Students tell Army recruiters: I am not your soldier

Youth and students stood up to military recruitment and the war in Iraq, Nov. 17. The Not Your Soldier Project and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition organized the national day of action held on International Students Day.

Over 35 campuses nationwide led a series of actions such as rallies, teach-ins, marches and walkouts protesting the U.S. military’s invasion of schools. Veterans, military families, clergy and community organizations joined with youth and student groups demanding an end to the war in Iraq as well as alternatives other than the militarization of young people.

The “Not Your Soldier Day of Action” was the first nationally coordinated mobilization of young people opposing military recruitment in schools throughout the country. Over 40 cities participated at various times throughout the day from New York to Los Angeles and Milwaukee to Austin. Events were also organized in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Columbia.

“This war is having a devastating impact on our generation and our education,” said Sayde Tyson, a high school student from New York City who was quoted in a press release.

“The occupation is costing $7 billion per month while the House of Representatives votes next week on the largest cuts to student loans in the history of the federal programs, (over 14 billion dollars)! On International Students Day we say we are Not Your Soldiers and we are mobilizing across this country to call for books, not bombs!”

Camilo Mejia, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a conscientious objector told the press, “This day of action is calling attention to the predatory recruitment of low-income youth and youth of color by the U.S. military. While its people like me, who want job training and education, who have risked our lives in Iraq, its Bush’s cronies at Bechtel and Halliburton who profit every day from our service in this unfound war.”

The approval rating of the war and occupation in Iraq as well as President Bush is at an all time low this month. The national day of action symbolizes a growing voice of youth and students who are saying no to war and no to military recruiters.

Ashwini Hardikar, a senior at Residential College and co-chair of the Michigan Student Assembly’s Peace and Justice Commission wrote in The Michigan Daily referring to Nov. 17 that “These voices are from everywhere in the country – rural areas, affluent suburbs, urban centers and inner cities, working class communities, high schools and college campuses.”

She goes on to say “For people of color, there is the fundamental problem of over-representation in the military and under-representation in institutions of higher learning.”

Hardikar concludes summing up by saying, “What is missing in recruitment is the fact that the purpose of enlisting in the military is undoubtedly, in some sense or another, combat and war. The rhetoric of money for college or job placement strategically distances war and militarism from enlisting. Yet, the communities that are the most heavily targeted by recruiters are also the ones that are the most severely affected by war and limited educational opportunities. The aggressive militarism of U.S. foreign policy and the continuing violence in Iraq has lead to more young people standing up to the government and to the military and asserting, I am Not Your Soldier.”

plozano@ pww.org