February 20, 2009

Veterans for Peace Activists Engage with Army Experience Center

At 11:30 AM on Monday, February 16th, around 30 peace and anti-war activists from New York to Washington DC, collected in the food court at the Franklin Mills Mall in Northeast Philadelphia. They pasted pre-printed signs on their chests that said: WAR IS NOT A GAME. At noon, they walked 100 yards to the Army Experience Center and took up positions inside the $12 million experimental Army recruitment store that takes up 14,000 square feet of mall space with 80 video game stations and three shooting simulators, where kids can have fun as a gunner on an apache, a blackhawk or a humvee. >>read more


From: Veterans For Peace Chapter 31, Brandywine Peace Community, Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern (LEPOCO) Date: Monday, February 16, 2009 Contact: John Grant, Veterans For Peace; 610-832-7028; 610-564-7628 Balancing The Army Experience Center

As tax-paying citizens and veterans who have consistently opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq and who believe Afghanistan is becoming a classic quagmire for our young soldiers, we are disturbed by the Army Experience Center at the Franklin Mills Mall. Many of us know and work with returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. We know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is, how insidious it can be and how soldiers obtain it. We know of the pain and emotional struggle soldiers who have been wounded or maimed in these war zones go through. We know what it means to be the point of the spear in wars that politicians and most citizens only see media glimpses of and understand only as controversial national policy that really doesn t affect them.

We understand the cultural climate young people live in these days where they are overwhelmed by all manner of electronic media saturated with artificiality and fantasy whether it be TV, movies or ever-more sophisticated computer games. As should be clear to anyone who has witnessed it, the Army Experience Center is intended to take advantage of our youth s psychological immersion in this incredible media and computer game culture to seduce them into the military, especially during this time of severe economic dislocation and anxiety about the future.

Because we fully recognize the Army Experience Center s seductive power for our young people and because we know the costs of war, we are convinced that it cries out for an alternative view, something not purely devoted to seducing youth into the Army, something that offers a balance and some discussion as to what, beyond all the dazzle and bang, joining the Army might actually mean for the young person s future.

Reports put the cost for this Center at $12 million. We might facetiously ask whether the Army is designing an equally expensive and slick Veterans Experience Center in which a person can hit touch screens to locate across the country where all the wounded and maimed soldiers try to regain the lives they ve permanently lost and, in many cases, where they have to struggle to get the medical help they need and the education they deserve. Where is the slick computer game that a kid can play to walk through the challenges faced by a returning soldier suffering from PTSD as he or she confronts one mundane challenge after another until it all piles up and there is an explosion Where is the real information beyond the sexy pyrotechnics

The idea of a PTSD video game is, of course, absurd. But what we would like to see and what we are requesting of the Army is that they agree we have the right as citizens and tax-payers to set up a modest table in one corner of the Army Experience Center or just outside the door under a sign that says WAR IS NOT A GAME, at which a young person could talk with a veteran about some of these matters, receive some of our materials and raise any questions he or she might have in order to get some balance to the slickness of the Army Experience Center.

We want young people coming to the "army experience center" to receive the entire picture and understand the full consequences of war and their enlistment in the Army. We want them able to make clear, informed choices as to their futures based on all the evidence. Our tabling here at the center, with alternate literature and information, would be setup and maintained in a non-confrontational manner respectful of the young people visiting the center and the Army.

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