Whenever we have a special event at my school, like our pre-spring-break party day, just about every branch of the military shows up to recruit. They spread out their free gifts on a table and entice students to sign up and join. The marines do it best. They bring a pull-up bar and an inflatable obstacle course. They challenge students passing by to test their strength, to see if they can do enough pull-ups to be a marine. They have the kids race each other through the obstacles to decide who would make the best marine. These tactics are nearly fool-proof when applied to teenage boys. The chance to beat each other in tests of strength and prove their athletic prowess in front of girls holds an overwhelming allure. It even works on some of the female students.

I have a problem with this recruiting because of how the military targets it. In my district, which is rural, many of the students come from low-income families. I attended a private high school where, although not everyone was wealthy, we certainly all had financial flexibility. I never once saw recruiters at my high school. The military targets poor schools where students have few options for their post-high-school lives. They offer what seems like a great opportunity: the chance to earn money for college. Ten years ago, I might have agreed that this is a good option for many students. They go to boot camp, put in a few years of service, and then go to college for free to pursue their dreams. But, today, I cannot in good conscience encourage any of my students to sign up. They will have to go to war. Some of them will die.

I certainly do not mean to detract from or disrespect those who have chosen to serve in the military. These people believe in what they are doing and exemplify bravery. But, the idea that many new recruits feel they have no other options because of poverty is not fair. No one should be enticed to serve and die simply because they are poor.

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