One month after the Sept. 11 attacks, I stepped into my local U.S. Army recruiting station and enlisted.
I was a 19-year-old from suburban Chicago who wanted to serve his country, but I also wanted to learn as much as I could about military training and benefits. Before signing on the dotted line, I wanted answers to a few questions that I had written in a notepad I brought with me.
The first thing on my mind was preparing for the physical challenges of boot camp; the last thing on my mind was retirement. I did, however, have a question written down relating to retirement. “How long does a soldier need to serve to earn a pension, staff sergeant?” I asked. “Twenty years, kid,” he replied.
Retirement benefits have historically been utilized for the dual purpose of incentivizing longterm service commitments from troops and providing financial security in the next chapter of life, postmilitary service. While certain categories of service members may retire early for medical reasons, the vast majority of military retirement benefits have traditionally been awarded to those who serve for the long haul and give 20 years or more.
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