Student Voices 20.1

The next generation of soldiers?

By Eliza Leas

Illustrator: Evan Bradbury, East High School, Madison, WI

Illustration: Evan Bradbury, East High School, Madison, WI

On Friday, June 10, 2005, I entered the cafeteria in Fredrick H. Tuttle Middle School in South Burlington, Vt., only to be greeted by a strange sight. A large screen had been set up on the stage, and adults were milling around and passing out flyers. I glanced down at a flyer on the nearest table and was indignant to find that this invasion of my middle school’s cafeteria had been orchestrated by none other than the police and the Vermont National Guard.

The point of the presentation was to encourage middle school students to attend a camp that is designed to keep kids “off the streets.” A movie began to play on the screen, and other students and I walked closer, curious. I was repelled by what I saw: kids my age doing jumping jacks in army-style pants. Why would normal “campers” be walking around in Army attire?

I am 12 years old. I will not be eligible to be in the armed services for another six years. So why do they insist on advertising in my middle school? I can barely tolerate that they are in my sister’s high school lobby every day. Now they’re trying to recruit me and other kids, barely out of childhood. I said something to my friend along the lines of “This is so stupid, I don’t want to be recruited!” A policeman standing nearby immediately latched on. He tried to convince me and my friend that the presentation wasn’t about recruitment and that I shouldn’t judge the camp before going and finding out what it’s really about. He asked sarcastically, “Do you even understand the concept of a camp?”

Is the Guard trying to justify its revolting recruiting tactics by saying that they are coming to schools to “help prevent crime”? If the purpose of the camp is to prevent crime, why are the campers engaging in activities such as “security patrol” and “land navigation training”? Perhaps the answer to all my questions lies in a simple statistic: The Army hasn’t met its recruitment goals for the fourth month in a row, and it’s becoming desperate. Now the armed forces are trying to recruit and train younger and younger kids.

You can always tell a war’s gone bad when the government starts targeting children in its search for soldiers. It has to stop, and soon. It has to stop before one more Iraqi child is killed. Before one more American dies in a pointless and unjust war that is supposed to be over, while we keep sending troops. It has to stop before one more human life winks out because cruel warmongers were put into power. It just has to stop.

Eliza Leas ( is in eighth grade and lives in South Burlington, Vt. Rethinking Schools is looking for students who write or create art, illustration, or photography and would like to contribute to this page. Please send submissions to Catherine Capellaro, managing editor, Rethinking Schools, 1001 E. Keefe Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53212.