I'm pretty sure DH's old room mate joined the AF when he was about 22 or so. I think you can join up until you are in your 30's but I may be wrong. As far as graduating college, that won't hurt you getting in. I think the testing they give you just determines what career fields are available to you. DH did 6 years and worked in cargo transportation. He was limited to certain fields because he is partially color blind. (more like has some difficulties distinguishing some colors like blue and purple or yellow and orange--he calls yellow lights orange lights.
My step-father retired after 23 1/2 years or so. It definitely taught him a different work ethic than he's encountered in the civilian world.
I'm extremely proud of my husband and my step-dad and my family. My Grandfathers all served in WWII and so did one Grandmother (where she met my Grandpa!).
I won't tell you that everything is easy for military families, but that is quite obvious. You will have to make sacrifices as well as your spouse, your children and your family, be it leaving behind friends and family to move every 4 years or so (though sometimes more or less, it depends on a lot of things), being separated from your family for deployments or other things like that can be very common. In DH's field normal deployments were yearly and lasted 4 months at a time. Sometimes I knew where he was going, sometimes I didn't. Though the uniform they leave in can be a clue!
For my step-father, 2 am calls to go on a trip to fix a plane which had broken down somewhere he couldn't tell us he was going (even if it were a good place!), became routine.
There are benefits of joining too, which I'm sure any recruiter will wax poetic about to you! I had a lot to learn about things like the health insurance the rest of the US uses and things once DH finished his enlistment.
When you join the military, no matter the branch, you are becoming a part of something bigger than yourself. That is where they sacrifice comes in. I'm not talking about the possible loss of life in a combat situation, I'm talking about those everyday sacrifices. In the military you are all working for the same goal. At times you may be asked to do things that you don't know why you are doing them and you may not be in total agreement with the mission. But that can't matter. Anything, be it a military, a family, a team, etc. can not stand if it is divided. I once heard a Marine say "I don't necessarily agree with the Captain, but I'm still part of the team!" And there are times where 'the team' comes before family even. Not that it is always that way but it can be. I had a high school friend (who is an officer in the AF reserve and her husband is an officer) who' husband missed the birth of their first child last year when his deployment had to be extended--twice. I also had a friend who's husband was brought home early because of some complications in her pregnancy. DH and I had to do some things when he was scheduled to deploy over the same time we had scheduled our wedding. Right before his last deployment and during it, I was undergoing several cardiologic tests that he did not want to be away from me during.
Deployments were all very hard on me. But each one got easier in one way or another. I learned how to cope and I learned to rely on some other supports. Every year my mother and/or step-father lead the Memorial Day service at our church. My Mom always reads a poem about Military spouses. If I can find that online I will post a link, or I can PM it to you if I can't find it. It does kind of give you a peek into some of the ways of military life.
Even with these hard things, the military has given DH and I some of the sweetest times in our relationship. When we were dating he was in Afghanistan (just a few months after 9/11), though I didn't know that at the time. I was in college at the time. I came home from either work or school late one night in a crabby mood. I was missing him terribly and things were just stressing me out! On my dresser my mom had put a copy of the Airlifter, a paper our base puts out. The cover had a picture of a plane and a guy in desert uniform and was about our base's guys and gals in Afghanistan. Well I started looking at it, knowing Mom would only leave it there for me if she thought I would know someone or something interesting would be in there. A couple pages into it was the little column the often have called "Deployed Voices." It usually features 3 people, with their pictures, and a short comment. One guy said hi to some people, another said how he thought the conditions there were. And there was my boyfriend. All his comment said was "I love you Leighann!" Thats it. We were married 1 year to the day he came home from that deployment. Now that's a story I can tell my kids and grandkids! The next week he was in our state paper with the rest of the guys in a feature article.
I feel like I've told you more negative than positive here. I don't mean to scare you away from this decision. I believe it is a very good and important thing to do, in-spite of the difficulties it brings too. I just hope that what I have said will help you to make this choice for yourself. Keep in mind, most enlistments are only 4 years to begin with, so it's not forever. DH wasn't very happy in the AF. Mostly he didn't enjoy his job that much. But he's proud he did it and he believed it was the right thing to do. He signed up for 6 years initially so that is how long he had to serve. He's currently in his 2 years of inactive reserve. If I remember correctly (this is from when he joined, things could have changed) if you signed for 6 years of active you also agree to 2 years of inactive reserve. (If you want me to 'explain' what inactive reserve is better just ask or PM me.)
I know this is very long, but I can't express in words how important I feel that military service is. It's ingrained in my heart.
Military service is hard but I can't put a value on it. Our military men and women are of priceless value to me. I guess you could say that as hard as the hard things are, the good things can outweigh them. We wouldn't be the country we are today without our military. Our military needs more good men and women serving.
Once the military is part of your life, you stand a little taller and hold your head a little higher when you see our flag flying or when you hear our national anthem. I get chills when on the base, at 5pm every day the National Anthem comes on. All traffic stops, wherever they are. All people stop walking, wherever they are. Anyone in uniform (and some not) snap to attention and salute in the direction of the flag. I wish I could share with you the things I've heard from my step-father over the years. His love for his country and our military runs very deep into his heart. He's a man with a tough shell, but every year without fail, when he shares his stories with the church on Memorial Day, my step-dad - the man who's brown eyes turn black when he is mad - cries like a baby. Just writing this has been emotionally draining to me. I just can't express it truly in words. It really is ingrained in my heart.