The Few, The Proud ... and the Convicted?

The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Army's recruits with criminal records has grown significantly since 2003, according to Defense Department statistics — with the Army granting more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than in 2003.

The statistic came from the increase of Army and Marine waivers for recruits with felonies and serious misdemeanors, including minor drug offenses.

Since coping with a dwindling pool of volunteers during wartime, the armed forces are increasing their routine practice of accepting those with a criminal record, medical problems or low aptitude scores. The Army accepted 6,000 recruits with misdemeanor charges — from petty theft or writing a bad check, to some assaults — from the 2,700 in 2003. READ MORE

Army and Defense Department officials defended its waivers as a way to admit young people who had made a mistake but overcome past behavior. FNC wants to know— how do you feel about people with criminal records serving in our armed forces? Write to us at and tell us what you think!

Here's What FOX Fans Are Saying:

"How sad it is that our military views convicted criminals as a better option than homosexual patriots who wish only to serve our nation. How sad it is, America." — Ted (Chicago, IL)

"I just wanted to share with you that I know somebody with prior misdemeanors that went into the military to get away from his environment and the life that he was living. He did very well in the military, served honorably in three tours in OEF, and is now doing very well in his civilian life. He feels that the military gave him a second chance to straighten his life out, serve his country, and do the right thing. So I do think that the military should look at each individual case and use their best judgment on whether to allow that person in the military or not." — Shanna

"Today's contracting standards justify a ‘waiver’ for various things. If you smoked pot one time, waiver. If you got a speeding ticket and paid a fine, waiver. If you shoplifted a candy bar when you were 12, waiver. Unless an applicant comes through a recruiting office door, and has an immaculate record, they more then likely will require a waiver of some sort. Now, its not surprising to me that the amount of waivers have gone up since 2003 ... probably because the amount of new Marines and soldiers this nation needs has ALSO gone up! Do you follow what I'm getting at? More military needed, more waivers needed. This in no way I believe, is detrimental to the ‘safety’ of our Marines and soldiers." — Staff Sergeant Raggio

"I was a Marine serving from ‘99-‘03 but was discharged for a one time, stress related, use of ecstasy in May ‘02. I have never done drugs before that, or afterwards in my life. Since then, I have tried to get back in, yet they tell me that I am ineligible because of my prior drug use. I have no criminal record, no traffic violations, a lot of community service that was completely voluntary, and I hold a job in software engineering with NO college what so ever. Here, they let hoodlums join the military with assault charges, drug crimes (repeated offenses in some cases), theft, and battery. I see this as an injustice and a violation of the rights of every service member who made a small mistake and have to pay for it for the rest of their lives." — M.P.

"I think that it may be a good move to have some of these criminals in the armed forces. You see, they obviously have idol hands. Idol hands get into trouble because they channel their energies into getting into all kinds of mischief. I think the armed forces would teach them respect for others, respect for authority figures and open a whole new chapter in their lives that would make them appreciate life and how precious it is. The sanctity of life, and freedom and what it takes for America to have freedom and they wouldn't be so quick to commit a crime if they had proper teaching." — Melinda

"I have two complaints about this. One is that it is illegal for a felon to posses a fire arm. I'm also pretty sure that it is illegal to give a known felon a fire arm. How can a soldier fight without a gun?" — William

"As a military spouse of almost 20 years, I feel that convicted felons have NO business in the military. Opening the door to those with a history of violent activity, drug abuse, and/or gang activity will only create more problems and disgraceful news stories for the military. I don't want my husband in a combat operation with a person who has been convicted of a violent crime. As a mother and wife who is often left alone during deployments, I don't want a convicted, violent felon living next door to me at any time — least of all when my husband is away. These soldiers are only going to be able to perform the least demanding jobs because they will never be able to obtain a security clearance without lying — unless of course they change that too! The answer to the shortage of soldiers isn't to allow felons in the military, it is to take steps to retain (voluntarily) the high-quality, well-trained soldiers already within the ranks of the military! " — J.H.

"As a deputy court clerk, I have issues with this new policy. If a person just had a couple of speeding tickets or some other minor/insignificant misdemeanor offense it would not bother me. However, if the military wants to avoid more scandals regarding criminal behavior among soldiers, they shouldn't recruit people that would have a propensity to demonstrate that kind of behavior. I think there have been enough disgraceful actions taken by armed forces that are supposed to be representing not only their branch of service, but all of us as American citizens. It is simply not worth it for the sake of keeping up troop numbers if it means recruiting people capable of and/or willing to take up criminal behavior. War can turn a good person bad if placed in the right situation — don't give someone with a criminal record an opportunity to hurt others needlessly. As you sow, so shall you reap." — Terry

"I am all for the military taking young people if they have a record. I believe if a person didn't spend time in jail for any crime and just got probation or community service, then they should be allowed to serve their country and be proud of it. I have an opinion because that is what is happening to my oldest son. He made a mistake when he was 17, now he is 28, and trying to go to the Marines, but was turned down because of that charge 11 years ago. We are trying to appeal it through our congressman, but the Marines are playing hardball. So as you can see I am all for it." — Barnie

"If a person is otherwise qualified and can meet the psychological standards, why not give a person a chance to turn his or her life around?" — Phil (Bronxville, NY)

"Felons are prohibited by federal law of being in possession of firearms and ammunition. Unless they have a pardon, they are to be returned to prison for not less than 10 years. The services are therefore complicit in another felony." — Rick

"I used to work for airline security, before 9/11. One of the problems there was severe short-staffing. My company would allow screeners to work for us that literally could not speak a word of English and ones with non-felony criminal records. When I was in the Navy in the 1980s, I was told there was NO waiver, for recruits with criminal records. I don't remember any 'technicalities.' Isn't it funny how people SEEM to be able to get away with ignoring the law, when it becomes inconvenient for them not to?" — Mike (Derry, NH)