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December 3rd, 2009
10:28 AM ET

A Soldier's Story: Off to the Army

Editor's Note: Today we're beginning a new American Morning original series that will track three military recruits from their final days as civilians through deployment. Our Jason Carroll has been given unprecedented access by the Pentagon as the president outlines a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In the first piece, it's off to the Army for a high school football star who traded the gridiron to be all he can be.

By Jason Carroll

Will McLain is 18-years-old and a week away from taking the oath to enlist in the United States Army. We gave him a video camera to show us how he was passing the time; there were lots of parties.

“It’s always funny because even when I'm partying with my friends or something like that they always got to throw those Army jokes in. … They think I'm doing a good thing. They figure it’s better than just rotting away in Rosamond."

Rosamond, California is Will's hometown. It’s in the western Mojave Desert; a large stretch of land with a small population of about 14,000. A place Will McLain can't wait to leave.

“I'm kind of glad to be getting out of this little town because it gets old, but there's a lot of things you will miss, you know.”

It’s a place where dirt bike riding is surpassed only by motorcycle racing in popularity. We met up with Will the day before he was set to leave Rosamond. A day his 12-year-old brother didn't want to leave his side.

“I think it hits them more that I'm leaving. This last week, I think it's truly hit them,” says McLain.

Like a lot of high school football players, McLain had dreams of pursuing a career in the pros.

“All I could think about was I’m gonna go pro, no matter what. And then I guess junior year I realized there were a lot bigger fish in the sea.”

McLain says early this year he began to really think about advice from his uncle. “My uncle would always yell at me 'you need a backup plan.’ And that’s why I figured the military would be the best bet.”

Will had grown up with guns and always liked the idea of joining the military. So he tried to convince his parents to allow him to enlist before his 18th birthday in May.

“They made me wait until I was 18 so the blame was fully on me, because the way my mom worded it was she didn’t want to be responsible for sending me to Afghanistan.”

And now with time running out at home the reality is sinking in.

“I'd day about a week ago it truly hit me. That's when I forgot how to sleep and stuff. I just pretty much lay there and think, 'Oh man, I'm leaving in a week. I'm leaving in three days. I'm leaving in a day.’”

For McLain's parents – Bill, a construction worker, and his wife Lori – Will's future is now taking shape.

“We'll worry that he won't come home in one piece. … We've got hearts and prayers and everything. That's all you can ask for. He might be 5000 miles away but he knows people care about him,” Will’s father says.

Filed under: A Soldier's Story • Military
soundoff (84 Responses)
  1. Private McClains Army Recruiter

    To all you Marines out there who hate on the Army " Get a life" this young man is going to be a combat engineer one of the most important jobs in the United States Army. For you haters that think that there are no intelligent people in the Army I'm currently finishing up on a BA in Criminal Justice so if you think the Army is as easy as you think it is come talk to me you might be suprised. It is not all about war or combat.Finally to Private MClain, good luck I'm proud of you keep up the good work.

    December 30, 2009 at 10:26 pm |
  2. joe s

    Just for reference, the coast guard and navy are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don't base your decsion on whether or not to join on the chance you won't have to fight. Serve because you know its the right thing to do, not for a job. I have been in over eight years now and I have seen first hand how soliders who do not want to be here serving are destroying the military from the inside out. Serve if you are able, mentally and physically, not because you need a job or money for school.

    December 10, 2009 at 3:44 am |
  3. brandon

    you can join at 17 but cannot go to war until you are 18. We had a guy in our unit that was 4 months late to iraq for that reason.

    December 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  4. Rosamondite

    I am from Rosamond, and Will is right, there is really nothing to do or worth staying for. Unless you want to contract for the Air Force Base the only jobs there are construction. Otherwise you have to drive over an hour to get to L.A. and get a real job. Congrats Will for realizing that town is nothing but a place to rot away in until you die.

    December 9, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  5. 68Q

    Hooah !

    Will, I'm proud that you've decided to make something of yourself. By watching your story on CNN, I can see that, like myself, you are quite overweight when you joined. I haven't taken the oath yet because I am like 1.5 belly fat inches away from going to MEPS but I hope your experience at BCT is going well. Hope you are enjoying all those late-night smokings and pushups. You should write a book on the experience for the recruits who are scared as hell of getting screamed at. I know I'm scared as hell; but it won't be too bad.

