Kevin B. Zeese
Kevin B. Zeese
Army and National Guard have been failing to meet their recruiting goals for the
last four months. Summer is typically the time they have their greatest success
in recruiting and they are counting on this summer to make up for their shortcomings
in the previous months. They are increasing their efforts and making more promises
to get America’s youth to sign up for war. As a result, those of us who oppose
the war need to step up our efforts in counter-recruitment as well. Below is an
interview with a counter-recruitment activist from Washington State that provides
directions on how to get started and documents to assist in your efforts.
Coppernoll is the father of two, a son who is a lawyer and a daughter who is an
activist and student in San Francisco. He is the husband of an activist organizer
and midwife, Belinda Coppernoll. He has been a peace activist and organizer
since 1969 and has worked with many organizations on a range of issues including
immigrant and farm workers rights, prison reform, and open access to the political
system for all Americans.
recently his work has led him to work with a number of organizations on ‘Telling
the Truth Behind the Sales Pitch’ that the counter recruiters are giving the young
people of this country and their parents. One of the great outcomes of this work
is his contact with young persons of Washington State and around the country.
Any young people interested should contact him or Carrie Hathorn at 206-963-4873.
Describe the counter recruitment project you are involved with.
Kevin, Our counter recruitment effort is a "Direct Action, Direct Contact"
effort. We are a group of concerned people and organizations that have become
sick and tired of the half truths and outright lies that are being told to young
Americans by military recruiters. We are focusing on three areas; opt Out, Get
the Truth and How to Deal with Delayed Enlistment.
Out: Hidden in the No Child Left Behind Act is a provision known as section
9528 that requires public high schools to hand over private student information
to military recruiters. If a school does not comply, it risks losing federal education
funds. This breach of privacy gives recruiters access to addresses and phone numbers,
allowing them to actively call and visit teens at home. A parent or student can
present a letter to the school board or superintendent exercising the right to
request that the school does not turn over the name, address, telephone listing
and other school records to the Armed Services, Military Recruiters, or Military
Schools. Information like exit test scores, assisted lunch programs and other
information allow recruiters to target low income students and students that are
being affected by the pressures of the high stakes testing for graduation. The
No Child Left Behind Act has turned up an ugly card in this high stakes game of
our children’s lives. The ugly card is exampled in our state as the WASL test.
This is a test, like testing in most other states, that requires a student to
pass an exam to graduate. After 6 years of WASL administration, we are still telling
over 70% of our 4th graders, over 75% of our 7th graders and just under 70% of
our 10th graders that they are sub-standard in at least one of the
4 WASL subjects. This means they would not graduate. When the children of already
stressed communities are faced with this kind of threat, the drop out rate drastically
raises. These communities of immigrant, color and lower economic status become
a target for recruiters. The recruiters get the scores and lists of drop-outs
and start their Sales Pitch. The No Child Left Behind Act thus becomes a tool
for the military to implement an ‘Economic Draft’ That is why students and parents
must protect themselves and OPT OUT
is how the Students and Parents "OPT OUT:" fill
out a letter to OPT OUT the student or contact Carrie or I and we will send
you a form that can be reprinted in English or Spanish and filled out by pen for
those without computer access.
the Truth: This involves giving the students a chance to speak with a Veteran
for Peace and Get the Truth.
give the student at least three opportunities. First, the Veterans for Peace have
been great at having at least one Vet on hand at the schools for direct first
contact. Secondly we try to have a general informational meeting with a Veteran
for Peace the week after a school action for students and parents. Third, we give
out the GI Rights Hotline 800-394-9544 or in our area Washington Truth in Recruiting
local number. The student can then speak with a veteran on the phone and Get the
Truth. We also promote Career Councilors, Principals, PSTA's and Teachers to always
give an equal opportunity for a Veteran for Peace or any of the other Veterans
organizations working for peace and against war to present the truth when Recruiters
have access to students.
with Delayed Enlistment: Most young people enter the military through the
Delayed Enlistment Program (sometimes called the Delayed Entry Program). This
program allows youth to sign up with a military recruiter for one of the service
branches, but receive a report date for basic training for up to a year later.
