By Andrew Stone
November 1, 2005
Athens Messenger: letter to the editor
In the articles on the “World Canrt Wait” protest march taking place in Athens on Nov. 2, I read with dismay that the culmination of the event is at the Armed Forces recruiting station. When my wife, who is in the Air Force, said that her higher headquarters initially suggested they not wear uniforms that day, I was moved to write. Are we falling back into the trap of blaming the people in uniform for the failings of policy makers?
One article quoted Jaylynne Hutchinson, an OU professor, saying that. recruiters “prey on the poor,” savagely painting them with the same brush as the architects of recent conflicts. Throughout history wars conceived and started by the rich are fought by the poor. That is reality, but is the warfighter really the one to blame? Recruiters are merely soldiers trying to complete their mission by increasing the strength of the military, just like the soldier on patrol in Baghdad tries to complete her mission or the soldier rescuing flood victims in New Orleans tries to complete his mission. A recruiter’s mission is especially difficult-trying to sell a lifestyle that is extremely demanding and calls for sacrifice, which may even cost your life. It is much easier for a young person to maintain their present state, possibly impoverished but relatively safe and unstressed, continuing the status quo of their family and community.
The one benefit that recruiters do have is what they are selling truly does provide an opportunity. Millions upon millions of Americans have bettered themselves over the last several decades by earning a college education via the GI Bill. The discipline and self-worth imparted by military training gives young men and women a desperately needed route into adulthood that is often otherwise absent from poor communities. I owe my success in life to the college scholarship and intangible skills I received from the Army. I am extremely proud to be part of the lumbering, unsexy, knuckle-dragging Army, which (along with the Marine Corps) was recently handed a giant mess by our elected officials end is still managing to eke out a functioning country with less than half the troops needed for the job. What other organization in history could do that?
As I grudgingly head off to Iraq for my second tour, I applaud demonstrators for exercising their First Amendment rights. But I say march to your congressman’s office, or to the Statehouose, or to Washington. Ask them to roll back tax cuts, or even reinstate the draft, so that the other 99 percent of Americans get a chance to sacrifice a little for this war, those from more affluent communities. Don’t direct your malice at the noble few – recruiters trying to complete their mission or brave Appalachian youth who are choosing to pull themselves out of poverty via the profession of arms.