    Good Luck and remain strong.

    68Q (pharmacy specialist)

    December 8, 2009 at 6:38 pm |
  6. Jim

    Agree with Seth, and well stated L. Lawson. He'll come out of Benning a different man (in a positive way, of course). Been there. I thank your son, all those on this forum that have served, and the rest of our forces for their dedication to this great country.

    Although I believe many do, too many younger citizens out there don't understand (nor take the time to try) how or why we are able to enjoy the freedoms we do. They don't take a moment and truly try to put themselves in someone else's shoes either. In this case, a soldier's...or a soldier’s family. Although there will be many tough times for both soldiers and their families during their deployment, those 'good-bye' waves are about the worst for both sides. While you’re enjoying the Holidays with your loved ones, be sure and give thought to our brave men and women 5000 miles away…to the kids at home that could care less about the toys under the tree…and just want their Mom, Dad or Sibling back.

    The stakes are high – and I applaud anyone joining the forces... especially during a time when your chances for deployment are so high. Speaks volumes about your character, love for your country and your desire to better yourself.

    Best of luck to all of you new and upcoming recruits!

    Drive on –

    December 8, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  7. AF Blue

    You don't have to be 18 to enlist. I enlisted at 17 with a parental signature and was 17 my entire first year in the military. Best decision I ever made.

    December 8, 2009 at 12:44 pm |
  8. L. Lawson

    First to address D. SID – I don't know anyone who joined the military to be service driven. The majority of the men and women who join actually do so FOR the career it will give them and the money, security that comes along with it. And this young many may not be a hero in your eyes, but he is a hero in his parents eyes and millions of others (like me) who are watching him go through the first few hours that will make him a man worthy to be called soldier.
    Next to address Cliff – what makes this guy so special? He is willing to put his life on the line for you and the other 99% of the world who AREN'T signing up to fight for our country!

    My son decided to join the Army and got on the bus October 22nd. He is doing basic in Fort Benning, GA right now, graduation plans for January 14th. He will be home for Christmas (2 week stay) and the day after he graduates, he will be shipped to Missouri for school. His MOS is 88M. Currently, it's ranked as one of the highest mortality rates in the military.
    Do you think my son was thinking about war when he signed on? No, he was young, living on his own, has a young wife (no children) and was going down a road he didn't like. When the Army idea came up, I was all for it, as was the rest of the family. We knew something major had to change in his life, a new direction if you will, and only after he waved goodbye did it sink in.
    Here I am 6 weeks later running to the mailbox every day, staying home in the evenings and all weekend hoping for a call, crying when I read about how sick he is and put in the infirmary for 3 days or how he is going crazy knowing he is going to die. He has been happy and he has been sad. His emotions are like a roller coaster, but he will see this through.
    So to all of you on here who have children serving or getting ready to serve, I know what you are going through and I feel for you and will pray for you. If you are on facebook, join an Army for Moms group. They are great. You can also go to and get basic training for mom answers. It's a great site.
    For all of the negative and judgemental comments on here, I'd say you need to have a bit more respect for the freedom you are given to run your mouth and voice your ugly opinions online like this.
    I am very proud of my son and I am scared to death for him. However, his day was chosen before he was even born. What fear then should I have? None. So THANK YOU SOLDIERS!!!

    December 4, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  9. Seth

    Let me applauded you CNN, of your notable story for the time, joining the military is a brilliant suggestion for a indecisive young person. I look forward in seeing this young man transformation from civilian to the military ethos. Give me goose-bump to know how fast young people change in that short period on time of Basic Training. Retire after 24 year Army and would do it all again. Good luck and best wishes "AIRBORNE!"

    December 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm |
  10. JW

    To Chelsea:
    "And in very few cases we can pull the whole Private card " – I couldn't help but laugh at that statement. The private card?

    Look – you have taken an oath to "serve the people of the United States." Think about that. Soldiering doesn't make you better or worse than anyone else – it makes you different.

    And good luck getting to know your Drill Sergeants. I wouldn't call them "drills" if I was you. They're not your buddies. You'll see.

    Drive on!

