WSVN — These are not 18-year-old Marine recruits fresh out of high school.
Instead, these are the people who taught the students in high school. Educators from across the country brought to Parris Island, S.C. for a few days at Marine boot camp.
Steven Kozak: “What better way to really become accustomed to what they’re going to go through than to go and see a basic training operation on a U.S military base.”
Steven Kozak is a school administrator in Boynton Beach. The Marines paid his expenses for a three-day trip to Parris Island to open his eyes about the Marines.
Steven Kozak: “We can be enlightened about the program and so, when we are asked by our students about the program, that we would be better informed to inform them.”
Inform one of his high school students about life as a Marine, Capt. Jason Paredes says that’s the goal of the program.
Capt. Jason Paredes: “The educator’s workshop, I think, is a great program. The Marine Corps offers so many more opportunities for young men and women from college opportunities to specialized job training in one of our over 250 fields.”
A great way to educate the educators, the Marines say, but skeptics believe there is another goal, a hidden goal.
Mike Budd: “They’re clearly trying to influence teachers who are very important authority figures in the schools.”
Influence the influential teachers and administrators, some people believe, to convince their high school students to join the Marines after they graduate.
Jenny Lee Molina: “As a mother, I don’t think it’s a teacher’s place to be speaking to my child about going into the military or enlisting him in the military. I think that’s a family decision.”
Capt. Jason Paredes: “The educator’s workshop doesn’t seek to backdoor the parents in any way.”
In fact, Steven Kozak says he was told by the Marines not to recruit his high school students to join.
Steven Kozak: “It was stated several times that this was not a recruitment tool for the military in any way, shape or form, and I didn’t perceive it as one.”
Mike Budd: “Our group is not anti-military, I’m not anti-military.”
Mike Budd was a Vietnam veteran. His group, The Truth Project, wants students to know what life will be like if they enlist in the Marines.
Mike Budd: “Now, it might be a good decision for them, you know. The military works out for some people, but they don’t even realize that once you’re enlisted, you can’t quit. It’s not a job that you can say, ‘I don’t want to come back.'”
The Marines argue, that’s why a teacher can help educate a student.
Steven Kozak: “If a child approaches me, if a student, a young adult approaches me and asks me about my experience and what I know and what my feelings are, I’m happy to share those.”
But Budd counters, the military is spending $2,000 for each educator to go to Parris Island, and they want more than an education for those educators.
Mike Budd: “Do I think this program, that the military is spending millions of dollars on, is useful in recruiting? Yes. There’s absolutely no question about it.”
The thought of that irritates Jenny.
Jenny Lee Molina: “As a mother, I don’t think it’s a teacher’s place to be speaking to my child about going into the military or enlisting him in the military.”
Kozak says it’s not going to happen.
Steven Kozak: “I could never see a teacher recruiting a student into the military or giving a Marine recruiter more access to a student.”
Educate the teachers or convince them to enlist the students. In this verbal battle, neither side will surrender.