Last week was a busy one for Truth in Recruitment! Following two consecutive days of site visits with funders, we tabled at a North County Job and Resource Fair as well as the Santa Barbara High School career fair. From meeting with our founding members to tabling with first-time volunteers, it was a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how our community continues to grow.
On Thursday, I (Aryeh) drove up to table at the Job and Resource Fair with one of our North County volunteers, Janet. As I pulled up to the event, the first person I saw was a Navy recruiter in full uniform – a concerning, yet unsurprising welcome to the event. As if to reaffirm the importance of our presence, our table was directly facing the Army’s, and not far from both the Navy’s and Marines’. Despite the military’s strength in numbers, our colorful display and peace-oriented activities drew more interest, and a more diverse and engaged group of visitors throughout the day. From high school and university students, to parents of young children and Vietnam veterans, our visitors were consistently intrigued by, grateful for, and enthusiastic to support our work.
We were also approached by curious military recruiters who were, of course, not accustomed to seeing their work directly challenged in the job fair environment. My conversation with one recruiter who came over turned out to be a fascinating and surprising moment in the afternoon. While we clearly had conflicting reasons for being at the job fair, he spoke of his mixed feelings about recruiting and said – as a father of two – that he appreciated our effort to give parents more visibility and control over recruiters’ access to their children, and to hold recruiters accountable for making clear the risks and consequences of enlistment. He also acknowledged the value in providing alternative perspectives, and listening and learning from others. While we can’t rely on all recruiters to have the same response, it was an encouraging reminder that our message is a universal appeal for humanity and truth that is always worth sharing – even with those who we least expect to listen.