In the video, soldiers struggled through a forced march, obstacle courses, the mud and the canned rations. Students who thought 45 minutes of homework an almost insurmountable challenge watched with excitement and hope that they too would become Marines. Most of all, my students were captivated by the "documentary's" conclusion: the graduation ceremony. The now crying recruits who survived basic training are welcomed into the Marine family. My students were hooked. They grabbed bumper stickers, posters, pencils, and registration forms.
When we finally made it back to the classroom, I drew a diagram on the board with "What They Advertised" and "What They Didn't" heading two columns. The students, not yet seeing my ploy, rattled off all the great things the Marines and the other Armed Forces advertised: jumping out of airplanes, traveling around the world, learning about guns and other "cool things," money for education, friendships, and service to country.
Then we brainstormed what they didn't advertise, and I asked what recruits were being trained for. Students then talked about war, killing, and the possibility of being killed. I asked what would happen if a soldier did not believe in the war or if the war was against the country one was born in. From this students spoke of their identity, many proudly proclaiming to be Mexican or Colombian.
Students were not pleased to realize that they might die or have to fight against Colombian guerrillas or in Mexico or Cambodia. These were my students' "home countries." In trying to achieve the advertised and escape the liabilities, José suggested simply deserting if a war should break out. This was met with approval since commitment to the U.S. government was undermined by connections to other countries and because their desire for military service was not to "defend freedom" but rather to have the advertised experiences.
While both boys and girls were initially excited about the military, as the conversation began to focus on violence a few gender differences appeared. After a couple boys expressed excitement for shooting, Yasmin rose to her feet to talk about the seriousness of violence and death. Sara added that the whole point of the military was violence and that students were taking the military much too lightly.