It's natural for parents to be concerned about the prospects of their children going off to war, but some observers say counter-recruiters make outrageous claims that unnecessarily stir up fear. One example: the speculation that the gathering of student data - both locally from schools and nationally in a marketing database - could be the first step toward reinstating a draft.
That's simply unfounded, says James Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. "There is no credible person in the federal government, in the military, or in any academic think tank ... who thinks a draft is practical, makes sense, or is necessary. So it's an irrational fear or intentional fearmongering," he says.
A more immediate point of contention is the degree to which recruiters spell out all the risks and responsibilities when they're making their pitch about educational opportunities and other perks. In school settings, recruiters can capitalize on young people's uncertainties about their future, says Deb Regal, the southeast Michigan coordinator of Military Families Speak Out, one group that participated in a workshop for parents and students this summer. "For some students, enlistment might be a wise choice, but my concern is that ... many of the conversations, the promises made, are not happening when parents or other family members are around," she says.
Ms. Regal's son enlisted in the Marines when he was 21 and is currently in the Middle East. She says he doesn't quibble with what recruiters told him, but he has talked about meeting young enlistees who came in believing that they'd be able to choose their job in the military and where they'd be stationed.
Military recruiters refute the notion that they are misinforming students or leaving parents out of the loop. Eighteen-year-olds can apply to enlist on their own, but anyone under 18 must have parental consent.