Kids playing with weapons at a military recruitment tent outside of an Army football game in Texas. PHOTO: Army Recruiting/Flickr
Kids playing with weapons at a military recruitment tent outside of an Army football game in Texas.
PHOTO: Army Recruiting/Flickr

Military Recruitment in Schools
By SADIE PRICE-ELLIOTT, age 13

At most public high school job fairs in the United States, students will run into military recruiters. In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act passed, containing a small section requiring public schools to give over all student contact information to the military and allow recruiters to visit the school. Students are permitted to enlist at the age of 17 with parental consent.

Recruiters aim to portray joining the military as a positive experience with many benefits, including help with college tuition, advanced technical and specialty training, opportunities to travel and a pension upon retirement. Matthew Tomlin, a 17-year-old enlistee, said, “They pay for your college, and with the economy the way it is, there’s not that many jobs around. So I figured it was good.”

According to a 2008 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, while the government claims that children younger than 17 are not eligible for recruitment by the military, kids as young as 14 may register for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). “JROTC ‘cadets’ receive military uniforms and conduct military drills and marches, handle real and wooden rifles, and learn military history and behavior,” the ACLU reported.

 Soldiers speak with JROTC “cadets” at a school in New York. Students as young as 14 are allowed to join this program. PHOTO: US Army/Flickr
Soldiers speak with JROTC “cadets” at a school in New York. Students as young as 14 are allowed to join this program. PHOTO: US Army/Flickr

Military recruiters rely on many other tools to attract young people. For example, military mascot “GI Johnny” visits community events across the country to meet kids and parents. Recruiters also set up massive high-tech trucks filled with military-style gaming stations in high school parking lots. Their tactics seem to be working. Professor of peace studies at Clark University Sam Diener, told VICE, “Both the ROTC and the military recruiting trucks are ways in which youth in the United States are militarized.”

Recruitment efforts often focus on students with limited career options and little financial support. According to an Associated Press analysis, almost three-fourths of U.S. troops killed in Iraq were from towns where the income per person was below national average. New York City Councilman Charles Barron said, “It is our communities where our young people now see the military as an economic option. It’s not that they’re all that patriotic; it’s just that it’s an economic opportunity because all of the other opportunities are closed down.”

Army recruitment vehicles like this one travel around the country to visit schools and communities, encouraging young people to consider military careers. PHOTO: U.S. Army RDECOM
Army recruitment vehicles like this one travel around the country to visit schools and communities, encouraging young people to consider military careers. PHOTO: U.S. Army RDECOM

Returning Home: Veterans and Reality After War
By EMILY HERNANDEZ, age 12, and IndyKids Volunteer, NANCY RYERSON

Veterans come home from war with challenges to face like homelessness, joblessness, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), disabilities and lack of medical care.

One of the biggest challenges veterans face is PTSD. Some soldiers find it hard to become civilians again because they get flashbacks about the war, causing them to feel unsafe. Mental health challenges may be one reason the unemployment rate among veterans is at nine percent, compared with seven percent in the general population. For veterans 18 to 24, the unemployment rate was 21 percent in 2014.

The high unemployment rate among veterans might seem surprising given the military’s focus on discipline, leadership and problem solving, all skills companies say that they value in employees. Some veterans feel that employers don’t want to hire them because they believe PTSD will make them unreliable.

The number of homeless veterans is decreasing, thanks to increased federal funds and new programs. There are currently 12,700 homeless veterans, about 12 percent of the adult homeless population, which is a 33 percent decline from 2010.

Still, activists such as Iraq Veterans Against the War feel that the government does not do enough to support veterans once they return home. Timothy Paige, a former Air Force pilot who developed PTSD in 2005, told USA Today that he felt discriminated against even for federal jobs: “[Interviewers] were straight out, ‘We don’t want disabled veterans and the problems that come with them.”

A sergeant who operated the GI Johnny mascot in told <em>Recruiter Journal</em>, “Parents love to bring up their little kids to meet with Johnny... Teachers take pictures while their kids shake my hand. The kids love it. The little kids are very comfortable with Johnny." PHOTO: Patrick Haney/Flickr
A sergeant who operated the GI Johnny mascot told Recruiter Journal, “Parents love to bring up their little kids to meet with Johnny… Teachers take pictures while their kids shake my hand. The kids love it. The little kids are very comfortable with Johnny.” PHOTO: Patrick Haney/Flickr

Fighting Back: Counter-Recruitment Efforts
By ALEJANDRA PAULINO, age 13

In March 2005, on the second anniversary of the Iraq War, college students around the country organized protests against military recruitment in schools. They joined a longer counter-recruitment movement in the United States that dates back to the end of the draft in 1973. But the movement was made stronger after military recruitment increased with the Iraq War.

With increased access to student contact information since the passage of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, the military has been able to recruit more easily in high schools and colleges. But parents can block a school from sharing their children’s information to recruiters by signing an opt-out form.

In a New York Times article, Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that sometimes parents don’t get these forms or they don’t know that they have a choice to stop military recruiters from getting hold of their child’s information.

Young people involved with the We Are Not Your Soldiers anti-recruitment campaign prepare a protest banner in New York City. PHOTO: Debra Sweet/Flickr
Young people involved with the We Are Not Your Soldiers anti-recruitment campaign prepare a protest banner in New York City. PHOTO: Debra Sweet/Flickr

Organizations like Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War help students learn about the consequences of joining the military. Counter-recruiters go into schools and show students alternatives to joining to the military. They explain that there are other ways of getting into college, and they remind students that the military is risky and dangerous. The War Resisters League offers a guide to students about how to keep recruiters off campus.

In a USA Today article, Jim Murphy, a counter-recruiter with Veterans for Peace, said, “I don’t tell kids not to join the military.” He added: “I tell them: ‘Have a plan for your future. Because if you don’t, the military has a plan for you.’”

Glossary of Terms:

Civilians – a person who is not in the military or police force
Enlist – to formally sign up for military service
No Child Left Behind Act – an education act that included requiring schools to track students’ performance through standardized tests and to hand over students’ contact information to the military for recruitment purposes.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has experienced extreme emotional distress, especially involving dangerous or life-threatening situations