Our co-workers Jerry and Mary Joan Park went into the recruiting center with their sons, P. J. And Michael who are prime age for military recruitment. Sargent Ford the 37 year old Army recruiter who had been in the Army service for 18 years greeted the Park family warmly. He introduced himself by saying that the army recruiters are here to help young people get a start on life with good jobs and education. He proudly described the army PACE program which provides scholarship money for soldiers and noted that soldiers who serve in the intelligence service are able to get high paying civilian jobs because they come with high security clearance that would cost civilian companies $60,000 or more. The Park family entered the office with many more questions.
Sgt. Ford told the family that he did not know anybody who has not survived the Iraq war. He had been in both Iraq wars. He refused to answer the question of whether he would participate in an unjust war by reminding the Park family that he is sworn to defend the constitution of the United States of America. He said that every time he returned from distant duty in Alaska, Germany, and Iraq he felt that his daughter and wife were in greater danger than when he left. “I would prefer to be back in Iraq”, he whispered, ” because I can be with my buddies.” He said he likes to be with his unit buddies. Sgt. Ford told the Parks that every soldier in Iraq chose to be in combat duty. “We are fighting out there” Ford said, “to keep the shooting away from our country.”
The last time I had been at a recruitment center was in Downer’s Grove, IL. My friend Scott Kerr and I were both arrested moments after we reached our destination in front of the recruitment offices. On that day almost two years ago we had agreed that if anything happened we would just stay in the police holding area and invite local pastors to come to visit us. Isn’t that what pastors do? Our plan worked in part. The pastors began their visits after being alerted. The police requested bond money which we would not pay. After a brief time of further deliberation and the first pastoral visit they decided that they didn’t need bond money. A special part of my memory of that arrest event was the finger printing process.
Downers Grove police had just gotten a brand new scanner to computerize and perhaps sanitize the finger printing process. I was the first to be finger printed by the policeman given responsibility to handle me. He couldn’t make the program work. So, I asked him if he would allow me to help him. Programs such as this generally require intuition. I often have difficulty with logical instructions but my intuition works well so in a couple minutes I figured out how the program worked and showed him how to finger print me. Now, and perhaps forever, the fingerprints that I myself administered will be inscribed in the FBI files where these images are kept to protect our nation from terrorists and other criminals. Six months later when I entered Canada at the International Falls, Fort Frances crossing point Canadian agents interviewed me for two and a half hours about my indiscretion at Downers Grove.
On this day everything was very polite – a sign of the time or a sign of Prince George’s Country – I am not sure. The recruitment center in Prince George’s County Federal Building also manages recruitment forays into High Schools and Universities of the region. Our tiny group of Shine the Lighters didn’t find our way into all those centers of learning to debate the ideas on this day but we should have, and we need to in the future in order to support those teachers who are working so hard to build a culture of nonviolence.