Our local paper, the Marin Independent Journal, has a surprisingly nice, fact-filled article about the uphill work of being an Army recruiter in Marin County. There’s a small amount of harassment, but mostly there’s just a huge lack of interest — which is sad, since Marin, as one of America’s most affluent areas, is at the same time an area that has benefited the most from everything that America has to offer. Marin-ites, who worship JFK, live the reverse of his reminder that they should “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
Anyway, here are a few paragraphs from the article, which should pique your interest to read the rest:
Staff Sgt. Jason Eck has been flipped off, cussed at and told to get out of Marin County for doing his job. The abuse hasn’t deterred the two-time Iraq war veteran from donning his uniform, sliding behind the wheel of his government-issued Chevy Malibu and hitting the road almost daily in search of new soldiers.
Still, as a recruiter, he faces a daunting task.
Almost nowhere in the nation is it harder to find willing and able enlistees than in the Bay Area. The region’s nine counties have the lowest enlistment rate of any large metropolitan area other than in and around New York.
Among Bay Area counties, nowhere is it harder to find enlistees than Marin, where Eck and two other Army recruiters try to do it.
“We’re fighting to give the Army a good name in Marin County,” said Eck, a 27-year-old Brooklyn native. “It’s really tough.”
Just 53 Marin County residents enlisted in the armed forces in 2006, giving the county of 249,000 people the lowest enlistment rate of any county its size in the nation. For that matter, it had the lowest rate of any county with more than 50,000 residents.
In the North Bay, when the academic year began last fall, Eck braced for little to come of his recruiting efforts at the two Marin County high schools in his territory.
After all, he said, none of last year’s seniors had expressed even the slightest interest in enlisting. Many teachers and administrators at best had seemed to tolerate his presence on campus, he said.
Elsewhere around the county, Eck had received “tons of dirty looks” while driving or walking. One passerby yelled “get the hell out of here” and punched Eck’s car on a downtown San Rafael street.
“A lot of people just don’t believe in the (Iraq) war,” Eck said. “So, they pretty much are going to try to avoid a recruiter – like I have leprosy or something.”
Eck enlisted no one for several months last year. Then he enlisted eight people between November and February.
He credited the turnaround to spending more time on campus getting to know students, career counselors, teachers and administrators.
Barbara McCune, college and career counselor at Sir Francis Drake High School, said Eck showed that he’s not a pushy recruiter. “He’s just here to answer questions and talk about careers. He’s not out there to make numbers.”
If you’d like to get more of an idea of what Staff Sgt. Eck is up against, you can read here about Marin’s anti-war rally, held yesterday.
Times certainly have changed. My Dad enlisted in the Royal Air Force the day after the War began. He was, of course, a member of the Israeli Defense Forces, although I don’t know if he was drafted or enlisted. He certainly fought in the War of Independence, playing a somewhat important role. He was proud of his service in both of these military institutions.