Preface: I served 6 years in the Unites States Air Force; Honorably discharged
Wanted to be the first in my family (on my dad's side) to go to college and couldn't see paying it for it out of pocket or taking out loans. This was the answer.
Didn't want to fall into bad behavioral patterns such as shirking responsibilities and smoking weed all day with my loser friends (we were losers .. a lot of them have grown up and turned out ok .. some not so much). Had to separate myself from that environment.
Wanted to travel and see things on my own. Needed to grow the fuck up.
Aside from my parents doing their best to raise me to have respect and discipline, I just didn't have any for the most part. I didn't "get" the real world or what it meant to truly work hard to achieve something. I was an average student in high school and never really tried. The Air Force whipped me into shape and improved my mental toughness. Opened my eyes to the real world and what it took to succeed.
I wish I hadn't been caught underage drinking and got an Article 15 when I was a young airmen. Moving past that, I was nominated for Airmen of the year a few years after and probably could have achieve a lot more had I not been young and dumb.
Again, wish I would have volunteered for a few deployments. Wish I hadn't been as selfish as I was.
It's been probably the single most positive experiences in my life and has helped shape my work ethic and general world outlook about multiple issues. I wouldn't be where I am today, who I am, had I not joined and that's something I tell everyone who asks these general types of questions.
I truly and deeply respect and appreciate every serviceman and woman for putting themselves out there with the knowledge that they are putting their lives on the line. I'm proud to have served and I, quite honestly, think most young people should experience this if nothing but to gain perspective, direction and discipline - I would probably be aimless and have not accomplished anything had I not joined.