Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Military re-enlistments increase as jobs become scarce

TAMPA — Joshua Lovett had just talked to Publix about ending his long unemployment drought. The former Marine loaded back into the beat-up Suburban a cousin gave him and headed home.

As he drove his eyes caught the words “U.S. Army" on a strip mall. He pulled over.

Since leaving the Marines, he had seen the construction industry go bust, helplessly watched his Jeep Wrangler break down, begged his father for meal money.

There was no hesitation. He walked into the recruiting station and re-enlisted.

"Think about it," said Lovett, who shipped out Monday. "You're going to have a job, medical, dental, a paycheck, a free place to live. ... They even give you food to eat. It's the perfect job."

More and more young military veterans are realizing the same thing. Unable to find civilian jobs during the recession, they are returning to recruiting stations knowing where there's war there's work. Caught between unemployment or deployment, veterans are weighing both possibilities and choosing the latter.

"We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society," David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness said at a news conference last fall. Last year, the Pentagon reported its strongest recruiting year in four years despite America being embroiled in two conflicts overseas.

Military members, between the ages of 18 and 42, know when they are discharged that they can always go back to Uncle Sam if they need a job.

"In my back pocket, if I ever need to use it, I can come back into the military service again," said Army Sgt. Robert Jones, a Tampa recruiter.

The Navy and Air Force reported that early-and mid-career sailors and airmen re-enlisted at a higher rate in October than during the same month in 2007. The Army has steadily surpassed its retention goals since at least 2001, and the rate of retention has been climbing since 2006, Wayne Hall, Army spokesman said. Last fiscal year, the Army retained 73,913 soldiers after setting a goal to retain 65,000.

The Army, the largest branch of the armed services, has become the landing place for many re-enlistees because it has more jobs and career fields than the other branches.

Re-enlistees, fortunate to have escaped injury or deployment once, know that they might be asked to risk their life in return for the steady paycheck. But some fear the economy more than the war, which is no longer an unknown quantity as it was earlier this decade.

"The war's like a household name right now," Sgt. Jones said, noting that violence in Iraq is down.

"I actually volunteered to go to Iraq," said Lovett, who felt left out as a Marine when he was attached to a maintenance division that wasn't deployed.

Asked whether he was worried he might come back wounded in battle, he said, "For me, I really wouldn't care as long as I was doing my job."

A self-described country boy who was never interested in college, Lovett left the Marines after his four-year commitment because he felt he was too far away from home, stationed in Barstow, Calif.

He began working in construction when he was discharged and then moved to logging when work became scarce. He lived with his father, a state forestry worker, on state land. When his father was promoted to another post, Lovett had to move out.

He rented a home in Bushnell until he couldn't make rent. He walked 3 miles every day to area businesses begging for work and once desperately begged his father for meal money after eating his last Hot Pocket in his freezer.

His father gave him cash to help him survive, but eventually Lovett moved in with his mother in Tampa, which landed him near the Army station.

He'll be earning $1,584 a month in the Army, where he wants to be a Blackhawk helicopter mechanic. It's less than the $2,000 a month he earned during the boom times in construction, but those times are gone. He chose the Army over returning to the Marines because of the career options the service branch provides.

As he sat in the recruiting office on a recent day, reviewing paperwork for his four-year re-enlistment, another man came in the glass doors.

Accompanied by his girlfriend, and their 3-month-old son, Greg Plaisted, 33, said he missed the camaraderie and stability of the military.

He left the Marines in 2005 and has been working in private security since, going from job to job.

Overhearing him, Lovett yelled out, "Semper Fi."

Both Marines had found their bunker.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

Military re-enlistments increase as jobs become scarce 01/09/09 [Last modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 9:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.