My turn: Truth about recruiters

Navy lieutenant defends U.S. military practices at home

Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I am writing in response to Karl Schoeppe's April 10 My Turn (Truth in recruiting? Don't you count on it).

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In his tirade he blasts the military establishment, focusing particular ire at recruiters. All of his claims are unsupported, though a few of them are partially accurate. Many of his statements are not only inaccurate, but also extremely offensive to those who choose to serve or have served their nation. Though I'd like to address all of Mr. Schoeppe's absurd statements, length limits only allow me to respond to a few:

"Recruiters have a lot to hide": While I'm sure there are examples of people allegedly duped into joining the military, Mr. Schoeppe provides no examples to substantiate his statement. This blanket proclamation undermines the honest and dedicated professionals who perform the extremely necessary job of recruiting. I speak of this from personal experience.

"Recruiters are being paid to sign you up - $2,000 per body into the National Guard": This is a misleading statement. Whether intentional or not, it is nevertheless inaccurate. There is a program that pays individuals $2,000 for bringing a recruit to the National Guard, however, this program is not available to designated recruiters. This is plainly explained on the Web site for this program.

"Military systems everywhere are built on abuse": Physical, mental and sexual abuse": The U.S. military is not built on abuse. Abuse is strictly forbidden. Having been the subject of a Marine Corps drill instructor's unrelenting attention I can confidently say that it isn't fun, but it is not abuse. To become a soldier, sailor, marine or airman you must be put under physical and mental stress to strengthen your body and your mind. Combat is as stressful an environment as can be found. To survive you must be mentally and physically tough. When abuse does occur it is unsanctioned and those perpetrating it are punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

" 'To make a man out of ya,' or is it 'animal?' ": Are the sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, who provided critical tsunami relief, "animals"? Are the Army engineers who are rebuilding the schools, treatment plants, power generation facilities and much more in Iraq and Afghanistan, "animals"? There are countless examples of the compassion of our armed services, Mr. Schoeppe, your statement is ignorant and out of line.

"The slide into fascism is always easier to recognize elsewhere, anywhere but home": This statement is an absolute insult to every man and woman who has ever served or currently serves in the U.S. military. Let us not forget that it was our "war complex" that defeated fascism during World War II. What basis do you have, Mr. Schoeppe, to back up this mindless drivel? Is this your own summation based on your own experiences under the heel of our totalitarian government? Has our government undertaken anything that fits the definition of fascism in recent years? The answer is categorically, absolutely, no! Pick up a dictionary, look up "fascism" and you'll find it's a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism). Last time I checked, we lived in a representative democracy.

Mr. Schoeppe's letter is little more than an irrational rant with very little substance. Though he is entitled to shoot his mouth off (figuratively speaking) because we do not live in a fascist society, he should take care to do a little research before writing any future letters.

Service members are made up of ordinary citizens, dedicated and hard working, but ordinary citizens nonetheless. There are a few who are malevolent and they bring great discredit and dishonor to the rest of us. Just as with instances of police brutality, the actions of a few do not represent the actions of the many.

There is no more honest living than that of service to one's nation or community. Every day millions of public servants go to work and risk their lives for the betterment of everyone. Many of them wear the uniform of our nation's armed forces.

Mr. Schoeppe may not approve of current or past military actions, but it is undeniable that this nation would not be the beacon of freedom that it is without the courage, sacrifice, and dedication of millions of current and former citizens who chose to serve.

• Richard Walsh is a Navy lieutenant stationed as a P-3C patrol plane commander at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington. He grew up in Juneau and is a 1995 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate.

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