What starts in the USA often finds its way to the UK. Here is an article written by a VFP member in the States about military recruiters in schools.
In May, 2011, the Portland public school district voted unanimously to allow equal access for counter military recruiters into high schools. I have participated in speaking with high school students in classrooms for 3 years, finding it to be one of the best uses of my time. The students are amazing spirits and I am greatly thankful for the time I’ve had with them.
I was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 2005. Having joined in 2001, I was stationed on the guided missile USS Cowpens. I was deployed to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The USS Cowpens fired the first ordinance to initiate the Iraq War. We stayed for over 3 months, launching tomahawk cruise missiles during very early morning hours, usually about 0300. To this day, I still don’t know what we hit or who we killed.
My participation in this has led to unexpected and complicated disturbing emotions today. When I worked at Habitat for Humanity, I was faced with a new guilt-driven situation: working with Iraqi and Afghan refugee families. They were getting homes through Habitat for Humanity, and my role was to direct them in daily warehouse duties, for their sweat equity hours. I discovered that all of them were beautiful people, intelligent, compassionate, and undoubtedly strong for the perils they endured having to leave war-stricked countries. One lady’s sister was abducted – she still doesn’t know where she is.
I am not a emotionless drone that can ignore these sensitive situations. These are part of a large story about why I want students to think carefully before they make the moral, ethical, logical, and even spiritual decision to join the military.
Yesterday myself, and Jeff, a twice-deployed army medic, went to Cleveland High School to talk with students. We were in a room filled with uniformed military recruiters, many more than necessary to staff a table. The Army, Army National Guard, Navy, and Marines were there. They had a prosperous flat screen tv which they showed continuous recruiting videos for at least half the class period. The majority of the time, there were 2 male and 2 female students present.
When it was apparent that we were not going to be given our time slot for equal access, which the school district voted for, and why we were asked to be there, we introduced ourselves to the class when there was not much conversation going on. When Jeff and I began speaking, we were immediately interrupted, laughed at, heckled, and some recruiters even stomped their feet. One of the recruiters started filming us with his phone (which I would love to get a copy of). One of the Army recruiters approached Jeff with his arm up in a blocking position, blasting “you’re time is done, and you need to go.” Within 3 to 4 minutes, we were essentially forced out of the room.
Our equal access visit, which I took time out of my work day to do, was not very equal at all. There were no school staff or faculty present. There were no moderators. It was telling about military recruiters’ attitudes and was terrible for the students to witness. The oath to protect the Constitution of the United States was lost with their actions. The military recruiters would not allow us to speak with the students, because they don’t want us to tell them what we know.
As two recently returned veterans, I believe we should have had the opportunity for true equal access. The attitudes and actions of the military recruiters were horrifying mutations of the rights and freedom that they supposedly protect. I want people to know this is not acceptable. It is not okay to refuse our presence when the school district made it law, and we were asked to be there by the school. In my 3 years of equal access visits, I’ve always been treated with complete respect and thanks.
What do I do now? I will keep going to schools, of course. In the future, if military recruiters and counter-recruiters are in the same location, there has to be a staff or faculty member present as a moderator. I’m not sure if it was legal for the recruiter to be filming or not. Their behavior was sickening, pathetic, and not to be tolerated. That’s why everyone needs to know about it.
Angie Hines is a member of Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against The War in Portland, Oregon.