"On Tuesday, Feb. 10, the Oregon National Guard set up a display in Hood River Valley High School that was designed to recruit students for the Guard. The National Guard visits the high school at least once a month, with information packets and a uniformed recruiting officer to answer questions. This seems to be generally accepted by students and staff members. Last Tuesday, many students were shocked to see a different display, complete with a video showing bombs blowing up, soldiers in tanks and jeeps racing across the desert, and footage taken from a bombing run with explosions on the ground far below. The display had a camouflage net and signs as a backdrop. One sign read, "Only blood buys you freedom."
"The officers at the table were not wearing standard clean-cut uniforms. Instead, they wore camouflage clothing complete with green face paint, helmets with camouflage netting, and some even had night vision goggles strapped on. This presentation was offensive to many students. However, the signs proclaiming "blood for freedom" and the flashing images of mushroom clouds were not the worst part. One guard officer, in particular, was way out of line, verbally assaulting male students as they passed by with "You're a man! You have testosterone in your system!" He was basically goading male students: "Real" men join up.
One student confronted the officer about the offensive display. Instead of calmly presenting the Guard's view about the war, the officer verbally attacked the student, calling him "a prepubescent fool." The officer was so confrontational and aggressive that a school administrator rushed in to intervene. To the officer's credit, he did apologize for his behavior and he shook hands with the student. But substantial damage had been done. Not only was the student treated with great disrespect, but the Guard's whole method of recruiting was completely out of line.
Steps are being taken by the school administration to ensure that this will not happen again. But I am afraid that when Guard officers scream at teenagers that they are "stupid fools" they bring discredit upon the whole system. Citizen soldiers have a long and honorable tradition in America, beginning with the Revolutionary War. If we, as citizens, are harassed when we stop to think about what direction our country should take, we are witnessing intimidation and a disservice to democracy.
Elaine Daggett, student Hood River Valley High School