    December 4, 2009 at 12:03 pm |
  11. Katie

    I'm currently 17 and thinking about joining the Coast Guard once i turn 18 in May. My dad a cop is all for it. My mom is afraid that i would go to iraq or something. But i dont think being in the coast guard will deploy me there, i think i would stay in the U.S. and protect the borders here. But i commend Will for joining. From what i know, basic is scary. It will literally be 12 weeks of living hell. Getting up at the crack of dawn and not going to sleep at night til like 9 or 10. I'm a little apprehensive of joining, and i'm scared. But i know i'll have fun and come out a better person.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  12. kenanderson

    as a vietnam vet my advice is pay close attention to your basic training.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  13. Sheila

    My son is career Navy – just completing 10 years and signed for more last week. I know what his mom is going through. My son has changed so much and proud doesn't even begin to describe my feelings. Will, you are at the beginning of a whole new experience. Stay strong and stay safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  14. Barb

    Wonder if people read the responses before they answer the same question over and over (enlistment at 18).

    Will, good luck and thank you. Wishing you and your family all the best and a happy reunion in the future.

    December 4, 2009 at 11:07 am |
  15. PMR

    Good luck, Will! Our lives wouldn't be what they are today in America if it weren't for young men like you. Be safe!!! Write to your mother when you can- she'll need it.....

    December 4, 2009 at 11:04 am |
  16. C

    There are young men AND women making these sacrifices MS!

    December 4, 2009 at 10:45 am |
  17. Doug Cook

    Young Men Going to Basic Training
    This is a great story. I am looking forward to following the rest of your reporting. Keep up the good work.

    December 4, 2009 at 8:40 am |
  18. ronvan

    It will be interesting to watch this young man "experience" the military life, rigor of training, and discipline. It can be a life changing experience, that for some, become their way of life, but not all can adapt to a very hard and demanding profession. I wish him the very best in his endeavor to become a "soldier"!

    December 4, 2009 at 7:44 am |
  19. Brandi

    I am appaled that CNN would post a story like this. A propoganda story that encourages young BOYS to join the army and destroy their lives. If our Army could take care of our sons, fathers, daughters, mothers, sisters then it wouldnt be so bad but they cant.. And as for our President well.....

    December 3, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  20. Oscar Bennett

    @AFspouse...and that's why you only know about the Air Force. Marine Corps: everyone shoots, everyone trains to be a rifleman. Why else would you join the military?

    December 3, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  21. martin l. harris

    Good Luck young man. My son is serving his fourth tour in Iraq.
    Please visit my web site in honor of all our troops. Its dedicated to all the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Please support this project. Sincerely Martin L. Harris please use address bar for quick response.

    December 3, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  22. Lauren and Vivian

    Will is one of our good friends. We are proud of him for what he is doing for us and our country. And to a guy who commented, this story is going to go on through out his entire army career. Not just the recruiting process. So get your facts straight. We miss him, but we know that what he is doing is important. we both come from military families, we understand how hard it is to be the people at home. But our soldiers have the REAL job. Anyways love you bunches Will :] and we support you 100%.

    December 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  23. Greg

    My son will graduate in one week from OCS at Fort Benning. He started Basic at Ft sill July 7th. His motivation was not to "have options", but rather what he told me right before he left. He said "I'm doing this (joining the army) because I don't want to sit back and have others fight for me. I want to defend my country!" He will be deployed to the middle East in 2010.
    I couldn't be more proud!

    December 3, 2009 at 7:35 pm |
  24. nothinsbettathanascoppetta

    i know this young man personally. His dedication and drive is outstanding and i am glad he will be defending my country. I wish you the best of luck will!!!. Good luck in basic as a "superstar"!!

    December 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  25. william

    if you want a "soldier's story", you have to go out there and find an actual soldier. with all do respect to this kid, not everyone in the armed services will see combat; in fact the majority of people that enlist choose not to serve in the infantry field. there's a good possibility that he chose a non combat related MOS such as admin or engineering, and instead of going out to the front lines and fighting and risking his life, he'll be sitting in an air conditioned office filling out paper work while men like me step outside the wire to do what we've been trained to do. you are giving this man credit for the wrong reasons. he's probably still in basic training right now, and has a lot of time left before he will ever get deployed, if he even does.

