Thursday, August 24, 2006

Veteran protests against Iraq war

Colorado Daily
Veteran protests against Iraq war
By Julie Waggoner

Gene Grazer, 82, marched up and down the stretch of sidewalk in front of Boulder's Army and Marine Corps recruiting centers at the corner of 30th and Walnut Streets Monday carrying a sign that read “Support the troops: bring them home now.”

He said public opinion has changed in the past year, and since that time he's gotten more support.

“The tide has changed,” Grazer said. “I get more thumbs up by far than middle fingers.”

Grazer served as a medic in France, Belgium and Germany during World War II and is now a member of the anti-war organization Veterans For Peace.

Grazer said he wants to give additional information to young men and women enlisting in the armed forces because he sees deceit and misinformation in the facts Americans have surrounding the war in Iraq.

“The recruiting center is the source of people who are trying to talk our youth into being ‘all you can be,'” Grazer said. “They don't tell them you can be dead before you get the things they promised. If I can talk one person out of joining, amen.”

Grazer said people interested in enlisting should talk to Veterans For Peace as well as military recruiters to get as much information as possible before making a decision.

Inside the Marine Corps recruiting center, Gunnery Sgt. D. Ryan Cope, 34, said he, too, wants people interested in enlisting to have as much information as possible.

Cope said he encourages recruits to get positive and negative feedback from family, friends and other sources before deciding to enlist, because those who qualify for the Marine Corps sign on for a four-year commitment.

Cope said serving in the Marine Corps is not for everyone, indicating a 1950s poster on the wall that depicts a drill sergeant yelling at a Marine with the words, “We didn't promise you a rose garden,” written below it.

“I don't promise them anything other than the possibility of getting to be a Marine and the opportunity to defend their country,” Cope said. “We have an interest to tell these kids the brutal, honest truth and make sure they want to join for the right reasons.”

He said once recruits pass the educational, medical, emotional and background checks necessary to become a Marine, they get on a waiting list to go to a three-month-long boot camp.

According to Cope, an individual who signs up now wouldn't go to boot camp until November because slots are full at this time. Even then, he added, going to war is not something he guarantees.

Rather, most Marines begin working in a specified field. Before they leave for boot camp, Cope said recruits take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test (ASVABT), which tells them what job they will do in the Marine Corps once they finish boot camp.

And how is recruitment in Colorado?

Cope said the Marine Corps is not struggling with recruiting, and the Boulder office is one of the most successful in Colorado.

Cope attributed part of the success of the Boulder Marine recruiting office to CU-Boulder. Many CU students enlist after a few semesters of school because they want more motivation, he said.

“We're Marines, and Marines accomplish their missions,” Cope said.

He said he began working in Boulder in January but has worked as a recruiter for nine years and Grazer is the first protester he's seen.

Cope said he offered Grazer some coffee and told him he could come into the Marine Corps recruiting office to escape the heat.

“We have a great country here,” Cope said, adding that part of what he loves about America is the people's right to protest.

Members of Veterans For Peace are proud to have defended that right as well.

“Veterans For Peace is not a pacifist organization, we see there are wars of necessity,” Grazer said.

He said fighting fascism in World War II was necessary, but every war since then has not been necessary.

Grazer said he plans to continue protesting against the Iraq war and spreading information, individually and with his colleagues at Veterans for Peace and at the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.

“We work at waging peace seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Grazer said. “We talk to anyone who stands still long enough to hear us.”