Last Friday, March 14th, I received an email from one of my old Veterans For Peace chapter member. In it she described how she and another veteran were treated by a group of recruiters from the Army, Navy, Marines and the Oregon National Guard. I will put the text of it below the orange squiggle of doom.
Since the email was on one of the chapter’s lists, there was a flurry of responses. I was of course appalled by the abuse she and her fellow vet received but since I am no long part of the chapter, I waited with my reply in order to see what kind of action would be taken. Turns out there were two types of response; immediate response and form a committee. Lots of logical reasons were presented on both sides but the second option just didn’t cut it for me, so I replied to the list with this:
Since I am not a member of VFP (although I get this list since I am a moderator), I must say that the idea of a “go it slow” approach sticks in my craw.Instead of just a letter to the school superintendent I decided to write to the commanding officers of the local recruiting districts. It included a copy of her email. I then sent a cc of the letter to the superintendent and the principal of the High School where this happened with a separate cover letter.
Twice I have had to deal with similar situations, one at Benson HS and one at the recruiters on Broadway. At Benson a Vice Principle came out to where we were distributing flyers and read us the riot act. The next day I wrote both to the Principle and the PPS Superintendent. He was advised of his indiscretion in no uncertain terms by the Principle.
At the recruiting office, a police officer tried to keep us from exercising our 1st amendment rights. I called him on it and got his badge number. A letter the next day to the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the Precinct Commander resulted in a meeting at the NE precinct where we laid out our issues and what we expected of the police. They did not harass us again.
When I was the president of the chapter, I met Angie on an anti war march downtown and recruited her. Just as I have recruited many other members. This makes it somewhat personal.
Angie met with a group of us this morning for coffee and she is still pissed. She gave me permission to share her email. Since I have known Carol Smith, the Superintendent of PPS for over 30 years, I will be forwarding it with a note from me to her, cc’d to the school board. I will follow it up with phone call.
This is an affront to a member of the chapter doing her duty as she sees it. The longer a response takes, the more secure in their actions these buffoons will be.
The older I get, the less concerned I am with hurting some authority figure’s fee fee. They need to be advised of this egregious event, the sooner the better.
March 17, 2014They all should have received their letters yesterday and it will be interesting what the response will be.
LTC Bryan W. Ryder
United States Army
Portland Recruiting Battalion
6130 NE 78th Court, Suite C-11
Portland, OR 97218-2853
Last Friday, the 14th, , I received an email from a friend and fellow veteran regarding her treatment by a group of recruiters as she and another veteran were attempting to address some students under the “equal access” provision set forth by the PPS school board. I have enclosed a copy of her email.
I am bringing this to your attention because I believe the egregious behavior by these representatives under your command reflects directly on you, your command and the US Army.
I met with Angie yesterday and in our conversation she mentioned that when she signed the visitor’s log, she did not see any of the recruiters had done the same, so I don’t know if we can get any of the names of the recruiters present. I don’t know if this is SOP for visiting recruiters and would hope that it not. Parents should know who is visiting their children’s school.
I am requesting that you investigate this incident and report back to as soon as possible.
(my contact info here)
Carole Smith - PPS Superintendent
Pam Knowles and Greg Belisle - Co-chairs PPS board
Major Joel C. Schumacher – Commander Marine Recruiting Station Portland
Commander Todd D. Bode – Commander Navy Recruiting Command Portland
Paul Cook – Principal Cleveland High School
In May, 2011, the Portland public school district voted unanimously to allow equal access for counter military recruiters into high schools. I have participated in speaking with high school students in classrooms for 3 years, finding it to be one of the best uses of my time. The students are amazing spirits and I am greatly thankful for the time I've had with them.
I was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 2005. Having joined in 2001, I was stationed on the guided missile USS Cowpens. I was deployed to the Arabian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The USS Cowpens fired the first ordinance to initiate the Iraq War. We stayed for over 3 months, launching tomahawk cruise missiles during very early morning hours, usually about 0300. To this day, I still don't know what we hit or who we killed.
My participation in this has led to unexpected and complicated disturbing emotions today. When I worked at Habitat for Humanity, I was faced with a new guilt-driven situation: working with Iraqi and Afghani refugee families. They were getting homes through Habitat for Humanity, and my role was to direct them in daily warehouse duties, for their sweat equity hours. I discovered that all of them were beautiful people, intelligent, compassionate, and undoubtedly strong for the perils they endured having to leave war-stricked countries. One lady's sister was abducted - she still doesn't know where she is.
I am not a emotionless drone that can ignore these sensitive situations. These are part of a large story about why I want students to think carefully before they make the moral, ethical, logical, and even spiritual decision to join the military.
Yesterday myself, and Jeff, a twice-deployed army medic, went to Cleveland High School to talk with students. We were in a room filled with uniformed military recruiters, many more than necessary to staff a table. The Army, Army National Guard, Navy, and Marines were there. They had a prosperous flat screen tv which they showed continuous recruiting videos for at least half the class period. The majority of the time, there were 2 male and 2 female students present.
When it was apparent that we were not going to be given our time slot for equal access, which the school district voted for, and why we were asked to be there, we introduced ourselves to the class when there was not much conversation going on. When Jeff and I began speaking, we were immediately interrupted, laughed at, heckled, and some recruiters even stomped their feet. One of the recruiters started filming us with his phone (which I would love to get a copy of). One of the Army recruiters approached Jeff with his arm up in a blocking position, blasting "you're time is done, and you need to go." Within 3 to 4 minutes, we were essentially forced out of the room.
Our equal access visit, which I took time out of my work day to do, was not very equal at all. There were no school staff or faculty present. There were no moderators. It was telling about military recruiters' attitudes and was terrible for the students to witness. The oath to protect the Constitution of the United States was lost with their actions. The military recruiters would not allow us to speak with the students, because they don't want us to tell them what we know.
As two recently returned veterans, I believe we should have had the opportunity for true equal access. The attitudes and actions of the military recruiters were horrifying mutations of the rights and freedom that they supposedly protect. I want people to know this is not acceptable. It is not okay to refuse our presence when the school district made it law, and we were asked to be there by the school. In my 3 years of equal access visits, I've always been treated with complete respect and thanks.
What do I do now? I will keep going to schools, of course. In the future, if military recruiters and counter-recruiters are in the same location, there has to be a staff or faculty member present as a moderator. I'm not sure if it was legal for the recruiter to be filming or not. Their behavior was sickening, pathetic, and not to be tolerated. That's why everyone needs to know about it.