“We Are Not Your Soldiers” in NYC High School

From We Are Not Your Soldiers 

On Monday, May 23rd, a new addition to the “We Are Not Your Soldiers” campaign spoke to a classroom of students, and teachers. Former USMC Staff Sgt. and scout sniper, James Brower from Brooklyn, NY, decided it was time that he spoke up and reached out to high school students who are in the most jeopardy of joining the military. James completed three combat tours, one in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2002, and two in Iraq, 2005 to 2006; and, 2009 to 2010.

He said he joined the marines because he “wanted to fight.” All through school he was always in fights, and thought it was something he might like doing, especially as a marine. But after his second tour, he had doubts. By his third tour, he knew what we were doing in Iraq and Afghanistan were wrong. He describes it by saying “there are old men who send young men to war, and they make lots and lots of money. Iraq was fine. They had electricity, internet, homes, families, jobs, clean water, until we got there…and there were no weapons of mass destruction.”

Matthis Chiroux, a long time advocate of military resistance, a war resister himself, joined James, and the two speakers lit up the classroom! After showing the Ethan McCord narrated video of “collateral murder”, the students, as well as the teachers, were pretty much speechless, and in shock. James stood up to speak, and explained what prompted him to join the US Marine Corps. at 17 through the delayed entry program (or DEP), and then upon High School graduation in 2000 went to boot camp. There were some questions from the class, but mostly the video had disturbed them. Half of the those in attendance knew someone in the military, and only one had decided to join. He explained that ever since he was young, him and his friends wanted to join the marines. Then they all decided to join different branches of the service, and he had plans to go in once he graduated.

James, in an attempt to be diplomatic, said to him “if you absolutely have to join, and you have no other way out, make sure before you sign that contract you have a commitment to get a job skill, like a nurse or something. But there’s so much out there in life, and you could do anything you want in this country. I’m not supposed to tell you not to join, but after seeing this video, and show it to your friends, think about it.”

There was a dialogue in the class, and stories about how military recruiters are really pushy and flashy. One student recounted how he would not join the military, but a marine recruiter approached him once and told him to join because he could buy a new car, just like he had after he joined. The student thought that was a tricky a way to get young people to sign up, but he didn’t want to. He has friends who are thinking about it.

Almost all the students took the orange bandanas at the end of the 90 minute presentation, and handed back their survey which they gladly completed about their feelings regarding recruiters and the wars. A few took the CM DVD to show to their friends.

The teachers, about 8 of them, who stayed throughout the presentation, were very thankful that we were able to do this; that we could give these kids a different perspective, or the “other side of the story” that is promoted through corporate media and just not ever shown anywhere. They specifically thanked James and Matthis for sharing their heartfelt stories, and hoped to spread the word to other schools so that in the Fall we may be able to make more presentations to students.