    i'm an 0311 rifleman in the United States Marine corps, the heart and soul of what it means to serve. i joined last year when i was 19, fully aware of what i was getting myself into. my unit is getting deployed to afghanistan sometime in the feb-march time frame. there are men that are currently in afghanistan right now fighting and dieing as the rest of you live your lives. why is there not a documentary for us? why does nobody bother to hear our story? of what we experienced in boot camp or the school of infantry? the brotherhood we share on a daily basis? of how we feel, knowing well where we're headed? of genuinely knowing that our lives are on the line?

    the true "soldier" is not a soldier or even a Marine. he is a grunt. an infantryman. he is the one that genuinely fights and risks his life. he is the one who never really knows whether or not he'll come home. the one who could be saying good bye to his mother and father for the last time. not a recruit, not someone who wants to join, but someone who is already here, and must face the inevitable. i respect all members of the armed services, but it us, the grunts, that bear the unforgiving weight of war.

    December 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  26. from Private to Officer

    What's really great about McLain's story, is not just that he's entering military service, but that he's FRESH out of high school. So many young americans are busy thinking about drugs/money/fashion that they forget about the sacrifices our grandfathers and great grandfathers have made to allow us to have the lifestyles we have now. All Americans have a responsibility to support and contribute to our country, to the American people. (military service is just one of many ways).

    my dad believed in hard love, and I basically was given the boot at age 18. thank goodness I was exposed to military service throughout high school and made the right decision (for me) to enlist active duty.

    I needed to get away from 'home' and find out who I was and see first hand what life is like in other countries. after several years of being an enlisted soldier I attended/graduated from the Univ of California and was commissioned as an officer. Currently I'm in law school and will resume active duty thereafter.

    All these things are unlikely to have happened, had I not entered the military and gotten away from home.

    McLain has started a journey with unlimited opportunity and I wish him (and other young recruits) well.

    December 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  27. M

    That was probably the dumbest thing this child, and he is a child. Remember, he is not even old enough to drink or even rent a car. What about getting a college education. And I know what people are going to say, maybe he can't afford it, well there are always ways, Junior College. Then after a few years you can get out of that town. Hope he doesn't come back in a body bag.

    December 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  28. James

    You can be 17 with your parent’s permission.
    They should do a piece on someone who grew up in San Diego or Orange County it will open more people’s eyes then out in the middle of nowhere.

    December 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  29. bill

    He'll be 19 after basic training and MOS training. He'll be alright

    December 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  30. Kathy

    D. Finch please email me, as our son just finished MP training at Ft Leonardwood and deployed yesterday for Iraq. My email is Thanks

    December 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  31. Brandon

    I am writing from Baghdad. Way to go Will, glad to have you. Request to attend basic training at FT. Benning, you will not regret it.

    December 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  32. Mel

    my boyfriend is Air Force reserves h's been deployed twice an I have a lot of military friends ... joining at young age allows the individual to learn about themself and grow besides the awesome benefits the military has it teaches discpline and mind control. I honestly think joining the military is a great thing for any one to do. Good Luck Will you'll do fine and make your family proud.

    December 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  33. CMoreno

    OC, good point. It should be called "A Recruit’s Story"...or how about, "Last Call as a Teenager".

    S Wally, good point as well, Officers don't know. Apparently it’s an epidemic within the rank.

    Jason Carroll, too bad you didn’t list his MOS. That'll say a lot about this young man and his future.


    December 3, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  34. ian

    He's not a soldier yet.

    December 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  35. Chelsea

    As a future soldier (shipping out Jan 12th to Fort Leonard Wood) this story hits home. My friends and family are all kind of confused as to what comes with this commitment, and I will be working these next 4 weeks getting them prepared as much as myself. (Just a couple side notes: We are referred to as future soldiers or recruits. And in very few cases we can pull the whole Private card =P Also, Basic Combat Training lasts 10 weeks, 1 week of reception 9 weeks of actual training, NOT 13 weeks as the man at the news desk said. Marines go for 13 weeks, Army is 10 weeks)

    December 3, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  36. Patti

    Just want to say, you are a good person Will. I wish more people in our country saw that the young men and woman who decide to serve the military are who we need to thank for what freedom most people take for granted everyday. My husband retired as a CSM from the Army. A great life, many adventures, ups and downs, but would not trade it for the world. Our son also joined. At times, yes you have many worries as a parent but always be proud of his achievments. There is a lot of pride you carry with being a soldier as he will gain. It makes you a better person and you do a lot of growing up and become very independant. Good Luck to your new future and stay safe!

