DEAR READERS: Yesterday I printed a sample of the e-mails I received in response to the letter from "Cleveland Mom" (Feb. 25), whose twins -- both juniors in high school -- had been approached at school by military recruiters "who made the military sound exciting and glamorous." Today I am printing more of them. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have a son, 17, and a 14-year-old daughter. Both have met with military recruiters from almost all the branches at school. At first, I was furious. However, my husband and I decided to meet with each recruiter and discuss the options with our son. He thought we'd oppose his joining and wanted to shut us out.
As a mom, I don't want my child to die in a war -- no parent does. As a citizen who values our soldiers defending our nation, I couldn't be prouder of our servicemen and women.
Our children will do as they choose. At 18, they can enlist. Our choice is whether to be a part of it. Personally, I want to be a part of my son's life, so I will support him in every way possible and pray several times a day. -- SOON-TO-BE MOM OF A SERVICEMAN AND POSSIBLY A SERVICEWOMAN
DEAR MOM: Your idea of meeting with the recruiters who were talking to your children was an excellent one, and an option I -- and I'll bet many of my readers -- did not know was available.
DEAR ABBY: Our country needs dedicated, informed young men and women who know the risks and consequences of their voluntary service.
One option she should mention to her twins is to attend college and participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). They would incur no obligation for the first two years. This would give them the chance to experience a little of what military duty entails, and make an informed decision whether or not to pursue an active tour of duty. If, at that point, they decide to join the military, completing the ROTC program would put them in line for a commission as an officer.
Having spent 32 years in the Army as both an enlisted man and as an officer, I've served with or led some of the finest young people this country can offer. The best ones were always those who had the facts before deciding to join.
P.S. Please remind "Cleveland Mom" that the decision to go to war is made not by the military, but by her elected representatives. -- COL., U.S. ARMY (RET.)
DEAR ABBY: I'm a former Army recruiter. I understand the fear that "Cleveland Mom" and her husband are facing. I faced it myself as I enlisted young men and women knowing that the answer to, "Am I going to Iraq?" was, in many cases, "Yes." Regardless, our Army is necessary and does not serve solely for the conflict in Iraq. Our military is equipped, trained and ready to serve not only in combat, but in humanitarian support as well.
My recommendation to your readers is not to discourage youth who wish to serve. Rather, assist them in asking smart, pointed questions when they visit their recruiter. A good recruiter will answer honestly and to the best of his or her ability. It is also common for a family member to request to accompany their recruit as he or she chooses a job at the Military Entrance Processing Station.
Some things to bear in mind: Every service is different in its job assignments and contract length. Jobs are based on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score, physical ability, moral background and availability. Everyone signs up for eight years of Military Service Obligation (generally two to four years active service, with the remainder as an inactive reservist), and only 15 percent of the population ages 17 to 24 is qualified to serve. -- JEROLD Z., SGT. 1ST CLASS, U.S. ARMY (RET.)