Is the military, with so many career paths open to graduating seniors, an option families really want their sons or daughters to grab on to?
Families need to know the real story and not just what the all too friendly recruiters tell our kids.
Military recruiters, like college recruiters, have access to students on the high school campus. But unlike the college folk who visit the place, the military recruiters have quotas to fill. And another big difference between these recruiting folk is that the military ones have a specific interest in minority students.
I'll just call her Ms. Williams, as this mother didn't want her name mentioned. Throughout the years, men in her family have served in all of America's wars right down to the current one in Iraq; so she has no qualms about her son marching off to serve his county.
Ms. Williams didn't know anything about the Opt Out Letter she should have received in her son's high school enrollment papers, which if she had received and signed, recruiters would not have been allowed to call her home.
The recruiters did call and for this family it was perfectly fine. Did any college recruiters call? Well, no, but then their son, I was told, never made the kind of grades in school that would get him into the halls of higher learning.
But the recruiters, Ms. Williams said, could bypass all of that making college possible along with other very attractive sign-up bonuses.
Did the recruitment of Ms. Williams' son have anything to do with him being African American? No, she said, because we all need to serve our country.
What about the bodies of our young people being brought back home and unloaded off of military planes in flag-draped coffins?
And as life is these days, Ms. Williams interrupted to remind me with an air of extreme distrust sent my way in her delivery, that President Obama was bringing the troops home from Iraq.
That war, Ms. Williams insisted, was a battle being fought by some Afghanistan people called the Taliban who were against women.
Anyway, the family who lived down the street had a son going into the Navy and by doing that he would earn his citizenship.
"Why, Ms. Smith," Ms. Williams asked, "would you even ask these kind of questions when kids, young men especially, have to find something to do with their lives."
As an afterthought she added, "My son is African American and the boy down the street is Mexican."
Irving Gonzales in Houston, like Ms. Williams' son, thought by listening to recruiters, that the military was for him. As reported this past July by Marc Greenblatt, Gonzales signed up for the pre-enlistment program, which allows kids to join without a binding commitment. But when Gonzales, according to reports, changed his mind about being in the military, the DEP (delayed entry program) wasn't exactly how he understood things would be.
Signing up was a lot less complicated than his signing out! To hear more of what families need to know, check out Charter Channel 56, Talk About Parenting with Shirlee Smith. Also, on the web at www.talkaboutparenting.org.
Shirlee Smith is the president of Talk About Parenting and author of They're Your Kids, Not Your Parents.