Valley People for Peace
ANDOVER A controversial decision has allowed a local anti-war activist group the same rights and access to students as military recruiters at Greater Lawrence Technical School.
Merrimack Valley People for Peace was given a table in the school cafeteria for three hours last week to talk to kids about the dangers of the military. Some 80 to 100 students stopped by to collect the group's literature and to speak with members James and Mary Todd of Lawrence.
"They have every right to be there just as the military recruiters do," said School Committee Chairman Leo Lamontagne. "That's one reason ... we live in this country as we do."
Military recruiters are given the same opportunity once a year to speak to students about the benefits of the armed forces. When petitioned by the group for the same access to the students, School Superintendent Frank Vacirca turned the decision over to the School Committee and said he supports the vote.
"We live in America," he said. "People in an orderly fashion can present their side of the story."
The lone dissenter in the 4-1 vote was committee member Kenneth Henrick, who is also a former Marine. He called the group subversive and said they may not be appropriate for children. The group's literature denounces United States support for Israel, for example, which Henrick said could offend Jewish students.
"They are extremists," Henrick said. "The whole thing is political and they're saying they are not."
People for Peace has been lobbying the school for several weeks for equal access to students. The group also wants access to Lawrence High but has so far been denied.
Becci Backman of Andover, People for Peace's vice president, said similar groups are entering high schools nationwide to warn students about military service. She said military recruiters are not always truthful.
"The goal is for students to have a very informed opinion about what it is to serve in the military," Backman said, "particularly at a time when the United States is engaged in preemptive war."
Backman called Henrick's comment on Israel "simplistic."
"I fear that his comments are based on too narrow a perception of what we're actually trying to do as far as informing people regarding the realities for Palestinians," she said.
The Todds manned the desk and said their message was straight forward.
"You can live a life of peace, rather than a life of war," said James Todd, a retired Methodist pastor.
No students decided on the spot not to join the military, the Todds said. But some who were considering the military said they will now reconsider, said Mary Todd.
"Violence is not a way to solve problems," she said of her message to the students about war. "I don't have the answer, but I think we're too quick to use violence."
Vacirca said about six students from his school sign up for the military each year.
One Greater Lawrence Technical School graduate has died in Iraq. Marine Cpl. David Vicente of Methuen was killed March 19, 2004, by a roadside bomb west of Baghdad.
A memorial to him is in the technical school's lobby.
The Army and Marines had difficultly filling recruitment quotas in 2005 but have made a comeback this year, following major marketing campaigns that included targeting parents of recruits and setting up booths at NASCAR races.
As of April 24 this
year, the Army recruited 37,053 soldiers for active duty and 10,455 for
the Army Reserve, according to the Army's public information office. The
branch is ahead of its goal by 1,353 active duty recruits, and 186 for
the Army Reserves.
Boston Globe Article
as printed in national site Truthout.org
Sunday 11 June 2006
Activists try to talk teens out of signing up for Uncle Sam.
Andover - In a surge of patriotism last September, Kristina Bourque raised her right hand and took the first of two oaths to serve in the Marine Corps. But last week, three months before she is set to ship off to Parris Island, she was biting her lower lip and talking about improvised explosive devices and sniper fire.
"Now I'm not so sure," Bourque said. "I don't think I want to join."
So last Thursday afternoon, when the senior at Greater Lawrence Technical School spotted a table in the school cafeteria with the sign "Merrimack Valley People for Peace," she slowly walked over and asked the silver-haired woman standing nearby what was going on.
"We're trying to educate students about their choices," said Mary Todd, a peace activist and retired college guidance counselor. "The military doesn't tell you everything you need to know about going to war."
Bourque stood perfectly still, her head tilted to one side and her voice rising. "Like what?"
Across the country this school year, hundreds of "counter-recruiters" like Todd have been quietly setting up information tables in high schools trying to elicit exactly that kind of question. Their message: Military recruiters lie. War is hell. Think long and hard before you enlist.
Todd, a soft-spoken woman of 69 with a gold peace crane necklace, pressed a handful of pamphlets into Bourque's hand. The diminutive 18-year-old with rainbow tattoos on her stomach told Todd she did not think she wanted to serve, but said her recruiter told her "he wouldn't let me go without a fight."
"He's not the one you should be talking to. Call this number," Todd said, pointing to a GI hot line on one of the pamphlets. "Your recruiter is not going to tell you your full range of options."
People for Peace meets monthly, on the fourth Tuesday,
Merrimack Valley People for Peace (978) 685-1389
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