Friday, November 15, 2019

Interview with Armando Perez (Army veteran now a counter recruiter)

Interviewed by David Morales, reprinted with permission by Commitee Against Militarism and the Draft, from their newsletter Draft NOtices, Oct.-Dec. 2019


Q: Could you tell us about yourself?

A: I’m a 26-year-old Teacher Apprentice/Graduate Student at High Tech High Media Arts. I was born in El Paso, TX, where I was raised as a transfronterizo and 1st-Gen student and oldest of three siblings. I have two dogs that I rely on for emotional support and you can find me at most extracurricular events that my students partake in.

Q: What branch did you enlist in? How old were you when you enlisted? And why did you decide to enlist?

A: I enlisted in the Army; I joined at eighteen years old. I wanted to join at seventeen but my parents refused to sign for me at that age. I decided to enlist for a multitude of reasons: I wanted educational benefits, at the time I worked at a low-wage job while being able to only afford one community college class at the time. I felt stagnant at that point in life; I wanted to leave El Paso to seek other opportunities. Some part of me wanted to feel more ‘American.’ I felt as if joining the Army would open more doors for me in this country.

Q: Where were you stationed during your time in the Army?

A: My first duty station was Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Throughout my Army career I was also stationed at: Ft. Bliss (TX), Ft. Dix-Maguire (NJ), Germany, Romania, and Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Q: In the process of deciding to enlist, did you talk to others about it?

A: I talked to my parents but they had no experience in the matter. I talked to a lot of friends that were enlisted in other branches of the military. They would often say that they didn’t like it as much as they thought they would but felt like staying in El Paso offered no better options. Half of our friends were either getting into criminal activity or worked for low-wages. In the end, there was a lack of resourceful information or people to talk to.

Q: What was it like identifying as a young Latino male in the Army?

A: I experienced a lot of racism and aggression for how I identified. Latinos who would assimilate had preference. My ‘leaders’ butchered my name all the time. When I played ‘the game’ of making my accent more ‘American’ I was told I was liked for not being like other Mexicans. I would often be verbally assaulted and faced physical abuse when defending myself. One instance led me to being held down by my ‘fellow’ soldiers while they took turns beating me. While in uniform I would often be verbally assaulted by civilians who appeared Caucasian. I would often be called a disgrace although I risked my life overseas.

Q: What is one thing you wish you had known before you enlisted?

A: I wish that I would have taken the time to look over my contract for clauses that may have led me to not sign. One of the main reasons I enlisted was because I was under the impression that I would not be pulled into a deployment while attending college. Being pulled out mid-semester and deployed to a combat zone really impacted my life and relationships.

Q: What led you to get involved with Project YANO and counter-recruitment work?

A: When I found out that there was an organization that presented the facts as they were without omitting critical information, I was all in. I felt a responsibility as a veteran, as a Latino, to present the facts and necessary information for the youth to know the full scope of what the military is and how it can affect one’s life before they make a choice for themselves.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for anyone thinking of enlisting in any of the branches of the military?

A: Make sure you are well informed. If you feel like there are no other options for you, make sure you truly embark on an exhaustive search and you will find options. Seriously contemplate whether or not you will be happy with this commitment. Four-year and eight-year contract offers require a strong commitment to the U.S. government, and it is no easy feat to attempt to leave the military under contract. Research and talk to as many people as you can. Actively listen to everyone (yes, even your recruiter) so that you may make a list of things you need to know about. Get informed so that you don’t feel misled or cheated when you are already signed under a contract you cannot get out of.
Interviewed by David Morales

Q: Could you tell us about yourself?

A: I’m a 26-year-old Teacher Apprentice/Graduate Student at High Tech High Media Arts. I was born in El Paso, TX, where I was raised as a transfronterizo and 1st-Gen student and oldest of three siblings. I have two dogs that I rely on for emotional support and you can find me at most extracurricular events that my students partake in. 

Q: What branch did you enlist in? How old were you when you enlisted? And why did you decide to enlist?

A: I enlisted in the Army; I joined at eighteen years old. I wanted to join at seventeen but my parents refused to sign for me at that age. I decided to enlist for a multitude of reasons: I wanted educational benefits, at the time I worked at a low-wage job while being able to only afford one community college class at the time. I felt stagnant at that point in life; I wanted to leave El Paso to seek other opportunities. Some part of me wanted to feel more ‘American.’ I felt as if joining the Army would open more doors for me in this country. 

Q: Where were you stationed during your time in the Army?

A: My first duty station was Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Throughout my Army career I was also stationed at: Ft. Bliss (TX), Ft. Dix-Maguire (NJ), Germany, Romania, and Kandahar, Afghanistan. 

Q: In the process of deciding to enlist, did you talk to others about it?

A: I talked to my parents but they had no experience in the matter. I talked to a lot of friends that were enlisted in other branches of the military. They would often say that they didn’t like it as much as they thought they would but felt like staying in El Paso offered no better options. Half of our friends were either getting into criminal activity or worked for low-wages. In the end, there was a lack of resourceful information or people to talk to. 

Q: What was it like identifying as a young Latino male in the Army?

A: I experienced a lot of racism and aggression for how I identified. Latinos who would assimilate had preference. My ‘leaders’ butchered my name all the time. When I played ‘the game’ of making my accent more ‘American’ I was told I was liked for not being like other Mexicans. I would often be verbally assaulted and faced physical abuse when defending myself. One instance led me to being held down by my ‘fellow’ soldiers while they took turns beating me. While in uniform I would often be verbally assaulted by civilians who appeared Caucasian. I would often be called a disgrace although I risked my life overseas. 

Q: What is one thing you wish you had known before you enlisted? 

A: I wish that I would have taken the time to look over my contract for clauses that may have led me to not sign. One of the main reasons I enlisted was because I was under the impression that I would not be pulled into a deployment while attending college. Being pulled out mid-semester and deployed to a combat zone really impacted my life and relationships. 

Q: What led you to get involved with Project YANO and counter-recruitment work? 

A: When I found out that there was an organization that presented the facts as they were without omitting critical information, I was all in. I felt a responsibility as a veteran, as a Latino, to present the facts and necessary information for the youth to know the full scope of what the military is and how it can affect one’s life before they make a choice for themselves. 

Q: Do you have any words of advice for anyone thinking of enlisting in any of the branches of the military?

A: Make sure you are well informed. If you feel like there are no other options for you, make sure you truly embark on an exhaustive search and you will find options. Seriously contemplate whether or not you will be happy with this commitment. Four-year and eight-year contract offers require a strong commitment to the U.S. government, and it is no easy feat to attempt to leave the military under contract. Research and talk to as many people as you can. Actively listen to everyone (yes, even your recruiter) so that you may make a list of things you need to know about. Get informed so that you don’t feel misled or cheated when you are already signed under a contract you cannot get out of.







Photo caption: Army veteran Armando Pérez speaks to students at High Tech High School in San Diego. Photo: Rocío Cordova.




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