    December 3, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  37. Donna

    From one Army Mom to another.. You will never feel such pride or such worry... God bless him and your family!

    December 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  38. TEL

    I commend Will's decision to join the military. It is a profession that is seldom recognized by many without ties to the military. Thank you Will for vounteering to serve our counrty. Your eargerness to join before turning 18, illustrates a young man with goals to achieve. Godspeed!

    December 3, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  39. CH

    You can enlist with your parents permission before 18. Signing up for any branch of the military while we are war speaks volume of McLain's character and courage. Good luck and God speed.

    December 3, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  40. T

    S Wallace it's called delayed enlistment. Sign up before you are 18 and ship out once you graduate!

    December 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  41. sg

    S Wallace: My son enlisted at 17. His dad & I both had to sign something. I'm very proud of my son and all the other who make the committment to join the military.

    December 3, 2009 at 2:12 pm |
  42. MS

    My 18-year-old son is currently doing his basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood. We have been through a lot of highs and lows in the 6 weeks he has been gone, so it will interesting to see how Will does and if he experiences the same things my son has gone through. Kudos to CNN for giving everyone an idea of what sacrifices these young men our making to protect our freedom!

    December 3, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  43. To Wallace

    Parents can sign as the legal guardian authorizing their children to serve in the military. This is required for split option Soldiers who ship and usually complete Basic Combat Training between their junior and senior year of High School. These individuals will then go to AIT the following summer after graduation.

    BLUF – Individuals can enlist and serve at 17 with a consent waiver from the legal guardians.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  44. Kristin Ellis

    HOOAH!!! I'm a very proud Army Wife and a very proud Army Sister, and I know that it takes a lot for these young men to step away from everything they have ever known. They leave behind family, friends, and sometimes girlfriends and step into a world that isn't always pretty to go off and make new friends and find new girlfriends and become part of a much bigger family. So, welcome to our family!!

    December 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  45. SPC

    I joined in 2005 when I was only 17. Yes your parent's have to sign off on it for you to join at 17, but it's still possible. It's called a split option. You do your basic training the summer before your senior year and then after you graduate you do your MOS (or job specific) training.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  46. John M.

    If he gave up on football that easily..hopefully he will be more committed as a soldier. Good luck.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  47. Dave Mosher

    Thank God for the young men and women who join are armed forces. Gods Speed

    December 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  48. peter

    @ S Wallace. Yes there is a waiver that can be done to enlist at 17. I was going to go at that age but delayed it until i was 18 so that i would have more time with family and friends.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  49. shan

    parents can sign a waiver and allow 17 yr olds to enlists. i did, and my mother signed. god bless the young kids taking this most precious oath and standing up to protect us all!!!

    December 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  50. stanchman

    Given this being his only choice to better his life, good luck to him. It probably wouldn't be a bad thing for everyone to spend a couple years serving their country in the military. But that is where reality kicks in and the economically privileged get a pass or find a way not to. This is a responsibility everyone needs to share and only then will folks understand the pain of conflict and think twice about jumping into situations which are unwinable.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  51. Don Bracken

    You can enlist into the military at 17, with parental consent, you just do not go active until you become 18 or graduate. I enlisted at 17 but did not go to basic until graduating high school. I served 8 years and am proud of all of those who serve for any amount of time. God Speed to Will and we all wish him the best.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  52. Brad Lipe

    Our son Robert enlisted in the Army in June of this year when he was 17. My wife had to sign off on it since he wasn't yet 18. I did the same back in 1984 when i was 17. We live in a small town in SC and i've told Robert for the last few years to buckle down in school. If he didn't qualify for a college scholarship, than the military would be a wise move for him.
    He left for basic training back in July at Ft. Jackson, SC and he's currently in AIT at Ft. Gordon, GA. My wife is a wreck at the possibility of him going to afghanistan, but he seems unfazed. I tell him whenever i speak to him how proud I am of him. I am proud to be a vet and beam whenever i hear of a young adult speak of enlisting. My prayers are with all of our troops whereever they may be.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  53. D Gallagher

    S Wallace....

