Are you being recruited? Are recruiters giving you all the information you need to make an informed decision about joining the military? Do you have other options? These questions should be filtering through your mind while trying to understand what it means to be a young American.
With no end in sight to the War on Terror, the current situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and tensions rising with Iran, the needs of the military are increasing. Americans, however, are not volunteering for military service at the rates they once were.
Military recruiters are struggling to make their enlistment quotas. Reports of manipulations and abuses, infiltration of popular social networking sites such as MySpace, and million-dollar budgets for advertising and sporting event sponsorship among other things, reveal their intense targeting methods.
Through the No Child Left Behind Act, the military can target you directly by obtaining your school records and contact information. If you are not comfortable with this direct form of recruitment, an opt-out form (Editor's note: This organization's link no longer exists. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.) is available.
You, as a young American, have options. United for Peace & Justice and other groups and organizations, offers resource guides of alternatives to military service including how to find scholarships for college, job searches and travel programs.
If after researching alternatives you still consider a military career, some organizations offer advice on how to make decisions about military service. The American Friends Service Committee provides a list of points to consider before signing a military enlistment. Quaker House produced materials explaining enlistment documents. And Military Free Zone (Editor's note: This organization's link no longer exists. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.) breaks down how much money the government actually pays for military service.
As you know, joining the military is a big decision that will affect the rest of your life. Take some time to do research, talk to veterans who have experience in and out of the service and ask all of your questions before making a decision. You have options—make the choices that will create a positive future.
Stories in YES! Magazine:
Operation Homecoming: How to End the Iraq War by Erik Leaver.
U.S. public opinion is turning against continued occupation of Iraq. But how might we extract ourselves? By Erik Leaver, policy outreach director for the Foreign Policy In Focus project.
In Iraq: A Place To Be Human, First by Bill Weinbeg.
These Iraqis don't like the occupation or the militias, and they aren't signing up for any political or religious faction. Instead, they are claiming the space to live with their neighbors in peace.
The War Against Ourselves by Doug Rokke.
An interview with Major Doug Rokke on his experiences with nuclear, biological and chemical warfare.
Supporting the Young People Who Just Say Noby Larry Kerschner.
What parents, schools and communities can do when military recruiters come with offers of scholarships and career opportunities.
Voices in Wartime aims to transform how we respond to, engage in and recover from conflict, through education and the arts.
If you are interested in what some youth networks are organizing around, check out Not Your Soldier, a group of organizers, students, youth and allies working to build a national youth anti-war movement through action camps, gatherings and creative, non-violent days of action.