War doesn't deter local recruits

By Greg Gelpi

War waging in Iraq isn't impacting Clayton County students' decisions to sign up for military service.

"I don't want to just sit at home," Lovejoy High School senior Michael Powell, 17, said. "That's what you sign up for. You shouldn't get scared and back down."

Powell, who will be leaving for the U.S. Navy in August, said that his family "guarded" him as he grew up, and this is his opportunity to guard and take care of them.

"It's sad to know people are dying out there, but I'm glad that it's not happening in the homeland," he said, adding that his grandfather and uncle were both in the Navy.

Classmate Brittiany Green, 17, is also bound for the military, leaving for the U.S. Army in June.

"It has good opportunities," Green said. "I want to go because of college. I wouldn't have a way to pay for college."

She admits being nervous about basic training, but said that anyone who is loyal to the country should be willing to serve, even in times of danger.

Although the U.S. Marine Corps fell short of its recruiting goals nationally for the month of January, Sgt. Josh Higgins said numbers for Recruiting Station Atlanta, which includes Clayton County, have "consistently" met goals.

"Recruiting is a constant challenge," said Higgins, 25, the marketing and public affairs representative for the station. "It's always been a challenge, and we will continue to meet that challenge head on."

In fiscal year 2004, the shipping mission, the goal for number of people to be sent to basic training, was 828 and 827 were actually shipped, he said. The goal for this fiscal year is 880 and 258 have already been sent, which puts the Atlanta region well on target.

"Right now there's been somewhat of a lag in getting recruiting going," Higgins said.

The "lag" only occurred recently, so he said it couldn't be attributed to the war.

Despite that, the war is on the minds of students that speak with Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric Jackson, who works at the Jonesboro recruiting office.

Jackson, 37, said current events come up in conversation when talking with potential recruits. One of their first questions is usually about the chances of their shipping out to Iraq, he said.

But once he answers their questions and clears up ay misinformation, recruiting numbers have remained constant, he said, adding that the biggest selling point is usually education.

"Most kids want to further their education, but don't have the money to pay for it," Jackson said.

Chief Master Sgt. Bill Evon with the Lovejoy High Air Force Jr. ROTC said few enter the military so that they can go to war or so that they can kill. Instead, they choose to serve out of a sense of patriotism and need to defend the country.

"None of them are wanting to go into it to harm someone," Evon, who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars, said.

Although patriotism peaked around Sept. 11, he said that the number of students entering the military has remained constant at about 10 to 12 students, both in and out of Jr. ROTC.