When entering the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), youth sign an enlistment agreement
and take an oath of enlistment.
is very common for young people to change their minds after enlistment in the
DEP. A young person may re-evaluate their decision. It is important to realize
that up until a young person actually reports for basic training, they can be
released from any military obligation.
official way to gain release is to write a letter to the commanding officer of
the recruiting station, explaining one's decision not to report to basic training.
The young person may or may not receive an official response before the date to
report for basic training. Military recruiters are instructed to be understanding
of these changes in plans. Nonetheless, in some cases military recruiters may
and have used intimidation or threats to persuade the young person not to withdraw
their commitment to serve. However, not reporting for basic training will result
in release from any further obligation. (more
What made you get involved in this effort?
The Peace Movement in the United States is stagnant. It seems stuck in a loop
that started in the 2004 election cycle, even though we have nearly six in ten
Americans saying the United States should withdraw some or all of its troops from
Iraq according to the June 2005 Gallup Poll. Yet the peace movement continues
to not be able to generate the energy to do much. Sadly, some of this, it seems
to me, comes from rivalries between organizations that are still arguing over
what position or standing in leadership of the movement they should have. Position
doesn't mean a damn to me. The last couple of years I've slept on couches and
basement floors with other activist organizers, because the mission far outweighed
got involved because I had to. My mission; end the wars that the United States
is waging against countries of the world, now. All who care, about stopping our
government, that is supposed to be representing us, from conducting the Iraq War
and all the other wars of oppression that it supports around the world, must do
something direct and immediate. This project begins that.
How does it work? What materials do you give to youth or parents?
Kevin, it's pretty straightforward. You get in contact with your local Veterans
for Peace group. This can be just one individual in your small town or a neighboring
town if you're not in a big city. You then reach out to anyone you know. Ask them
the questions "Do you think the military has the right to not tell our young
people the whole truth? Do you think military recruiters have the right to our
children's school records?" Then you ask student or parent or any one concerned;
"if they would committee just one hour of their time a week and a couple
of dollars for printing some information, to hand out, for saving a young persons
you schedule one meeting for one hours worth of business, that business will cover
organizing, the time for the first hand-out of information to the students. The
best time is after school when students are going home. Tell the people and organizations
that after the business part of the meeting is over they can have a discussion
period. But you've told people that the meeting is set for an hour to actually
plan and set a date for your action.
the first action if you can for the first day of school this fall. This is very
important. The first week we want as many students and parents to sign an OPT
OUT letter as possible. On September the 24th we will announce while
the first national protest are going on all the OPT OUT letters that have been
signed. We will then demand our legislators support the "Student Privacy
Protection Act" that would turn current policy around, allowing the military
to talk only to students whose parents approve of such contact. Instead of having
the responsibility of opting out, parents should be asked to opt-in. Critics charge
that this will make it far harder for recruiters to discuss military careers with
the nation's high school students; so be it.
you have a group that wants to start this summer, at events that high schools
students might attend. Print out an OPT OUT letter that can be filled out by pen
and does not require a computer. (See earlier example or contact us.) Have some
literature that you or your group has studied to hand out. If possible have a
Peace Veteran at hand to speak to the students. Have a leaflet that has the next
time and place a meeting is available, and where a student and their parents can
speak with a Veteran. Also have on the meeting leaflets the GI Rights Hotline
800-394-9544. You have the right to stand on a public sidewalk in front of your
school and hand out this information to students or any public place.
direct contact may be out of some peoples comfort zone. However, this is the most
important part. The only way to reach these students is eyeball to eyeball. You
must show them that you care enough about their lives to stand there and talk
with them. If they say they don't care if they die in war you must tell them "you
care for them and that's why your there." You don't tell them that they can't
join the military. This is a free country and they have the right to do as they
wish. These young people are smart, once you get them past the propaganda, which
they are constantly bombarded with they will make the right decision.
ask them would they buy something important on a slick sales pitch or would they
want the truth about what they are getting into before they make a life-changing
week after the school action you have the meeting you called for in your leaflet
you handed out. You have a Peace Veteran there. Keep it informal, this is a time
the student, their parents and the veteran should have to dialogue with each other.
