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Is your twelve year old safe from the military?

by richard myers Sunday, Oct. 02, 2005 at 4:05 PM

With recruiting targets unmet, 250 National Guard troops visit middle school, mingle with twelve year olds. Is it a recruiting ploy?

First, there is this news item: 
Army in Worst Recruiting Slump in Decades
AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON — The Army is closing the books on one of the leanest recruiting years since it became an all-volunteer service three decades ago, missing its enlistment target by the largest margin since 1979 and raising questions about its plans for growth.

The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, which are smaller than the regular Army, had even worse results. 

[ excerpts ]  September 30, 2005 - 8:57 a.m. MDT
Then, there is Hurricane Katrina.
And now because of an event a few miles north of Denver, there is a news story that causes me to be concerned about the welfare of my son, a middle school student, and all of his classmates.
We must applaud any effort to help the hurricane victims, and be grateful to those who help the helpers. I volunteered to support hurricane victims at the decommissioned Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, and it was a rewarding experience.
The National Guard from states around the nation have played a role, and while we might have concerns about response times, policy, and perhaps behavior, some sort of organized effort has been vital to saving lives.
And citizens supporting soldiers isn't anything new. One of the most significant historical accounts of such actions was the North Platte Canteen during the second world war.
But the Longmont Daily Times-Call has published an article that should raise questions, even as it is rightfully appreciative of the effort to assist hurricane victims. Why? Because it involves soldiers and children.
Children showed soldiers where they would be sleeping . . . [excerpt]
Alert parents should wonder to what extent the hurricane disaster is being used as a cover for solving military recruitment problems by introducing travelling National Guard units to twelve year olds.
[photo] Tech Sgt. Travis Weitzel of the Idaho Air National Guard talks with interested Coal Ridge Middle School students Thursday as the troops settle in for the night at the Firestone school. Community members provided food and drinks for the soldiers. Times-Call/Joshua Buck
The Times-Call article about 250 National Guard soldiers visiting a Longmont area middle school is a "puff" piece, cheering for the arrangement while asking no serious questions. The reporter wasn't interested in how this arrangement came about, was apparently incurious about why the soldiers weren't following expected procedure (staying at one of the many military bases in Colorado), and apparently saw no possibility of an ulterior motive.
We might wonder: were there any parents who objected? Is this an isolated incident? Are National Guard units throughout the country checking into Middle Schools where they can sow future recruits by fascinating our children with their military toys?
middle school students want[ed] to know everything about them, including what was in their duffel bags and how heavy their rifles were. [excerpt]
How can a reporter not ask the hard questions in the middle of a war that more than half the country no longer supports?
Why didn't the newspaper research how this came about, and whether we can anticipate more of the same?
Did someone know someone, or is this part of some unpublicized government program?
Who initiated the contact?
Is the cheerleading tone of the following article due to blind patriotism, ignorance, or naiveté?
Publish Date: 9/30/2005

What a Warm Welcome

School, community provide haven for Idaho troops heading to Louisiana

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

FIRESTONE — They circled their camouflaged Humvees like wagons before unloading their personal gear and heading up the American flag-lined driveway to Coal Ridge Middle School.

As the more than 250 soldiers attached to the Idaho National Guard hauled their gear into the school, they were overwhelmed by enthusiastic middle school students wanting to know everything about them, including what was in their duffel bags and how heavy their rifles were.

The soldiers also were greeted with a place to lay their sleeping bags and a common room filled with teachers, school staff, community volunteers and foods of every description.

It wasn’t the welcome they were expecting.

The soldiers are traveling through Colorado on their way to Louisiana, where they will help out those areas devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. All they asked from the St. Vrain Valley School District was an indoor place to bed down.

Superintendent Randy Zila and his staff decided Coal Ridge could handle such a large group.

The staff at the school had two days’ notice that they would be hosting the soldiers. Like a National Guard unit, they quickly mobilized, telling the community what was happening and asking for donations of food to help feed the soldiers when they arrived Thursday night.

Teachers had students write thank-you letters for the soldiers, and more than 50 students stayed after school Thursday to bake cookies, brownies and muffins and to stuff goody bags full of candy and sweets for the troops to take on the road with them.

“Our teacher told us we were the third school district they asked. It’s been an awesome experience for us to thank them for serving our country,” said 13-year-old Christine McCall, a Coal Ridge eighth-grader.

Principal Paul Talafuse manned a large grill outside the school, making hamburgers and bratwursts beginning at around 4 p.m., when the first of five convoys arrived at the school.

Children showed soldiers where they would be sleeping, while others helped cut up brownies, slice cakes and organize the potluck foods delivered by teachers and community members throughout the day.

Numerous businesses and individuals donated money, food or time to the cause, and the soldiers were overwhelmed.

“It’s been really hospitable here,” said Spc. Joseph Ritchey of Boise, Idaho. “The food is excellent, and the people are so generous.”

Master Sgt. Charles Butterfield said, “We were happy to have a place indoors to sleep and take showers, but it is nice to see us supporting our own nation. It’s pretty awesome.”

Ritchey, like many of the soldiers, said he didn’t know what to expect in Louisiana.

“A lot of cleanup and, hopefully, helping people out as much as we can,” he said.

Zila told the St. Vrain Valley Board of Education on Wednesday night that the district was pleased “to provide that kind of assistance and support” to the National Guard.

“They are going to an area that needs a lot of help, but they were called to duty from their own jobs,” he said.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-684-5211 or

I don't think we should automatically, categorically condemn this situation, perhaps there is an explanation that makes sense. But the article didn't shed the necessary light, and we won't get answers unless we press the issue. And since National Guard units are on the front lines in Iraq, every parent should be concerned.
If you're feeling a little bit alarmed and are wondering, as I am, then please request an explanation.
The Longmont Daily Times-Call is here:

The Daily Times-Call
350 Terry Street
Longmont, CO 80501
(303) 776-2244

The reporter, Paula Aven Gladych, is at 303-684-5211
The information for the Superintendent of the school is here:
Randy Zila
395 S. Pratt Parkway
Longmont, CO 80501
Tel: 303-682-7292

richard myers
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