In a column titled “High-school Students and Soldiers Deserve More,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) writes:
The Seattle Times’ editorial “Don’t ban recruiters from high school” (April 15) does a disservice to every high-school junior and senior, as well as every soldier who would like some say over his or her destiny. That should have been painfully obvious following The Times’ own coverage of Emiliano Santiago, a soldier who has served his country with distinction, but now faces a sentence to serve because the military cannot recruit enough soldiers.
Buried in the fine print of Santiago’s recruitment paperwork eight years ago was a provision called stop-loss. It is meant to ensure that America has enough soldiers to defend itself in time of national emergency, but the Pentagon under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has perverted the use of stop-loss because military recruitment is significantly below goals.
Stop-loss now affects 50,000 soldiers. Santiago could end up serving until Christmas Eve, 2031, 37 years after he signed up — a virtual lifetime.
Every student and every parent should remember Santiago’s case because it could happen to you, and no one in the military is going to tell you beforehand. And stop-loss is not the only stealth tactic in use by the military.
A provision buried in the No Child Left Behind law forces high schools to turn over student contact information to military recruiters. Any school that balks can lose all of its federal money. The Seattle Times casually tells its readers that a student can sign a form to opt out. The reality is that young people have lost their right to privacy and The Times is stone-cold silent on restoring this fundamental right in a free society.
I served my country as an officer in the United States Navy, and I believe that every American has a responsibility to give back to our country. For some, a career in the military is the right choice. But a decision to even consider a military career belongs solely with the individual, and that’s not what we have today. That’s why I joined with the punk band Anti-Flag to launch a nationwide drive to alert students on how to opt out and demand that Congress restore student privacy. (More information can be found at http://www.militaryfreezone.org)
Meanwhile, don’t blame the recruiters. These people were selected because they are role models, the best of the best to represent the military. Now, they suffer under a quota system, and recruiters are under increasing pressure to find soldiers. Army National Guard recruitment plunged 31 percent in February and fell another 12 percent in March.
Young people are the hope and future of this great nation. We owe them more than to casually compromise their basic right to privacy. According to The Seattle Times, students have the right to die in Iraq, but they don’t have the right to privacy. With misguided opinion like this, is it any wonder that young people don’t trust adults?