Not so long ago, joining the military was a way out and a way up for lots of young Americans. It helped them grow up, get a start in life, maybe learn a skill, defend their country, and be part of a noble cause.
If you have kids today, recruiters will be around to see them. Maybe we already have, telling that familiar story.
But today, less and less of it is true. I hate to say it, but that's the fact.
For one thing, where's the noble cause? Let's face it: the latest war was based on lies. Too many troops there don't even have the armor they need. The top US leaders are now trying to justify torture, and ignoring the Geneva convention. Terror fears are up, not down.
Meantime, the dangers keep increasing. The war's official death toll is bad enough, and it's shameful the way high officials try to hide all those caskets coming home.
But it's more than that: for every dead soldier, up to ten are badly wounded. And lots more suffer serious psychological damage: PTSD, Gulf War Syndrome and more. Deployments are longer and tougher. Stop-loss keeps thousands of troops in the military long past their release dates. Naturally, all this is very tough on families - domestic abuse is much higher.
And what about all those benefits? Enlistment bonuses are up, but overall benefits are down, especially for those who get wounded or suffer PTSD. Besides, military job training really doesn't help all that much in civilian life. And veterans benefits? They can't cut them fast enough.
The word about all this is spreading, so recruiting is getting harder. As it does -- I hate to say it, but more recruiters are telling more and more, well, lies. It makes me ashamed, but the reports keep piling up. It got so bad by May of 2005 that we had a total recruiter stand down to spend a whole day studying recruitment rules. Didn't make much difference, though.
As a parent, what can YOU do about this?
A lot, actually. If your child is in high school, tell the school NOT to send their information to recruiters. (A word to the wise, though: the military will still get the information. But the schools need to hear from you anyway.)
Then, if your child is underage, you can say NO to recruiters. And even afterward, talk to your kids: Get my special guide to the enlistment contract (the link is below), and show them all the pitfalls. Urge them to go to college, trade school, start a business. They can have peaceful adventures, or do volunteer work to learn how to serve their country and the world.
If they sign up for the Delayed Enlistment Program and then change their mind, you can show them how to get out - it's easy. And if they do enlist and then regret it, remember this number, for the GI Rights Hotline: 1.877-447-44871.877-447-4487 .
So there's a lot you can do. But still, I know, it's tough to be a parent in a time of war. Where will it all end? More wars? The draft? Who can say? It's not a pretty picture.
I know this is a lot to think about. I think about it every day.
But you know what I think is most important? That you take good care of your kids.
Because we sure won't.
the Honest Recruiter
Here are some recommended links available to better inform you as a parent. This is a work in progress and NNOMY will be adding new documents as they are prepared and as policies change that effect enlistment. Check back periodically.
The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth 2013 Back-to-school Kit for Counter-recruitment and School Demilitarization Organizing is now available to assist you in understanding the work, your rights, and the challenges to return to the public schools to counter-recruit. Please visit this page and review the materials we have assembled for you and feel free to ask questions as well at Our Contact Page and we will do our best to answer you or your group in a timely manner.
Articles on the web:
Learning the Issues about Youth Demilitarization
The NNOMY Reader is a useful primer to learn about the realities of military recruitment, the militarism effecting our youth in schools and our opportunities for peaceful coexistance. This collection of articles represents a historical overview of the U.S. based counter-recruitment movement's strategies to inform and intervene in schools and the community about the Pentagon's multi-billion dollar programs to recruit America's youth into escalating wars. The NNOMY Reader also includes some information on alternatives to enlistment, as well as research presented by activists and investigators on the nature and risks of cultural militarization and how it threatens our democracy. Learn more