On Memorial Day this year, many veterans marched in local parades and remembered what it was like to be in the military.
A number of Veterans For Peace members saw this picture in the May 24 edition of the Juneau Empire and made the comments that follow it.
Alaska Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Michael Manson helps kids climb on a HumVee and handle a M249 Saw gun mounted to the roof during the Southeast Alaska Outdoor Safety Expo sponsored by Juneau Rotary in the Centennial Hall on Saturday. Juneau Empire May 24, 2009
On Sunday morning (May 24, the day before Memorial Day), the Empire did a great service to our community by publishing a photograph of a National Guardsman, a Humvee, an M249 machine gun, and a group of children, converging at the so-called "Outdoor Safety Expo" sponsored by the Juneau Rotary on Saturday, May 23.
A cynical attempt to manipulate and militarize children is the only conceivable purpose for the National Guard to show up to display fancy killing machines, and to encourage little kids to play with them. The M249 is a "light" machine gun; its only purpose is to maim and kill human beings. What in God's name did that display have to do with outdoor safety?
Shame on the National Guard, and shame on the Juneau Rotary for sponsoring this dishonorable atrocity.
Phil Smith, President
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 100
Sadly though, it probably doesn't occur to Staff Sergeant Manson that he might well be grooming potential poster kids for the back door draft and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, if they're lucky enough to come home
Naval Flight Officer 1969-76, Gulf of Tonkin 1971-72
The disconnect of that National Guard guy from the fundamentals of simple humanity is apparent. That a grown man would expose what appear to be four and five-year-olds to the workings of a lethal weapon and think it fun and cute is sad. It speaks to the pervasive militarism that produced that young man and his distorted notions of what is and is not appropriate play for very young children.
USAF Korea 1952-53, K9 Corps.
What an amazing photograph. Those kids are now marked by some infantile fantasy that shooting this gun would be fun and that if they join the Army they will get to do that. They have no concept of death, or that this gun deals death, or that they and their victims will pay a terrible price for their desires.
USMC Infantry 1968-1972, Vietnam 1969-70
I'd like to see Sergeant Michael Manson sitting behind the machine gun instead of helping children sit there... and then I'd like to shoot a few hundred rounds from another machine gun at his bullet screen, while the kids watch safely from someplace nearby.
Maybe then he would think twice before glorifying the act of sitting behind a machine gun to kids, without teaching the true ramifications of being an army gunner. The children wouldn't EVER want to be there again. Shame on the National Guard for allowing this activity with our children.
And this was at a "Safety Expo"?
U.S. Army Infantry and ex-gunner 1971-74
I have worked in schools for the last 27 years, and have witnessed an ever-increasing military presence, and acceptance of it by public school officials.
The thorns that I have reap'd
Are of the tree I planted,
They have torn me, and I bleed.
I should have known what fruit
would spring from such a seed.
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Budda said something to the effect: The world is made up of our thoughts. What thoughts will the children leave with after seeing, touching, and being told about this article of death - except not being told of its true purpose?
Army, Vietnam 1971-72. 101st Airborne, and 1st Cav. Division.
These young children look at most to be 4 year olds, the NG's are doing what their bosses told them just like in Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo.
US Army (MPC) 1966-68 Korea
"Training for U.S. military imperialists of the 21st century starts early."
John C. Reiger
U.S. Army Security Agency (ASA) 1959-62
Kids this age still play with their friends, sometimes with toy guns, but seeing children look in awe at the real thing...makes something designed only to kill appear common, almost friendly, like a favorite toy.
USMC 1966-68 (drafted)
So many opportunities for "personal growth." Like a job in a depression -- now, that's a great opportunity. Can't get work, hey, join the imperial centurians and go hunt down and kill kids out there on the fringes of empire in some place like Afghanistan where kids just like you can't find a job either and have the opportunity for "personal growth" offered to them by some mullah & madrassa that does the work of our Army Experience Center or your local festival featuring cool Humvees and SAWs. Seems the world is full of opportunities for personal growth these days. Kurt Vonnegut summed it up best: And so it goes.
Army Security Agency 1965-69, Vietnam 1966-67
That a national guardsman would attempt to "seduce" children this young is symptomatic of a society in deterioration.
Some actions, which can occur even during times of peace, could easily be considered war crimes. Perpetuating the culture of war is one of them. War is a sickness of our society that will not be cured until we stop glorifying it, until we stop sanitizing it, until we stop pretending it's a game, and until we stop indoctrinating impressionable young people.
Kim Carlyle, President
Veterans For Peace Chapter 099
Western North Carolina
U.S. Army. 1966-69. Served in Alabama and Germany
Ferner is the author of "Inside the Red Zone," a book about his trips to Iraq, and President of Veterans For Peace.