At half-time of an NBA basketball game, the West Point Military Academy drill team performs, because it is US-Army-sponsored “Military Appreciation Night”. It is also, “Student Rewards Night,” where students as young as grade school have been given free tickets to attend. So it is also a recruiting opportunity.
“They use a lot of underhand tactics to recruit youths in the military,” Chiroux says.
A souped-up Humvee welcomes kids from a poor New York suburb off their bus, while inside GI Johnny draws a crowd and the “future soldier trainer” game, as it is called, draws a new recruit, recently enlisted.
“I'm a future soldier,” he declared proudly, believing that the game is “pretty good, it gets you ready, prepares you for the battle. I mean everybody in the beginning gets scared, but I believe I can get used to it”, though he also admits that he has never fired a real gun.
But Chiroux says nothing this young man knows now will prepare him: “They say you'll travel the world and meet interesting people, they leave out the torture. [They say] ‘If you're in high school and think you can't go to college, just sign up and we'll help you when you get out.’”
These promises are sold. But something is missing.
“They never address the military – they say you know what it's like you've played some ‘shoot ‘em up’ game,” Sergeant Matthis Chiroux says, an Iraq veteran who could not take any more war, and says others do not have to either. says.
But war is not a game. And the US military experience does not fit into a half-time army display.