It is important to have a sign-up sheet. Ask students if they would like to start
a club on campus that talks about peace and alternatives to war?
also want to say that many groups are doing a number of things for counter-recruitment.
I think it is great what they are doing. You will notice we use leaflets from
other groups around the country and we support you getting material that they
print and pay for it if they request it. The material we have developed is free
What has been the result of your efforts?
They have been really good. We have incorporated a street theater group
that comes out at our campuses. They really got a buzz going with the students.
It was great to see the actors and students interact. Kevin, I get goose bumps
when I think of different moments I've had and observed between students and activists.
The young people get it. They are a lot smarter than the government thinks. The
government uses Slick Sales Pitches with Trained Recruiters. We use the Truth
and People Who Care about Young Peoples Lives.
started now before the fall because this time is what the Recruiters call "Christmas
in July". Students are getting out of school in a dismal economy with pressures
to get a job and find away to get training or go to school. The Chicken Hawk Recruiters
are circling them with lies and false promises. We also started now so we could
prepare for an all-out push for OPT OUT this fall.
first day we had an organized effort at a high school we got 18 OPT OUT letters
signed. That was 18 young people that the recruiters were told to keep their hands
off their records.
now have a coalition of groups like Veterans for Peace, Washington ACORN, Stand
Up Seattle, The Green Alliance (national), Youth Against War and Racism (from
Franklin High School and U of W) to name a few and more are coming aboard daily.
Many individuals are coming forward and showing solidarity such as parents, students,
teachers, councilors, school board members, and people of the community. However
this is a call for more help to people that care.
importantly we have parents who are coming forward to work on getting a speaker
to speak to their Parent Teacher Student Association about the recruiting situation.
Students that are planning to set up clubs on campus around the military and peace.
We are working on a packet for social studies teacher with resources so they can
have debates in classes on military recruitment.
What is the goal of your efforts?
simply, to have one or more activists, on every high school sidewalk, in every
community, that has one person who cares for our youth and peace, when school
starts this fall.
may say that it's a huge undertaking. However, it all can happen, when we the
people, who believe in peace, decide to stop war. When we the people say, I won't
let them lie to my children any more. When we the people say, I want our next
generation to build a country that is a place that cares for all the people in
it and doesn't waste life subjecting others around the world for power for the
Do you have any future plans you can share?
Well, we are going continue our actions here in Washington State focusing not
only on the cities but also on the rural and suburban areas. We are open and available
for anyone or an organization that need some help in the country to get started
with direct action on the counter-recruitment and OPT OUT program. We are already
contacting groups that may want to help around the country. But don’t wait to
be contacted, individuals and groups that want to tell our youth the truth need
to start now and contact us.
want to see students and teachers form ‘Peace Clubs.’ We want all the many organizations
and individuals working around the country on counter-recruitment to come together
this summer and work with each other.
are also working toward a coalition of organizations and peace advocates who want
to work now instead of waiting for the next war.
young people that I have come in contact with and seasoned organizers are forming
to build on this action. The youth of today have been given a bad rap; a lot of
them care and want to do something. But they need to be organized by other youth
that they fell connected with. The youth need some help with training and once
they get it watch out. They have the energy to make change.
Where can people get more information?
They can Email me, Clint Coppernoll at [email protected]
or phone 509-964-9219 or the outstanding young activist Carrie Hathorn 206-963-4873.
you Kevin for helping us get the word out on this important action.
Zeese [send him mail] is a director
of Democracy Rising.US. You can comment
on this article by visiting
2005 Kevin Zeese