“If my parents got divorced when I was a kid I’d definitely be in jail right now.”

A fellow student at Yale said this when I pointed out that all of my friends at the university, including the ones who, like me, served in the military, were raised by both of their parents. He told me that when he was in high school, he just barely avoided getting into serious trouble because of his stable family.

This was not the case for my high-school friends. I was born into poverty to a drug-addicted mother. My dad abandoned us. I grew up in foster homes in Los Angeles and was later adopted into a home in Northern California. A year later, my adoptive parents got divorced. My adoptive father, angry at my mother for leaving him, decided to stop talking to me as a way to get back at her.

My high-school friends led similar lives. None of them grew up in intact families, and none of them went to college. Some did go to jail, though. My best friend was raised by his great-grandmother after his mom abandoned him and his dad went to prison. During our junior year, his great-grandmother passed away. This crushed him. He started drinking. Then moved onto drugs. He spent some time in and out of jail, and now he’s in prison.

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