Students, not soldiers

A Marine instructor corrects an officer candidate.

A year ago, I arrived back at Orange Coast College after a several year hiatus and was dismayed to see military recruiters set up all over campus — nothing had changed.

When I attended college the first time the Iraq War was raging, Macklemore was popular and there were military recruiters set up what seemed like every few feet all over campus.

Still, in 2020, I have found that at least one of these things was still true. Needless to say, it wasn’t Macklemore’s popularity.

Instead, military recruiters seem ever-present and I believe they, in all seriousness, pose a great risk to OCC students.

By being so prevalent on community college campuses, our military is relying on a practice that has existed as long as war has. The rich continue to send the poor and disadvantaged to fight in their place.

There are many reasons a student attends community college over a four-year university, ranging from finances to grades and even to medical issues. By recruiting so heavily at community colleges, the military is preying on this vulnerable population by providing what can seem like the only path to achieving their educational goals.

The practice is disgusting and wrong.

It is not an accident that many community college students come from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities of color.

Growing up in Laguna Beach, the only people from my high school who joined the military attended one of the prestigious military universities like West Point or became fighter pilots. Most students who end up opting for the military don’t follow the same, privileged trajectory.

I’m not a veteran and I don’t understand the many complex and nuanced reasons why someone joins the military, but I do know what it’s like dealing with trauma — a feeling military members know at an alarming rate.

In 2018 I was severely injured when a pipe bomb detonated in a medical office building in Aliso Viejo, killing one woman and injuring many more.

After seeing a building blown out to the metal support beams mere inches below where my feet had been only moments before, I can only imagine the horrors felt and seen by our service members.

My respect for our veterans has grown exponentially as a result of my experiences.

I was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, but our combat veterans — mostly college aged men and women — choose to face that day in and day out, often for multiple year-long deployments.

As we’ve seen from the tobacco industry to the onslaught of advertising from Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, the more you put a product in front of people the more likely they are to choose it even if they don’t want to.

To me, the overabundance of recruiters at community college campuses is the modern equivalent of a practice from the Civil War where the rich could pay someone who would have otherwise been exempt from the draft to serve in their place.

While less blatant in its modern form, a similar scenario plays out on campus every day.

I don’t necessarily object to their occasional presence on campus but I do object to their prevalence. One solution could be keep the whole operation contained to a specific office rather than spread out all over campus. That way, people wanting to explore that option can search them out.

Instead, what we are given is a booth of uniform-clad, muscle-bound recruiters coaxing students into pull-up contests in front of the Literature and Languages building.

I understand that the military must recruit without a draft, but they shouldn’t do so by all but asking students to sideline their educational pursuit. I think we must redefine what it means to serve your country.

What if in exchange for student loan debt forgiveness, a young person could work in an after-school program or on environmental conservation efforts? This way, the military wouldn’t be the only option for those who can’t afford to finance their education.

I would propose that in order to compensate veterans for the unequal burden of their service, that the G.I. Bill be expanded to cover up to a doctorate-level education.

Additionally, those who choose to serve in a less dangerous and traumatizing way, could receive scholarships to cover a four-year education.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any grand solution to the problem of recruiters on campus, but I would ask students to consider what it is exactly that they’re being sold.

(1) comment

SLowrey

With all due respect to the writer, and her own personal experience the student body at a community college is comprised of many types of students; many of whom are in the very early stage of discovering their path in life. While many do have established educational goals, many are still exploring their ed and non-ed options while attending classes here. If education is all about expanding one’s view of the world, than consider these recruiters to be aiding that endeavor by providing students yet another option.

That aside, Orange Coast College is a public institution. To restrict these groups on campus is a violation of the 1st Amendment. Provided their recruiting efforts are carried out lawfully and in non-classroom spaces, the college may not limit them to particular times or locations.

My son attends OCC, and is currently exploring the curriculum as a means to discover his own path and interests. He has been approached by these recruiters several times, but has not had any trouble turning them down. It’s just not for him. Our student body may be largely comprised of young adults, but they are adults. As such they are perfectly capable of making those types of choices on their own.

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