For the last year or so I have been watching the construction of a new "Army Career Center" located a block from my office in downtown Manhattan. Once a week I would pass it and it was always closed and covered with brown paper on the big plate glass windows.
It is located in an ideal spot, of course, because the military hires consultants to make sure they get prime real estate to suck up the youth.
Today the Army Career Center had its grand opening, a gala event that packed the center. I was able to make it there, but not until the end of the ceremony, when everyone had pretty much left, except for the Sgt. in charge, Castillo, and the brass. They were sitting around enjoying their food and smiling when I walked into the center. I asked for Sgt. Castillo, and was taken to the back room where he was sitting, along with his commanding officer, and another young soldier. I shook hands all around and introduced myself and told them my son just returned from his third tour of duty.
I recounted his story of joining the Marine Corps. and being deployed to Afghanistan, and then to Iraq twice as a reservist. They were very impressed and asked me when did he return, and was he still in the Marines. Yes, I said, he was in the IRR at present, but is a New York City Police Officer as his full time job, which he has been doing for 5 years.
He was deployed twice while he was on the NYPD, and I told them that it was very hard for him to get his life started. They agreed and looked interested in the story.
I asked them about the local schools that they were so strategically placed next to, like the High School down the street, and Borough of Manhattan Community College. I said, "this is a good location for recruiting. You are so close to the schools and students pass your doors all day long. Do you plan on gaining entrance to the schools to do recruiting in the classes?" Sgt. Castillo said that they had asked permission and were awaiting approval, which he didn’t think would be a problem. I thought to myself nor do I, of course. The war machine is more than welcome in our schools, at every level. But I continued. "I work right down the street." Sgt. Castillo asked where and who I worked for and I told him. He smiled and said "Wow, that’s great."
I was sitting there in the back office, and then stated "I would like you to know that I am a member of a national organization called ‘Military Families Speak Out’ and it has about 4,000 members who all have loved ones who are serving or served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We oppose the wars vehemently and are doing everything in our power to stop them."
I thought they would choke on their food at that point. Then I proceeded to say, "Since I work right here, I, along with hundreds of my activist friends, will be your worst nightmare!"
As you could hear a pin drop and confusion spread all over their faces, I continued. "I am so against what you are doing. You strategically placed this recruiting center so that kids who are either coming out of high school with nowhere to go, or those who graduate college in lots of debt and no jobs because of the economy are enticed to join the military." "You are taking full advantage of the bad economy and sending more of our youth off to die and kill for illegal, immoral and illegitimate wars. You should be ashamed of yourselves and I don’t know how you sleep at night."
I stood up, took a button off my handbag that I received while protesting at West Point. I said, "This button is for you." I slammed it on the desk. "I got it when I was protesting at West Point when Obama was giving his "escalation speech." It demands all troops home now, you can keep it as a reminder."
At that point I thought they would stand up and escort me out. But they were in such shock, after spending the morning celebrating their existence, to hear that now they would be up against an angry mom, and counter-recruiters, put their small pea brains on overload.
In the new age of Obama, recruiting is a cushy job. This place had its doors open for a few days and already they are touting 11 new recruits. Those who would not fight and die for Bush, will do so under Obama which makes it extremely difficult to convince this generation of youth that joining this imperial military is not only bad for them, it’s bad for humanity.
And so it goes, I know where to have lunch every day now. Getting in the way of the war machine is what I like to do best, and they couldn’t have put this place in a better location, for me anyway!
Anti-war activist, mother of U.S. Marine currently on his way to Iraq for a 3rd tour of duty; member of Steering Committee for the "World Can’t Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime" and Military Families Speak Out.