    Yes you can enlist at 17 with consent of parents.

    Stay frosty.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  54. Morgen Rose

    This young man is something to be proud of. My sister is on her way to Iraq...this will be her second time. She is leaving behind her husband(who did multiple tours of duty) and a young daughter. And of course the rest of those that love her dearly. He is our nation, our future...our pride...thank you, thanks to all of our Military...that make a continued sacrifice...and I for one and proud of them day in and day out.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  55. SPC S.

    I find it curious that the parent's initial thought was Afganastan or Iraq. It was the same way with my parents when i joined on my 18th birthday. Yes, it is true that many soldiers deploy to these two major warzones however, i have been enlisted for 3 years and am currently on my 1st deployment – not to iraq or afganastan. there are literally thousands of alternatives depending on rank, MOS (job speciality), and the needs of the army. I commend him for making his decision whether or not it was his "back up plan" or not. Whether he serves 3 years, 6 years, or 20+ the befnefits that one gains from serving in the military far surpass anything else you can find. The personal growth he will achieve and implement in his civilian life because of the army will outweigh the negative efects. My advice to any service member's family and friends is to ignore the news stories, support unconditionally, and keep in contact. Soon he will be a soldier, and when that day comes you will never be more proud.

    ~ Military Police, of the troops for the troops~

    December 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  56. NM

    S Wallace-there is a waiver that allows 17 year olds to join with parental permission. I know a 17 year old that in currently in basic training.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  57. D Finch

    My son left for Fort Leonard Wood on November 15, 2009. I'm very proud of him, but also very scared for him and our family. He tried to get into our local Police Academy and was denied the first time. 5 days after he joined the army, he was accepted into the police academy. He is now in basic training for the military police. These young boys need support at all times from friends and family.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  58. Melinda

    There is a waiver, I joined the navy when I was 17, went to boot camp and left while I was 17, my parents signed a waiver allowing me to join, I am now 22 and still in the navy. I think it's a great story, and his parents definitely have something to be proud of and so does he.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  59. J

    I served in the US Navy. I am a veteran. However, I would not allow my child to join today's military to go off and fight for a country that does not want us there. I am old enough to remember Viet Nam. Unfortunately it is obvious our President isn't. I wish the young man good luck. Yes it is an honorable thing to do, serve one's country, but not for foolish reasons and at the expense of tax payers money. Money that would be better spent at home creating jobs and providing medical coverage for all.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  60. patrick

    Typical officer, doesn't know anything about the service. Yes, you can enlist at 17 with a waiver.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  61. Wallace E

    S Wallace to answer your question i cam in at 17 years old in 1991 with parental permission and as a recruiter i enlisted many 17 year olds with parental permisson....Good Luck kid you will have good times and bad times but remember honor above all.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  62. AFspouse

    I commend this young man for his decision to serve his country. But one thing about the writing of this article irks me. Why did they have to state: "Will had grown up with guns and always liked the idea of joining the military"? As if the only thing to do in the military, the only task, is to carry and shoot firearms. There are so many occupations within the military as a whole, and the Army in particular. I'm a little sick of the idea that shooting is the only thing our troops do.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  63. D Sid

    I'm glad to see he'll be serving his country soon, but I don't see the characterization of "hero" here. The military should be an option to those wishing to serve their country out of true desire, not a "backup plan". A temporary job, or trade school, is a backup plan. Let's get it straight. I have the utmost respect for EVERYONE in out military but let's be honest and admit that a lot of them are there because they don't have real career prospects, not because they're service-driven heroes.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  64. jai

    yes you can join at the age of 17 with your parents consent. it is used by people doing the split opt program ,where you can go to basic the summer before your senior year in high school, mainly for the Reserves.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm |
  65. SumDuud

    At 17 you can committ to serve and yes you do have to have a parent/guardian sign.

    Is this a recruitment series? I find it interesting they are doing something like this.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  66. Cliff

    Just because you were an officer doesnt translate to; you should know. Yes you can join at the age of 17. What makes this guy so special. The Army receives countless individuals in the same category every day. He is not the exception nor should he get the attention.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:22 pm |
  67. JW

    to S Wallace:

    With parental permission/consent, one can join the Army at 17 and attend basic training (normally during the summer between junior and senior year at high school) – after high school graduation, the individual would attend AIT and become MOSQ'd. Further, they can elect to join the AD, NG, or AR component; they're not limited to any specific component.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  68. Dave Ambler

    Each person who enlists has a different reason, some very similar. Many feel the same as Will; growing up in a small town and wanting out. That was my rationale for enlisting. As a Navy veteran, I can say it was one of the best decisions I have made to date.

