Teenager Aden Gilbert recently spoke to Fox News about why he no longer intends to follow his father’s footsteps and join the Marine Corps, saying that he saw the country and its leadership moving in a direction antithetical to his values.

“If we’re prioritizing being woke, and we can’t actually protect the majority of American people  . . . what’s the point of having a military?” Gilbert asked Fox News. “Is it really worth joining and putting our life on the line for ideologies that we don’t agree with and that we don’t want to necessarily protect?”

Historically, military children have been more likely to serve than their peers. A Pentagon survey from 2013 showed that a quarter of new recruits had a parent who had served, and 80% reported having at least one family member who had done so. 

“It was something that a man of honor would do, to serve and protect his country and serve and protect those values that existed back then,” Gilbert, 18, said. “But I think things are a little bit different now.”

Gilbert argued that the military is pushing away men and women who are more likely to serve by emphasizing progressive ideologies over readiness. A recent Navy recruiting pitch featured a drag queen, and in 2022, the branch released a video stressing the importance of pronouns.

“I would rather tiptoe around literal landmines than have to tiptoe around people’s pronouns,” Gilbert said.

While Gilbert has always considered himself a patriot, he argued that the left has “successfully eroded patriotism” by pushing restrictive laws, “woke” ideology and “celebrating satanic themes in music and Hollywood.”

“It just angers me seeing our president as the conductor of that symphony of sewage,” he added.

Aden’s father Jason said that he never pushed his children in one direction or another in terms of enlisting but was unsurprised when his son changed his mind about the path. 


“I could see he was a little bit demoralized about the direction the country was going,” said the elder Gilbert, who founded the Disabled Veterans PAC and helps former service members run for office.

“When we hear the word ‘pride,’ we’re now programmed to instinctively think of the rainbow flag, whereas the generations before me, when they heard the word ‘pride,’ they thought of the American flag,” the younger Gilbert said. “And now to the left, that’s considered offensive.”

He said he’s “not moved to serve a commander in chief who seems to value the rainbow flag over the American flag” and “labels white supremacy and climate change as the top national security threats in our country, yet never once has denounced Marxism.”

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth acknowledged last month that there was “no doubt” that the perception that the military has gone “woke” is exacerbating recruiting woes; however, the branch’s top civilian leader blamed the problem on rhetoric rather than military policies.

“We are a ready Army, not a ‘woke’ Army,” Wormuth told reporters in June.

Gilbert argued that not only is the perception of the military suffering, but financial incentives to serve have significantly lessened, with fewer students pursuing higher education, making the GI Bill less appealing to him. Gilbert also started his own social media marketing business during his senior year of high school.

“Until the values sent forward by the president, that the military is tasked to defend, revert back to the core values that our founders and the past generations died for . . . I’m just going to stick with my decision to decline military service to instead run my business,” Gilbert said.

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