On October 7, 2005, at the Anaheim, California,
Convention Center not far from Disneyland, the Hispanic Engineer
National Achievement Corporation hosted an awards luncheon for
approximately 500 people including more than 300 middle school,
high school and college students. The featured employer at the
luncheon was the Department of Defense.
Part of the Pentagon’s ongoing efforts to attract more
Latinos into its ranks, the luncheon included Latino ROTC and
military service academy students and a display that forms part
of the “Medal of Honor Tour,” a joint venture between
the Army and the Hispanic public relations agency Cartel Impacto
(a unit of The Cartel Group of San Antonio, Texas). According
to the official press release, the tour is a “national program
to highlight the selfless and courageous legacy of service Hispanic
Americans have imprinted in our nation's armed services.”
One day earlier, the “Medal of Honor Tour” had descended
upon Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles. Accompanied by
a JROTC color guard, the display was presented to students by
Rick Leal, President of the Medal of Honor Society. Leal’s
remarks were followed by presentations by City Councilman Tony
Cardenas and Ramon Rodriguez, a local veteran who served three
tours in Vietnam.
Rodriguez’s remarks were the stuff of a recruiter’s
fantasy. He stated that although he had almost dropped out of
high school, he ended up earning three advanced degrees “all
because of the military.” He repeatedly stated that he owed
a great deal to the military, highlighted career and education
benefits, and urged students to join JROTC. He concluded by saying:
"Freedom is not free, it has to be fought for.”
It will surprise no one who has followed the Pentagon’s
elaborate plans to recruit Latino youth that the four regions
chosen to host the “Medal of Honor Tour” are Phoenix,
San Antonio, L.A./Anaheim, and San Jose/San Francisco. The U.S.
Army Recruiting Command’s Strategic Initiative, 2002-2007,
designates each of these locations as among the primary markets
for the recruitment of Latino youth.
After the presentation at Roosevelt, we spoke to a young Latina
senior who had received a call from a recruiter the week before
the “Medal of Honor Tour” had appeared at her school.
The recruiter told her that women were not sent into combat and
she would not have to fight (as of the end of October, 47 U.S.
service women had died in Iraq). He added that she most likely
would enjoy Iraq because many of the bases there had swimming
pools and basketball courts.
In Anaheim, on the day after the event in East Los Angeles, the
Pentagon spokesman directly addressed teachers and counselors
by noting that there were "some key influencers of our society"
in the audience. "I call on you to help increase the representation
of Hispanics in the Department of Defense,” he said, “by
telling young people about the opportunities and value of service
to our country either in the military ranks or as civil servants.
"The military affords our young people the opportunity to
gain responsibility fast and develop leadership skills that can't
be obtained anywhere else, from leading a platoon in battle to
flying an aircraft off the deck of an aircraft carrier in high
seas to developing departmental policy," he said. In a concluding
remark that sounded more like an afterthought, he added: "And
our civilian jobs offer exciting and rewarding career opportunities
as well. "
Given the shockingly low percentages of Latino youth in higher
education and professional schools, it is unlikely that many Latinos
will be filling the Pentagon’s civilian or policy-making
positions in the coming decades. Instead, because the current
situation in which the vast majority of Latino men and women in
the U.S. armed forces are bunched together in the lowest ranks
is unlikely to change, Latino youth will be shipping out to fight
foreign wars like the one in Iraq. Some of them will die there
and they will be added to the list of names in some covert recruiting
“Medal of Honor Tour” of the future.
Note: The week following these events, the “Medal of Honor
Tour” was featured at the annual meeting of the Hispanic
Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) in Phoenix.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)