A group of students and community members was forcibly escorted from the McKay Events Center by campus police on Wednesday March 25, after engaging in counter-recruitment activities during UVU’s Career Fair. U.S. Military recruiters had information and recruitment tables at the Career Fair, which the escorted individuals said they were there to counter with information presenting a viewpoint other than a U.S. Military recruiter’s.

Crystal Busenbark, a UVU Psychology Major with a Minor in Peace and Justice Studies, was in the McKay Events Center Wednesday and said she was there because she has seen too many of her friends and peers go away to war. “Sometimes young people from poorer households or neighborhoods join the military because they feel they don’t have any other options, or that that is their best financial option,” said Busenbark. “I’ve watched my friends go off to war, watched them come back with PTSD, broken, and they were used.”

“I don’t want to see that happen to anyone else,” said Busenbark. That sentiment seemed to capture the views of others countering U.S. Military recruitment Wednesday.

U. of U. alumnus Ryan Chikaraishi said he was detained by UVU campus police and told he was trespassing at Wednesday’s Career Fair.

UVU Campus Police were unavailable for comment before press deadline Thursday.

Chikaraishi said he hoped to deter recruitment of his friends and peers by the U.S. Military because he “[opposes] our foreign policy of imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Chikaraishi however added that “U.S. soldiers are not the ones directing the waging of war so I am sympathetic to them.” According to Chikaraishi, some potential recruitees “were really receptive” Wednesday to the group’s alternate viewpoints.

Ashley Bledsoe, one of 2007’s Alternative BYU Commencement organizers, was at the McKay Events Center Wednesday. Bledsoe, along with other BYU students and community members participating in the 2007 Alternative BYU Commencement objected to BYU’s honoring of then Vice-President Dick Cheney. Bledsoe said she talked to one female approached by U.S. Military recruiters Wednesday and had a conversation with her about the alarming incidence of rape of female soldiers in the U.S. Military.

In “Sexual assault in military ‘jaw-dropping’ lawmaker says” (July 2008), CNN quoted U.S Congresswoman Jane Harman as saying, “Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.” Rep. Harman said that four in ten women serving in the U.S. Military had been raped.

Bledsoe said, “You wouldn’t buy a used car without checking out an unbiased mechanic’s second opinion on the car. Don’t join the military without getting another person’s perspective, besides a recruiter’s.”

UVU Biology Major Derek Johnson was also in attendance Wednesday and said, “A lot of young people who join the military and only talk to a recruiter are vulnerable, they are away from their parents for the first time in their life, they don’t have their feet under them yet, and they are susceptible to authority figures.”

BYU alumnus Will Van Wagenen, also a co-organizer of 2007’s Alternative BYU Commencement, said his LDS faith motivated his participation Wednesday in efforts to counter U.S. Military recruiters. “As Mormons, it’s our obligation to ‘renounce war and proclaim peace’ as commanded by God in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants,” said Van Wagenen. “There’s nothing wrong with defending your country — that’s honorable — but these two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are offensive not defensive.”

“Rather than hating our enemy,” said Van Wagenen, “we’re commanded to love them.” Van Wagenen was kidnapped in Iraq by armed militants and held for over a week in 2007. He was in Iraq volunteering with a group called Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Bledsoe said terrorism is directly linked with poverty and that one way to “love our enemy” was to fight poverty around the world. “If we REALLY wanted to fight terrorism we would invest in infrastructure, schools, healthcare, food and shelter in the poorest areas in the world,” said Bledsoe. “We could spend half of what we spend on war, and terrorism would decline.”

“Terrorism has in fact increased dramatically in Iraq since U.S. forces invaded the country in 2003,” Busenbark pointed out.

Van Wagenen said that in the U.S. we often congratulate ourselves for building schools or hospitals in war zones like Iraq. However, Van Wagenen said, “when kids see their fathers abducted in the middle of the night by U.S. soldiers and tortured, a new building in their neighborhood doesn’t even things out. And a new generation of terrorists is being created.”

In recent years, UVU has hosted on-again, off-again student/teacher teach-ins, where students, faculty, and community members had the opportunity to express their opinions on pertinent socio-political subjects such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Our entire campus community would benefit from a return of this forum to campus.

Part 1 of 2 in a series on counter-U.S. Military recruitment