Sunday, June 12, 2005


By all accounts, military recruiters are facing untold hostility just in trying to do their jobs. It is Vietnam revisited: Iraqnam!!! I can surely understand the resistance of parents; afterall, 1700 dead Americans and 6000 wounded in Iraq is no small thing. And, parental resistance is a problem. Recruiters are telling stories of kids signing on the dotted line, getting them all the way to the starting line and whamo, the resistance of the parents is so strong, they back out.

Recruiting is tougher in urban centers obviously but supposedly not in the South and rural areas, where military service is more often considered a duty and a rite of passage. Why is a good question? I would not want to attribute too much to the South in terms of patriotism but facts are facts. From a 2002 Pentagon study of troops on active duty, something like 43% are Southerners. One would be hard pressed to go through a household in Dixie and not find some "connection" to the military. The two states, according to the Study, with the highest percentage of military, is Louisiana and South Carolina. The state with the lowest number serving is MA. Now there is a surprise!

I can still remember walking through my house growing up, there were all my brothers pictures in uniform scattered throughout. The day I went in, I had my picture taken and immediately sent it to my Mom. It could be in our genes.

The recruiters are like anybody, they are working the phones, cold calling--they approach kids at bus stops. They go to high schools. And, they are not very well received! A lot of teachers, counselors and administrators don't want them on campus. This seems a little unseemly to me as they are just doing their jobs. Many of the schools have a kind of subtle benign resistance, they throw their pamphlets away.

The Marines, in many cases, just looking those few good men, can't take everybody; a kid is overweight, another busted for smoking pot, a no go. In my way of thinking, the military is exactly where they ought to be. Shape the fat kid up and pound some sense into a possible drug user. This would happen in an AllServe mandatory community service environment.

To simply oppose kids from going into the military is one thing but there are groups who actively make the recruiters jobs almost impossible. One group called Peace People distributes pamphlets on military life, the draft and how to get out of a commitment once you've enlisted. Recruiters say they face all sorts of insults and screaming on campus. "I don't' think it's like this in Texas," one says, rolling his eyes.

According to one article, at some schools there are "counter recruiters." Another group is called, Raging Grannies. Sometimes, they are not grannies but dressed up like them. Some have on buttons or have signs that make fun of the Army. One sign read, "Travel to exotic foreign lands, meet interesting people and kill them." The Grannies say they just want to tell the full truth about the military.

What is fascinating is that you would think that the military is like some negative institution dedicated to America's destruction as opposed to defense. The Grannies say the recruiters stretch the truth, i. e, once you've signed the enlistment papers, you cannot change your mind. Untrue say the Grannies--a fact that the recruiters forget to mention. The Grannies believe that the military is targeting the disadvantaged and those with few opportunities. I think so. Yes, those with little prospects and why not? What is wrong with this?

Let's face it. The military is no "day at the beach." It is not a democracy. You don't get to choose but then again, it is what discipline is all about. America's youth could use a little of that I would think. Another group called Vets For Peace is very active. One says "When I talk to students, I try to make it very clear to them: the purpose of the military is to kill and in the process, you might be killed." Potential enlistees get a lot of talk from recruiters about travel and money for a college education say the military detractors. But the truth is, most people in the military don't get to travel and only a small percentage ever use their educational benefits. I'm not so sure that is true.

What it boils down to in many ways is respecting the right of kids to make adult decisions. They are not stupid and can be discerning enough to know the smoke and mirrors from real facts. Afterall, they've weaned themselves in buying cars and as consumers. I don't think we have to tell them that being in the Marines, for instance, is a twenty-four hour job nor is it a piece of cake.Once you're in the military, you're under its control 24 hours a day, every day. You can be ordered to do any task, work any hours. It is what's called dedication by Marine standards, it is called the military. And, for most American kids, it would be a good thing.

We're not going to sort out situations like Iraq any time soon but military recruiters are not the problem. They are just doing their jobs and ought to be left alone and certainly not denigrated. Let's respect the rights of kids to choose and in the privacy of their own homes, if they parents want to object, so be it. My thoughts.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Military Recruitment has gone South based on everything we read. The NY Times recently did an editorial called, The Death Spiral of the Volunteer Army. Pretty good title and I hope they are right! What I have been lobbying for is the return of the draft as part of a Universal Service option. The Volunteer Army worked when there was no war. Kids could go in with the idea of money for college, learn a skill, maybe even see a foreign port or two. Plus, most of them had little prospects for the outside anyway or if they did, couldn't figure out what the prospects were. Parents liked the idea of the military: get the kid out of the house, instill some discipline, teach independence. It was win win.

For years, military recruitment has been a "piece of cake." With the arrival of Iraq, in particular, the cake has turned to stone. We could cogitate our navels for lots of reasons but the idea of maybe chasing some educational money while dodging bullets in Iraq has caused a little loss of appeal. Thank you very much! For years, the Army has had its pick of the numbers of available males, by all accounts, to be around 60 million with the military quota as something like 80,000. What has gotten the old "pucker factor" up is that the Marines, who have great looking uniforms, can't even get their few good men.

American youngsters are no dummies! They read or listen to the news, check out the net, talk to their friends, and although the brass constantly says we are winning, they are looking at the numbers: over 800 Iraqis killed last month and the death toll of Americans creeping up and up. And, recruitment has lost maybe their key ally--parents who are no longer seeing the military as an option for their youngsters. Even if Mary Lou and Johnny could stand a little discipline, they prefer them alive.

The Guard and Reserves have even greater woes in recruitment. For years, the Guard has been called out in Stateside emergencies while allowing plenty of time for a little "grab ass" and swigging a few brews. Suddenly, they are in Iraq, expected to soldier full time. What is this? They didn't sign up for war. And, they have taken a hit for being involved in most of the black eyes in Iraqnam mismanagement.

The Volunteer Army is not working. It is time to figure out another course and the time is NOW!