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From Draft NOtices, November-December, 2005

Hispanic Heritage Month Means Covert Recruiting

— Arlene Inouye and Jorge Mariscal

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 (


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