From High School to Boot Camp

AP Wire Service

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) – With a college music scholarship waiting for him, Jonathan Green is heading for boot camp.

Reports of the first U.S. casualties in Iraq gave him second thoughts. “But even though I had those thoughts, I’m still determined. I want to be a soldier,” he said.

Green, a senior at Huntington High, signed up for the U.S. Army Reserves and will be at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., by June 23.

Boot camp lasts nine weeks. Registration at Alcorn State, where Green has a scholarship, starts in mid-August.

It was music which drew Green’s eyes toward the military when he was in eighth grade. “My band leader talked a lot about the Marine Corps Honor Band, and I wanted to be in it. For the music,” he said Friday.

“Then in ninth grade, the recruiters started showing up at school,” he continued. “They talked a lot about the benefits. I was going to enlist in the Marines, but my sister went into the Army. So I started thinking about the Army instead.”

He registered for the Junior ROTC program at Huntington High shortly before Sept. 11, 2001, and the terrorist attacks.

“That made me mad,” he said. “It made me want to serve my country and go over there and fight.”

Now he doesn’t know whether it’s only boot camp that will delay his start at Alcorn. His parents, Johnny and Kasaundra Green are worried that he might be called up.

“I’m kind of worried about the war, about this situation now because that was going to help him with his college time,” Johnny Green said. “But you know, what’s got to be done has to be done.”

He said he and his wife are worried but very proud of their military children.

Enlistments are up nationwide. From October to December – the first quarter of the military’s fiscal year – the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force combined met recruitment goals with room to spare. The four branches together signed up 39,041 recruits, 386 above their goal. Figures for the current quarter have not been compiled by the Defense Department.

And Green is not the only student at Huntington High who’s recently signed up.

Master Sgt. Edward Summage, Green’s instructor in Huntington High’s ROTC program, said times of military conflict tend to pique students’ curiosity about serving in the military, and students enroll out of patriotic fervor.

“It stiffens them up, and they want to contribute to the freedom of our country. They realize at an early age, thankfully, that freedom is not free.”

As the war unfolds, students in the ROTC program talk about the military’s mission at hand and the ramifications of war – both human and economic.

“It’s all built into curriculum. We talk them through it, through the `whys”’ Summage said.

Huntington High senior Jared Wright, 18 – son of two captains in the Caddo Parish sheriff’s office – enters Marine boot camp at Paris Island, S.C., on June 2, barely a week out of school.

He said he’s wanted to be in the military since he was a boy playing with military action figures.

“The war doesn’t change my mind,” he said.