Left Justified: The big, bad recruiter is coming for your kids!

The Army wants your kids to “be all they can be”: an army of one, so they can fill their quota. The military is screaming for bodies. Male, female, gay, Muslim (well, maybe not Muslim). Our armed forces are looking to put your kids in uniform. The enticements are increasing, as is the pressure on the recruiters to get kids to sign up.

They promise job training, money for college, adventure, leadership skills and a lot more. But before your kids sign on, they should take a good look at what they’re getting into. The service may not be the best or only way to get money for college or vocational training. The job the youngster wants might not exist. Jobs with fancy-sounding titles are often low skill and non-technical. And many military jobs are so different from civilian jobs there may be no translation upon leaving.

The military is not required to keep the recruit in the job for which he/she trained. And finally, the military’s money for education (the new G.I. bill) is not easy to get. The person leaves the military, and then finds out whether they’ve met all the requirements.

Some kids join to escape bad personal or family situations. The recruiter can smell them out, since they get easy access to the high schools. Kids who make important decisions when they’re upset, confused or unsure about their future could be pressured into signing. Most people discover their problems get worse, not better, in the military. The youngster who does wish to enlist must be given a chance to reflect, not be bullied, and be encouraged to make that choice out of wanting to go, not because they think they have to.

Our youth should realize the military prepares for war. This is the purpose that guides everything it does. Kids should ask themselves: “Am I willing to kill another person if ordered to do so? Would I destroy people’s homes or food? Would I help others who are fighting, even if I’m not in combat myself? Do I really want to risk my life in a fight for the cause?”

Even soldiers who believe in fighting to defend their country have found themselves ordered to fight when they felt it was wrong. Once they enlist, they can’t choose when to fight. There are instances of soldiers finding religion and becoming conscientious objectors while in the military. These rarely get a fair hearing.

If you know of soldiers who need help, have them call the G.I. Rights Hotline at (800) 394-9544. There is an overseas number, (215) 563-4620. The hotline is free, and the call is confidential. More information can be found at www.girights.org.

When I was in the military, it took me four months in Vietnam before I realized it was an unjust war. I didn’t object to using violence, nor did I seek an early out. I did refrain from volunteering for situations in which I might have to kill someone. I vowed to obey all orders, but I also tried to protect my newfound beliefs.

If called to defend my friends, I would’ve, but I wasn’t about to go gung-ho. In fact, if I remember correctly, there were very few American soldiers at that time who were adamant about winning the war in Vietnam. I think that’s happening now to our soldiers in Iraq, and I think that’s why it’s getting difficult to encourage kids to sign up. The chicken hawks and patriotic breast-thumpers should be forced to fight this one, not the kids who are susceptible to flashy ads, uniforms, slogans and guns.

And the recruiters should mind their manners when talking to our kids about military service.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Aug. 31-Sept. 6, 2005, issue

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