Draft of speech given on May 2nd, 2009 to protest the Army Experience Center
My name is Jesse Hamilton. I served nine years in the U.S. Army, four in the 101st Airborne Division, three as a Drill Sergeant, and one as an embedded advisor to the Iraqi Army in Fallujah. Upon returning from Iraq, I received an honorable discharge and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War.
I can think of very few things in life that rival service to one’s country, and to the many in the crowd who have served or who have family members that served, my thanks goes out to you. That being said, service to one’s country does not necessarily require a rifle; it requires only the will to stand up for the ideals upon which this country was founded.
The final line of the Drill Sergeant Creed is as follows: “But first, last and always, I am an American Soldier, sworn to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.” Defense of the Constitution does not always have to be synonymous with war or killing, but that is obviously not the message portrayed by the Army Experience Center.
Over the last eight years, Soldiers have been forced to transition from defenders of the Constitution, to defenders of dividends for corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Halliburton. It is what a sagacious Dwight Eisenhower warned of when he spoke of the military industrial complex almost 50 years ago, and a concept preached by Smedley Butler when he correctly stated that “War is a racket.”
With high tech simulations that revolve around killing, The Army Experience Center shifts the focus of military service from passive defense of our nation to aggressive and expeditionary warfare. It draws in the youth of our nation with the intent of glorifying combat rather than service itself. The simulations do not depict defense of this country’s soil, but instead are set in terrains more likely found in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is not the type of defense envisioned by our founding fathers. In the words of John Quincy Adams “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” In The Army Experience Center, however, that is all America does.
I’ve known many Army recruiters, and they are all good people. Most are career Soldiers, and have been in the Army between 6 and 10 years. None that I’ve known have volunteered for the position. They, like most Soldiers, are not autonomous, but simply the face at the end of what has become the military industrial complex, peddling a war with which they may not agree. They are not the enemy, but the place in which they are forced to work is.
The Army Experience Center is an abomination. It epitomizes the turn for the worse that the military was forced to take over the last eight years. It is misleading, it targets impressionable minors, and it propagates the glorification of war. I am utterly disgusted that the Army which I loved and in which I served so long has resorted to such a deceiving recruiting strategy; one based on unrealistic combat simulations. I have seen the horrors of war. I have seen the pools of blood and lifeless eyes of men with holes in their head. I have heard the gibberish and moans of men who just lost their legs. I have felt the trembling hands of those scared because death is so close. War is hell on Earth. It is NOT a game.
I’m proud to be here with all of you, and thank you for having me.