Military recruiters don’t belong in high school cafeterias

Written by: Val DaGrain

With the retirement age rising recently, I think its not only fair but also morally necessary that the minimum age requirement for the U.S military be raised as well. I think 21 is the ideal age, and military recruiters should not be allowed to recruit in high school cafeterias.

In this country you have to be 21 years old to legally buy a beer. In this state you have to be 19 years old to buy a pack of cigarettes. In the Mercer Student Center you only have to be 17 years old for a U.S Military Recruiter to enlist you into their branch of the military, as high school and community college cafeterias are popular hangout spots for many military recruiters.

At age 17, with a parents signature, you can legally sign a contract with the U.S Department of Defense.  However, many kids in this country meet their first military recruiter much younger than that, often at age 14 in the cafeteria of their public high school.

Mercer first year Architecture major and former co-leader of NJ Students For Peace, Sicilia Morro described her first experiences with military recruiters in an interview with the VOICE, saying “…They were pretty friendly, but for the fact that they’re trying to get you to sign your life away, so I guess they have to be friendly.  But its deceiving because when you meet military people they are very strict and disciplined, and you wouldn’t get that just from talking to the high school level recruiters.”

Although by age 18 you are legally considered an adult in the eyes of the U.S government, it’s clear by the age restrictions on tobacco and alcoholic products, that they don’t consider you fully able to make your own decisions yet. So why then are these grown men and women allowed to make their living off of how many kids they can get to sign up for battle?

“People are obviously in their physical prime when they’re younger, and that’s probably why the younger kids are targeted, but mentally no one, especially not a 17 year old kid is prepared for war,” said Mercer Liberal Arts administrative assistant Jeff Callahan, who was stationed at Shaw Air Force base while serving as a Buck Sergeant during the Vietnam war.

“I don’t think they (recruiters) belong in the high schools, I think it’s okay if they come once or twice a year and address the senior class as a whole in an assembly style meeting, but they should not be in high school cafeterias, and it definitely wasn’t like that when I was in school,” Callahan said, and that’s coming from a man who comes from a time when the draft was still active.

Mercer’s Dean of Liberal Arts, Robin Schore, who was drafted into the Vietnam war at age 20, had this to say about why the young kids being targeted: “Who else is dumb enough to sign up to be sent into a war zone besides a 19 year old kid?.”

The National College Athletic Association athletic recruiters have windows of when they can and can not contact prospective athletes which differ by specific sport and are strictly enforced, but military recruiters have no such limitations. “They are allowed to walk freely around campus on any calendar school day, and are allowed to ask for print outs that list the full names of every Mercer student currently enrolled,” said Mercer’s Head of Veterans Affairs Paul Schied.

The Solomon amendment is largely to blame for the recruiting on campuses; it allows the “Department of Defense, Department of Education, and certain other departments and agencies” to deny federal funding and grants to any school that prohibits ROTC programs and military recruiters from their campus.  In the era of Gov. Chris Christie’s war on education, that’s the last thing we need. So get used to military recruiters, because they will probably be recruiting children in between pre-algebra and driver’s-ed courses for generations to come.

Obviously we need a strong military, but to teenagers the glories of war can be all too tempting and the realities of war too distant for sound judgement to be implemented.

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Val DaGrain

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