Today, while I was out shopping, I saw a young man about nineteen years old with a can of lager in his hand at 10 am in the morning. He stood outside the shop door with his mates, smoking and joking and killing time, because in his own words, ‘he didn’t have a job and had nothing better to do.’
I pondered his statement for a moment or two, trying to get my head around the reason why he was drinking alcohol so early in the day and although I know life is hard on our young people at the moment, I found myself shaking my head in despair. I understand all too well that we have reached a time where the word ‘austerity’ has now become common place and we are told that the unemployment figures are set to rise, giving little hope to those who are leaving school or college in the near future.
I continued to stare at this young man who looked bright enough, (although if he carries on drinking lager at this time of day he may not have any brain cells left to be deemed bright for much longer), but I did feel that we, as a nation, are growing soft and by that I mean we are trying to make life so easy for them in so many ways that they are unable to cope with real life. We all know about the ever growing handouts from the government and I understand how sometimes young people need a helping hand, but this helping hand is creating a generation of youngsters who feel the world owes them a living. I believe it is all turning into a vicious circle. They get used to living this kind of life, benefits, scratching a living, drinking or taking drugs and then before they know it, they are in an existence they will never be able to escape.
This of course got me thinking about when I left college. When I was eighteen, I couldn’t find employment. I hadn’t managed to find a job since leaving school and with no experience no one appeared to want to give me a chance. I had gone for so many interviews and my nerves always got the best of me. I was certainly not a layabout, but I had no one to guide me through what I should/shouldn’t say to help me appear more confident and gain employment and so I drifted (as lonely as a cloud) for quite some time.
I got low, depressed, thought my life was over before it had even begun and then one day I had a brainwave. My whole family’s history is peppered with the Military. My great grandad fought at the battle of Mons and subsequently died from shrapnel wounds in a British Military hospital somewhere. My Grandfather (Justice Lane – what a great name) served during World War II in the Lancashire Fusiliers and my dad joined the Welsh Guards. My mum was a Switchboard Operator in the Royal Signals and she would tell me about all the brilliant friends she made whilst serving at Kingston Upon Thames (where I learned she met my dad). Eventually with no money in my pocket or a real chance of a decent job, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and I joined the Army. I have to be honest here, it would not have been my first choice if things had been different, but I wanted my life to start, to finally have money in my pocket and to explore new and exciting places. Not being a very sporty person, I did what I never thought I would, I joined the W.R.A.C. (Women’s Royal Army Corps) and I have to say it was the best decision I ever made.
I now watch these young people with no purpose to their lives and I feel truly sorry for them. I think if they brought back National Service or some kind of apprenticeship where those without a job after six months of being unemployed could join the Forces (or risk losing their benefits – well, lets see how many would actually find employment when faced with that final alternative!). I really think this could work; after all they are taking money from the government so why not earn it from the government instead? Also if they didn’t keep their job for a year after being offered employment in the forces, then again, they would instantly qualify and stay in a chosen trade for a minimum of two years. I really believe this would be the making of most of these young men and women who have no outlook on life, or ambition. Too many have their heads up in the clouds wanting to be pop stars or some kind of celebrity when real life is anything but glamorous.
I remember watching a series of ‘Bad Lads’ on TV. This was a programme where young tearaways, perhaps dealing in drugs or suffering with violent tempers were taken by the Army and turned into soldiers. Week by week you could see how these boys changed for the better. Suddenly, they had pride not just in themselves but in something as small as their cap badge because they’d had to earn it through sheer hard work and determination. Their uniform was no longer seen as just clothing to wear, instead it became a part of who they were, a symbol of their achievements and worn with great PRIDE.
Okay, I’m not saying that a military life is easy; god knows it’s a tough job and these days with Afghanistan and everything else that is going on its a lot more dangerous than at one time. However, the military teaches you great skills such as how to stand on your own two feet, how to work towards making something of yourself through set goals and most of all how to work as part of a team. For all those young people out there, sitting watching TV day in, day out, drinking beer or taking drugs to escape life, I say to you all get up and do something about it or let the government turn your life around by forcing you to join the National Service for at least two years.
For all those youngsters who don’t know what to do with themselves, again this is where I think National Service would be beneficial. Lets face it we would have less people on the streets therefore we would have less crime, less asbos and more importantly a military stronghold that will show the rest of the world why our lads and lasses are renowned for being the best soldiers!
Yes, I know, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea but when your choice is a can of lager at 10 am in the morning, well, I know I would rather take my chances of having some kind of life than no life at all. You may think I speak these words lightly but I can assure you I don’t. Did you know I have six grown up sons? Four have served this country, both in Afghanistan and Iraq? They each have great jobs, good qualifications and are mentally grounded. I have watched them grow into fine men, men that I can be proud of and I know it’s partly because the military life has made them so strong.
I understand the debate on National Service has caused much outrage and frustration over the years, probably since it ended after the second world war. However, I can at least speak from my own experience of having served in the British Army and I am not only proud of our Armed Forces but I believe that our younger generation could benefit greatly from what it has to offer.
A lot of young people simply need guidance or someone who can show them their true potential.
Think I should apply to be a careers advisor – what do you think? Is this the way forward for our unemployed youngsters?
I’ll leave it with you to mull over.
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