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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Letters to the Editor

I am writing in response to the article “Student, Recruiters Clash in Heated Incident” (Mass Media, September 15, 2008). I have a few comments about the statements made by Keegan O’Brien, the anti-war coalition member that spoke out with a vengeance last week during the group?s counter-recruitment initiative.

First and foremost, I’d like to say that I think it is fabulous that Mr. O’Brien is exercising his rights to assembly and free speech. I take pride in serving to protect his rights and I think it’s intriguing to see such active participation in the anti-war effort. However, I recommend O’Brien do his research before speaking to the media, so as not to make false statements and offend the substantial number of service members within the UMB student body.

I can only assume O’Brien has never been in the military, seeing as he would have had his facts straight had he served in the past. His first mistake is that the military has no training that teaches recruits to, as O’Brien put it, “call Middle Eastern people and Arabs a lot of de-humanizing terms.” Like he, G.I.s have their convictions, and so it goes without saying that racial slurs, harassment, and criminal acts undoubtedly transpire in the military. But there is no formal training conducted in which recruits are taught that derogatory behavior is the way of the military. I’ve sat through hours of cultural awareness training, both before and after serving in the Middle East, and so I can assure O’Brien that, although personal experiences differ, the views of the military are not what he believes them to be.

O’Brien’s second mistake was calling the military “a backward, homophobic, sexist, and racist institution.” As a woman who served in the U.S. Army for six years, I can attest to there being incidents of sexism, racism, and homophobia. However, the discrimination I experienced was not a result of military doctrine but of individual thought and opinion, and is considered by the military to be a serious offense. A homosexual serving in the military can report being threatened or harassed because he or she has been perceived to be a homosexual, and the perpetrator can and will be punished, without there being an investigation into the alleged homosexual conduct. If there is clear evidence of homosexual conduct, dishonorable discharges are authorized only if the homosexual acts were, for example, with a person under the age of 16 (i.e., illegal whether homosexual or heterosexual in nature). Otherwise, a gay service member may be subject to an Entry Level Separation or a general discharge, neither of which can “ruin your life,” as O’Brien presumes. In addition, it has been my observation that if a homosexual has served honorably for ample time, he or she can receive the honorable discharge deserved and will be able to receive their veteran benefits. (This and more information can be found in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.)

Lastly, I’d like to point out that Mr. O’Brien is discouraging war, but doesn’t appear to be encouraging peace. He seems to believe that only his group’s rights matter and is not considering the right of student/service members to feel safe at school; His behavior towards service members can be seen as volatile and threatening. After reading about his behavior, I feel as though I cannot speak about my military affiliation on campus without being approached by people like him and being told that I’m wrong for “being invested in the war machine.” O’Brien accused UMB of not promoting a safe space for minorities by letting recruiters on campus, while he, not UMB, is guilty of just that by not recognizing service members as a minority on campus.

The bottom line, O’Brien, is that recruiting has to happen, because we need a military. By all means, protest war, but without a military we would be terrifyingly vulnerable to even more attacks by people that think your freedom of speech is a load of bullshit.

I recommend O’Brien and whoever else agrees with him step back for a moment and consider making a sacrifice to protect those freedoms they so covet. And should any of you ever decide to do that, give me a call. I’ll hook you up with a great recruiter.

Sincerely yours,Rebecca RaisSSgt, U.S. Air National Guard/UMB Student