By Angie Hines
In May, 2011, the Portland public school district voted unanimously to allow equal access for counter military recruiters into high schools. I have participated in speaking with high school students in classrooms for three years, finding it to be one of the best uses of my time. The students are amazing spirits and I am greatly thankful for the time I’ve had with them.
I was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 2005. Having
joined in 2001, I was stationed on the guided missile USS Cowpens. I was deployed to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The USS Cowpens fired the first ordinance to initiate the Iraq War. We stayed for over three months, launching tomahawk cruise missiles during very early morning hours, usually about 0300. To this day, I still don’t know what we hit or who we killed.
Change of Heart
My participation in this has led to unexpected, complicated and disturbing
emotions today. When I worked at Habitat for Humanity, I was faced with a
new guilt-driven situation: working with Iraqi and Afghani refugee
families. They were getting homes through Habitat for Humanity, and my
role was to direct them in daily warehouse duties, for their sweat equity
hours. I discovered that all of them were beautiful people, intelligent,
compassionate, and undoubtedly strong for the perils they endured having
to leave war-stricken countries. One lady’s sister was abducted – she
still doesn’t know where she is.
I am not an emotionless drone that can ignore these sensitive situations.
These are part of a large story about why I want students to think
carefully before they make the moral, ethical, logical, and even spiritual
decision to join the military.
Defenders of the Constitution? Hardly
Yesterday myself, and Jeff, a twice-deployed army medic, went to Cleveland
High School to talk with students. We were in a room filled with uniformed
military recruiters, many more than necessary to staff a table. The Army,
Army National Guard, Navy and Marines were there. They had an expensive flat screen TV on which they showed continuous recruiting videos for at least
half the class period. The majority of the time, there were two male and two
female students present.
When it was apparent that we were not going to be given our time slot for
equal access, which the school district voted for, and why we were asked
to be there, we introduced ourselves to the class when there was not much
conversation going on. When Jeff and I began speaking, we were immediately
interrupted, laughed at, and heckled, and some recruiters even stomped their
feet. One of the recruiters started filming us with his phone (which I
would love to get a copy of). One of the Army recruiters approached Jeff
with his arm up in a blocking position, blasting “you’re time is done, and
you need to go.” Within three to four minutes, we were essentially forced out of
Equal Access and Equal Time Denied
Our equal access visit, which I took time out of my work day to do, was
not very equal at all. There were no school staff or faculty present.
There were no moderators. It was telling about military recruiters’
attitudes and was terrible for the students to witness. The oath to
protect the Constitution of the United States was lost with their actions.
The military recruiters would not allow us to speak with the students,
because they don’t want us to tell them what we know. Also, it is
questionable whether the recruiters signed in or out of the visitor’s log.
It appeared there were not enough names on the sheet to equate all the
As two recently returned veterans, I believe we should have had the
opportunity for true equal access. The attitudes and actions of the
military recruiters were horrifying mutations of the rights and freedom
that they supposedly protect. I want people to know this is not
acceptable. It is not okay to refuse our presence when the school district
made it policy, and we were asked to be there by the school. In my three years of equal access visits, I’ve always been treated with complete respect and thanks.
What do I do now? I will keep going to schools, of course. In the future,
if military recruiters and counter-recruiters are in the same location,
there has to be a staff or faculty member present as a moderator. I’m not
sure if it was legal for the recruiter to be filming or not. Their
behavior was sickening, pathetic, and not to be tolerated. That’s why
everyone needs to know about it.Φ
Angie Hines works with Portland Veterans for Peace.