Monday, May 08, 2006

Our newest military recruits...

We still have patriots in this country.. "America's Newest Recruits" By Jane Sutton Sun May 7, 2:05 PM ET MIAMI (Reuters) - The Iraq war has made it tougher to sign up young men and women for the all-volunteer U.S. military, but a group of new recruits said they were drawn by a sense of duty, a chance for adventure, career training and college tuition benefits. Coast Guard recruit Joshua Gonzalez, a Miami native nearing his 18th birthday, said he joined the military in part because his career options seemed limited. "Jobs are hard to find in Miami, I can't pay for college." Gonzalez was one of 144 recruits sworn into the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard during a ceremony in a sweltering hangar at the Opa-locka Airport near Miami last week. Gonzalez said he chose the Coast Guard in part because he wanted to defend his homeland, from its own shores. His mother, Linda Murray, watched the ceremony proudly from a row of folding chairs and tried not to dwell on the chance her son could be assigned to a ship on Iraq war duty in the Middle East. "I think it's a good thing, an honorable thing. It's his duty," Murray said. "It's a big contribution. Then if they don't come back, it's a sacrifice. You kind of tuck that deep down. ... You've got to have some faith." The swearing-in ceremony was part of the annual McDonald's Air & Sea Show that continued through Sunday in south Florida, where the military's elite parachutists and precision flying teams showed their skills and high-tech hardware, partly to attract recruits. While the other branches of the military exceeded their recruiting goals last year, the Army, which provides the bulk of U.S. ground forces in the Iraq war, missed its target by about 9 percent and lagged slightly behind last year's numbers during the first half of fiscal 2006. One recruiter said the newest members of the military were aware of the possible dangers."They know what they're getting into. They watch the news all the time," said Navy recruiter Mack Pierce. Rene Carbonell said he joined the Army and asked for an infantry assignment because he wants to be on the front lines. "I wanted to be right there where everything is. I'm ready to go," said Carbonell, 18. "I want to serve my country. I think that's what most people want to do when they join the military." Amos Aristil, 19, a Haitian-born U.S. citizen, said he joined the Navy to help protect his new country and to train in the medical corps to become a dental assistant. "It is a great opportunity for me," Aristil said. Shakita Cook, 18, said she joined the Army in part because the college tuition benefits will help her study for a career in criminal justice. But also because, "I want to go overseas, I want to see different stuff." Quasan Browne, an 18-year-old Air Force recruit, said he joined because, "Someone has to do it." "We've got to protect our families. War is not a problem, as long as we can keep everyone at home safe." Browne wants to work in the Air Force Intelligence Service and likes the idea of launching into a career now rather than spending years in college and then starting a job hunt. "They're going to give me college credits while I get the experience. ... I'm going to get my life started sooner," he said. "I know there's a risk. You've got to take a chance," Browne said. Joshua Vakili, a 20-year-old Marine recruit with his hair shaved into a mohawk, said it might be "a bad time to join," but that he wanted to do something that would push him hard. "I always wanted to do something very tough," said Vakili, who hopes to join a Special Forces reconnaissance unit, serve 20 years in the military and then join the CIA or FBI. "It doesn't bother me that much that a war's going on. It scares me sometimes but I'm not too worried," Vakili said.

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