    All I can say to Will and others who read this is the military will give you back what you put into it. Be proud of what you're doing!

    Fair winds and following seas!

    December 3, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  69. J Arnolds

    The best decision I ever made was joining the Marine Corps. You'll find out what you are made of and know you are making a difference. It's not always easy, but at the end of the day it feels good. Good luck.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  70. Chris

    A 17 year old can enlist with signed parental permission. After a parent gives consent, a 17 y/o can go to basic training and advanced individual training but cannot deploy to a combat zone until turning 18. On rare occassions, a Soldier will join on their 17th birday, complete all of his/her initial training, join and train with a unit, and then have to wait to turn 18 to join their unit in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  71. Jimmy

    Jason Carroll won't win any writing awards for this one. Its a new technique though. Give an 18 year old a camcorder and record party after party. Well even the Army's boot camp is no party. Lets have Jason Carroll document his life after boot camp as a follow up. I do hope that Mr Mclain will remove that earring before he reports to boot camp.
    Good luck to you Mr Mclain! See you in Iraq/'Stan one day.
    A Marine

    December 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm |
  72. Kristi

    For the man who said you can't enlist at 17, well I did one month after my 17th birtthday ,my dad gave permission for me to join the Army National guard! I now serve in the Air Force all these years later!

    December 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  73. Robert D.

    My 19 year old son is currently in boot camp at Ft. Sill in Oklahoma, he will be home for Christmas leave on Dec 18th and then back to finish boot camp in Feb. With the current decision to increase the troops in Afghanistan by 30,000 there is a good chance that Will McLain and my son will be going to War. I pray for all of the soldiers, new and tenured that they come home safe. I am very proud of all that serve our great country.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  74. E. Nelson

    Good luck to this young man and to all our brave young men and women who join the military! I have a daughter who got her basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood. I was fortunate to go to the graduation and was never so proud of her in my life! Almost 10 years later, she still serves our country!

    December 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  75. Sara

    Wishing you the best, Will.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  76. R. Patton

    You can enlist in the military with a parent or guardian permission. I enlisted at 17 & spent 10 years in Special Forces. Good luck Will in your military commitment.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  77. Jen H

    Yes, you can enlist at 17 with parental permission.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  78. Darla Weathers

    Thank God for brave young men and women like Will McLain that is willing to give up all he knows to fight for the our country. I wish him well.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  79. Helene Adams

    I have a son Will that just left 3 weeks ago for the army. He is in Fort Jackson, SC. I would like to wish Will good luck but tell his mom good luck too. It is not the easiest thing you will go through but you will make it . You start living for graduation.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm |

    Hello Will,

    I am very proud of takes a lot of sole searching to make the decision you own son Nick (who is 23 yrs old), has been doing a lot of soul searching himself lately & whatever he decides to do has to be right for him and whatever that is I'll be there in a supportive role...I Love My Son...and Will your doing whats right for you....and you should be very proud. 'Will" you & your fellow soldiers will continue to be in my prayers. Thank You for being just you Will.

    Ingrid, Omaha, NE

    December 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  81. d

    Good luck, thank you and Kudos for your decision.

    December 3, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  82. Joe Thomas

    Your son has taken up the most noblest profession that exists today. Less than 1 percent of the entire population of the United States protects the freedom that we know. Be proud of him and support him at all times.

    December 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  83. S Wallace

    It's interesting how this young man described how his parents "made him wait" until he was 18 before enlisting. It's my understanding that you have to be 18 to enlist anyway, so isn't it a moot point? I served as an officer in the Army, so I ought to know, but maybe there is a waiver for 17 year-olds who have parental permission... just curious. Anyway, I commend him on his courageous decision, and I thank him for his service and his family for their support. Go get 'em!

    December 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm |
  84. OC

    This article should be re-named "A Recruit's Story: Off to the Army" Young men aren't soldiers until they've been made into one.

    December 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm |