Parents fight military recruitment
This is the best way we have to stop this war. Make it impossible for the military to recruit enough soldiers. I don't believe it would be politically possible to pass a draft, and if they did it would just increase the resistance, as it did during the Vietnam war. This is where the establishment is vulnerable. Get high school kids to vote with their feet against war.
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon
June 3, 2005
link to www.registerguard.com
Parents first line of resistance for recruiters
By Damien Cave
The New York Times
Rachel Rogers, a single mother of four in upstate New York, did not worry about the presence of National Guard recruiters at her son's high school until she learned that they taught students how to throw hand grenades, using baseballs as stand-ins. For the past month, she has been insisting that administrators limit recruiters' access to children.
Orlando Terrazas, a former truck driver in Southern California, said he was struck when his son told him that recruiters were promising students jobs as musicians. Terrazas has been trying since September to hang posters at his son's public school to counter the military's message.
Amy Hagopian, co-chairwoman of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association at Garfield High School in Seattle, has been resisting a four-year-old federal law that has required public schools to give military recruiters the same access to students as colleges, or lose federal funding. She also recently took a day off from work to stand beside recruiters at Garfield High and display pictures of injured U.S. soldiers from Iraq.
"We want to show the military that they are not welcome by the PTSA in this building," she said. "We hope other PTSAs will follow."
Two years into the war in Iraq, parents have become one of the military's stiffest opponents as the Army and Marines struggle to meet their goals for new recruits. Parents around the country said they were terrified that their children would be killed - or kill - in a war that many see as unnecessary and without end.
Around the dinner table, many parents said, they are discouraging their children from serving.
At schools, incensed at the access that recruiters have to underage children who are easily dazzled by incentive packages and flashy equipment, parents are insisting that recruiters be kept away.
A Department of Defense survey last November, the latest, shows that only 25 percent of parents would recommend military service to their children, down from 42 percent in August 2003.
"Parents are the biggest hurdle we face," said one recruiter in Ohio.
Legally, there is little a parent can do to prevent a child 18 or older from enlisting. But in interviews, recruiters said it is extremely difficult to sign up a young man or woman of any age over the strong objections of a parent.
The Pentagon - which is struggling to staff the military entirely with volunteers during a sustained conflict, an effort rarely tried in American history - is especially vexed by a generation of parents who have few qualms about inserting themselves into the lives of their children.
Some of that opportunity was provoked by the very law that was supposed to make it easier for recruiters to reach students more directly: No Child Left Behind, which was passed by Congress in 2001, requires schools to turn over students' home phone numbers and addresses unless parents opt out. It is often the spark, however, that ignites parental resistance.
Recruiters, in interviews during the past six months, said that opposition can be fierce. Three years ago, perhaps one or two of 10 parents would hang up immediately on a cold call to a potential recruit's home, a recruiter in New York said.
"Now," he said, "in the past year or two, people hang up all the time. It happens constantly."
Several recruiters said they had even been threatened with violence.
"I had one father say if he saw me on his doorstep I better have some protection on me," a recruiter in Ohio said. "We see a lot of hostility."
Military officials are clearly concerned. In an interview last month, Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, commander of U.S. Army recruiting, said parental resistance could put the all-volunteer force in jeopardy.
When parents and other influential adults dissuade young people from enlisting, he said, it invites the question of "what our national staying power might be for what certainly appears to be a long fight."
In response, the Army has rolled out a campaign aimed at parents, with television ads and a Web site that includes videos of parents talking about why they supported their children's decision to enlist. Rochelle said that it's still too early to tell if it is making a difference.
But Col. David Slotwinksi, a former chief of staff for Army recruiting, said that the Army faces an uphill battle because many baby-boomer parents are inclined to view military service negatively, especially during a controversial war.
"They don't realize that they have a role in helping make the all-volunteer force successful," said Slotwinksi, who retired in 2004. "If you don't, you're faced with the alternative, and the alternative is what they were opposed to the most, mandatory service."
Many of the mothers and fathers who are most adamant about recruitment do indeed have a history of opposition to the Vietnam War.
Amy Hagopian, 49, a professor of public health at the University of Washington, and her husband, Stephen Ludwig, 57, a carpenter, said they and most of the parents who contest recruiting at Garfield High School in Seattle have a history of anti-war sentiment and see their efforts as an extension of their pacifism.
But, he added, parents also are reacting to what they see as the military's increased intrusion into the lives of their children.
"The recruiters are in your face, in the library, in the lunchroom," he said. "They're contacting the most vulnerable students and recruiting them to go to war."
The access is legally protected. As recently as 2000, one former recruiter in California said, it was necessary to dig through the trash at high schools and colleges to find students' names and phone numbers.
But No Child Left Behind mandates that school districts can receive federal funds only if they grant military recruiters "the same access to secondary school students" as is provided to colleges and employers.
In Whittier, Calif., a city of 85,000, 10 miles southeast of East Los Angeles, about a dozen families last September accused the district of failing to properly advise parents that they had the right to deny recruiters access to their children's personal information.
Orlando Terrazas, 51, the father of a Whittier High School junior, said the notification was buried among other documents in a preregistration packet sent out last summer.
"It didn't say that the military has access to students' information," he said. "It just said to write a letter if you didn't want your kid listed in a public directory."
A few years ago, after Sept. 11, the issue might not have gotten Terrazas' attention.
But after the war in Iraq yielded no weapons of mass destruction, and as the death toll has mounted, he cannot reconcile the pride he feels at seeing Marines deliver aid after the tsunami in Asia with his concern over the effort in Baghdad, he said.
"Because of the situation we're in now, I would not want my son to serve," he said. "It's the policy that I'm against, not the military."
After Terrazas and several other parents expressed their concern about the school's role in recruitment, the district drafted a new Rules for Recruitment policy.
On May 23, it introduced a proposed opt-out form and policy for the district's 14,000 students.
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