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DEAR ABBY: I read with interest the letter from the 25-year-old man who's considering joining the military, and whose family and friends think he's lost his mind.

I'm a retired Army colonel and think how fortunate this country would be if more people had that young man's attitude.

My strongest recommendation to that fella -- or anyone joining the military -- is to make absolutely sure of what you are signing up for. Read the DD Form 4, Enlistment Contract -- every word. If a recruiter promises something, have that promise put in writing on the DD Form 4 or it is not considered binding. Also, don't let a recruiter tell you "now or never." He may say that only to fulfill a quota. Yes, there are restrictions and qualification factors, but a good recruiter will lay out all of those openly and work with the applicant to satisfy the individual's need as well as the military's. -- COL. MM, HUNTSVILLE, ALA.

DEAR COL. MM: You have written an important letter, and I hope that "Not in Boot Camp Yet" takes it to heart. I'm sure it will help not only him, but also any high school senior who is unsure about what to do after graduation. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: This is for anyone who's considering joining any branch of military service. Even if you are sure which branch you want to join, talk to recruiters from other branches -- and also different recruiters in the branch you are considering. Some recruiters are more knowledgeable than others, and an inexperienced recruiter's ignorance can cause new recruits to miss out on opportunities such as bonuses, tuition and initial entry rank. -- PROUD AIRMAN, JACKSONVILLE, FLA.

DEAR PROUD AIRMAN: That's valuable advice for anyone considering a stint in the armed forces.

DEAR ABBY: I am a former Marine and would like to comment on the letter from the young man who is considering joining the armed forces, but feels he is being "rushed" by recruiters and called "crazy" by his friends.

The solution is to join the reserves. In the reserves, he will get the training any other "boot" will get and still have the best of both worlds. The difference is that when it's time to graduate, he'll be asked if he wants to change his contract to "active duty." If he declines, he returns to civilian life and drills once a month with his assigned unit. In addition, he serves two weeks in the summer with his reserve unit when it goes on annual duty training. The rest of the time, he's a civilian. -- BILL IN FULLERTON, CALIF.

DEAR BILL: That sounds like an intelligent alternative.

DEAR ABBY: While getting injured or killed in the military is a possibility, there are tremendous personal rewards. I have traveled the world with the Air Force without serious injury, yet I fell off a ladder in my back yard last year and nearly killed myself. Go figure! -- MAJ. MICHAEL C., USAFR, RET.

DEAR MICHAEL: Ninety-nine percent of those who wrote to comment on "Not in Boot Camp's" letter expressed that their stint in the military was both exciting and challenging. It is life on the edge, and you get out of it what you put into it.

P.S. Stay away from ladders!

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