As Veterans Day approaches, we will begin to pay tribute to those who have nobly served our country. We will recall the bravery of the men and women who answered the call to arms in previous generations and those who have recently departed from service. Included in those numbers, are a surprising number of millennial veterans.
Born between 1985 and 2000, the millennial generation is now the largest segment of the American population. They also encompass the greatest number of those currently serving in our Armed Forces.
The millennial generation, who came into adulthood amidst iPhones, Harry Potter and social media, is often stereotyped as lazy, narcissistic and entitled.
But as a mother of 2 millennials, I beg to differ with these stereotypes. Here’s what this newest generation of service members has to offer the Armed Forces.
4 Surprising Things About Millennials in the Military
They Know the Importance of Service
Millennials are driven to do meaningful work and are unlikely to pursue a career they don’t feel drawn to. They are unlikely to pursue careers just because of salary or position. They want to go home at the end of the day knowing the work they’ve done meant something.
When the United States suffered the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, millennials answered the call to service in massive numbers. According to the 2014 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census, in 2014 there were 1.7 million veterans under age 35.
Six out of the 11 service members awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Afghanistan were millennials.
And with current millennial service member ranks totaling 2.5 million, the number of veterans from that generation will only continue to grow. If we let their service track record speak for them, dedicated should be added to the list of generational attributes.
They Thrive in Team Environments
Ask any service member to list key attributes of unit success and teamwork will be at the top of that list. Perhaps greater than any generation before them, millennials understand the importance of teamwork. Most tend to consider their co-workers as a second family. They look to each other, those in charge, and subordinate to them for ideas to solve complex problems.
Within this team environment, millennials are eager to lead if given the chance, but don’t assume they always know best. In fact, the majority of millennials understand the importance of drawing from the experience of leadership and place a high level of importance on mentorship.
That being said, the “it’s the way we’ve always done it” argument is often met with resistance. Millennials want to know that the way things are being done is the best and most efficient way to do it, even if that means changing a steadfast process.
They are “the Most” Generation
Modern military service has long touted the benefit of education and encouraged service members to pursue various degrees.
The millennial generation is the most educated generation in American history. In 2013, nearly half of those aged 25-35 possessed a bachelor’s degree and nearly 20% have a master’s degree or higher.
Hand in hand with their drive for education, this generation also faces the greatest amount of student debt. This is a factor that leads many to examine military service as an option for providing both a meaningful and a stable work environment.
Millennials are also the most ethnically and racially diverse generation of the modern era. They are also the most open to social change and are unlikely to see gender or sexual orientation as a barrier or hindrance to service.
They Love Technology
Modern warfare is dramatically different from the open trenches and massive land invasions of the two World Wars. From logistics to weaponry, administration to communication, technology is the driving force in our military’s superiority.
Millennials were practically born with a mouse in their hands – their ability to adapt and accept new technology is the foundation of how they interact with the world.
By 2020, one in 3 American adults will be a part of the millennial generation. Their influence is growing and will continue to have an influence on our society. Their impact on everything from the economy and industry to the structure of the American family and American dream will be prevalent for the next 60 years.
And from where I’m sitting, they’ve more than proven they are ready to take on that responsibility. We just have to be willing to let them do things their way, even if means trying something new.