," Green said.

Since when did military service become punishment rather than an honorable line of work? I understand that many defendants are sentenced to community service, the definition of which can vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And yes, the military is a service organization, but it's also a profession. People build skills and careers and bring home paychecks.But most importantly, people "choose" to join the military.

Well, most of them, anyway....

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