Today, less than 0.5% of the U.S. population serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12% during World War II. Very often, people's’ perception of the military lifestyle is limited to what they’ve seen on the news, TV, or video games. VFP members across the U.S work with young people before they enlist, to help them understand what is is really like to be part of the U.S. military.
Recruiters are salespeople, plain and simple. They undergo extensive sales training and are judged by their superiors primarily upon the number of recruits they sign up. Sign up large numbers, and they’re judged to be a good recruiter. Fail to sign up the minimum number assigned (known as "making mission"), and a recruiter is looking at a dead-end career. This policy pressures some recruiters to adopt unethical practices in order to "make mission."
We encourage possible recruits to consider the following questions:
Why do you want to enlist?
Every young person is attracted to the military for his or her own reasons. It is important to understand that a great deal of research and resources are devoted to painting a certain image of the military life. Take some time to really think about your expectations and the commitment that you will be making.
Have you been fully informed?
This is extremely important. You must ask all of the right questions before enlisting. Make sure you do the appropriate research and talk with as many people as possible, especially be sure to talk to a veteran. This way, you won’t feel misled or cheated when the actuality of your situation becomes evident. Don’t listen selectively; actively listen to your recruiter. Make a list of things you need to know about and get informed.
Are you willing to give up your rights?
It is important to understand that you will give up many civilian rights. Your rights to free speech, assembly, petition and exercise of individual expression (such as clothing or hairstyle) are restricted. G.I. stands for “Government Issue,” and you are a resource in the strictest sense of the word. If you are the kind of person who values basic liberties, or who doesn’t conform well, this will be a significant matter to deal with. You must follow all orders given to you, whether or not you agree with them and consider them right or fair.
Are you willing to kill (or be killed)?
Seriously consider your moral feelings about going to war. The mission of the military is to prepare for and wage war. If you cannot in good conscience engage in war or in killing another person, you should not consider enlisting. Would you risk your life in a fight for someone else's cause? Even soldiers who believe in fighting to defend their country have found themselves ordered to carry out a mission that they felt was wrong.
Do you have other options?
If you want to earn money for college, find adventure, or travel, don't assume you must enlist. Peaceful Careers Alternatives can walk you through many options for thinking about jobs and careers, serving your country, seeing the world, and paying for training or college.
- The National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY) brings groups together so we can help the nation understand that providing youth with peaceful and viable alternatives to achieve success in life is an important sign of a civilized society.
- Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (YANO): Project YANO primarily serves young people who are looking for job training, wish to go to college or want to make a difference in other people's lives -- but they might not see enough opportunities to pursue these goals. We also work with educators and others who advise young people, and we support youths who are using activism to change their lives, their communities and the larger world they are part of.
- Opt-Out of Recruiting
- Before You Enlist: Before You Enlist" is a 16 min. educational video, professionally produced with the input of researchers and organizers who have spent decades speaking in schools and to youth groups. It covers important points chosen strategically to counter the deceptive tactics used by highly-trained military recruiters. It does so with the voices of a diverse set of veterans, including an ex-recruiter whose testimonial highlights reasons why young people should think critically about what they hear from the military. The latest version (2018) provides a link to an extensive list of non-military alternatives. An update of the Spanish version will be completed by summer 2019.
- A Solider's Life: This website and video are made for high school students to discourage them from enlisting in the military. All of the production staff who created the 10-minute video are students, ranging from middle school to college. The Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice and Veterans for Peace co-created the video with professional photographer and CCPJ Board member Richard Lord.
- Conscientious Objection: Is This For You? Discerning a Claim and Documenting it with Selective Service. A QuakerHouse resource for Teachers explaining Selective Service, its registrations and it's methods; defines conscientious objection as currently prescribed by law; provides a range of exercises and activities to prompt individual discerning, and lists procedures on how to document a CO claim.