Teenager faces down National Guard recruiters, avoids deployment

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I think this story more or less speaks for itself when it comes to the duplicity of military recruiters and students’ power to resist intimidation:

Teen Discharged After Refusing Guard Training

(AP) South St. Paul, Minn. A high school senior who faced down military recruiters on his front lawn and refused to go to basic training after earlier signing up for the Minnesota Army National Guard has now been discharged.

“You are discharged from the Army National Guard and as a reserve of the Army,” said a memo from Minnesota’s Office of Adjutant General sent to the lawyer representing Leo Valle, an 18-year-old student at Simley High School in Inver Grove Heights.

It was welcome news for Valle, who claims that months earlier a National Guard sergeant threatened him with arrest and military prison if he didn’t go to basic training.

Valle was 17-years-old when he enlisted, which requires the consent of parents. His attorney, Allen Gibas, argued that Valle’s parents, who are legal immigrants from El Salvador, didn’t speak or read English and didn’t understand what they were signing.

Gibas said Valle’s parents decided to withdraw their consent because their son was not “suitable for the Army.” Gibas said Valle signed up after a recruitment pitch that promised a chance to serve the community and earn lucrative education benefits, but didn’t mention weapons training.

Gibas said Valle was not sophisticated enough to understand that signing up for the military would likely mean training in guns.

Valle said recruiters told him he wouldn’t likely have to go to Iraq until 2009, but said he learned after enlisting that he could have been sent there immediately after basic training.

“I would tell other youth my age not to join,” Valle said. “They’ll phone you saying one thing, and the next thing you know, you’ll be going to Iraq.”

Sam Diener, a founder of the GI Rights Hotline, an information source for soldiers and enlistees, said the decision to discharge Valle wasn’t that unusual. He said a 2005 study by the Rand Corp. found that 14 percent of the people who signed up for the Army’s delayed enlistment program in 2001 dropped out of the Army before becoming soldiers.

But Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, spokesman for the state National Guard, said he wasn’t aware of any other Minnesota Army National Guard soldiers who expressed a desire to change their mind on enlistment.

Olson said Guard members told Valle he would be breaking a contractual obligation if he didn’t ship out, but denied that he was threatened with civil police action or jail time.

“We certainly wish him well,” Olson said. “If it is not in the National Guard, we hope he chooses a way to serve his community, state and nation.”

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