rough notes

jeremy hinzman, returned

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So the CBC has reported that Jeremy Hinzman is headed back to the States; the website’s “comments” feature is awash with crazies on both sides arguing nonsense like “no nation wants a deserter” or that Canada was developed on the backs of refugees so he appeals should be granted immediately. Both have their merits, but neither really dig deep into the issue.

Don’t expect me to dig deep into the issue, either. I’m just a simple guy who once met Hinzman when he was boarding with some friends here in Halifax. Hinzman is a nice enough fellow. He’s got a peaceful look in his eye that declares “polite young gentleman” to you the moment you shakes hands with him.. He was, and is, smart, articulate, and courteous. I can recall looking at him and thinking that this guy could have tea with my grandmother in the afternoon, and then shoot down my neighbour at close or long range in the evening. I was impressed, and a little disconcerted all at once. Army-types do that to me.

Anyway, the thing with the Hinzman case that gets to me is the manner in which the media, and the public, refuse to deep into the details of his story. Of course this man volunteered for an all-volunteer army. He signed up, and he was ready to do the time. The plan was to go in, do his work, and then come out ready to get a college education payed for by his service with the Forces. And if I remember correctly, he already had completed one tour before having his change of heart and asking for non-combat status. Hinzman was, and i think still is prepared to do the time in the army, if only the army would have allowed him to enter into and stay in a non-combat position.

What gets me the most though is the concept of “Volunteer” in the US Forces. The media and the public, like I said, keep going on and on about the fact that he volunteered. I don’t know if I’d call the US Forces a volunteer service though. For too many people in the rank-and-file, signing up with the forces is not so much voluntary act as it is one based on coercion, or an act taken up due to misinformation. Hinzman signed up at 18. Eighteen-year olds might have the legal authority to sign themselves over to the Forces or to vote, but I highly doubt anyone would sign their house over to their kids at 18. 18-year-olds are still incredibly immature, under-developed, and as we know with the US Forces, are all-too-often easily duped into signing up for a term or two. Recruiters chase down potential privates and corporals in the schools and at the malls, and too often people sign up thinking it’s an easy-in, easy-out way to make some cash, either to help mom and dad, or to help themselves through college. It’s not until you get to boot camp or to the desert that you realize what it means to have the shit hit the fan. And I’m sure the recruiters don’t mention things like IEDs or Stop-Loss Programmes.

Hinzman volunteered for the Forces, and deserted. But before we once more make that claim that all volunteers have signed up knowing all the benefits and disadvantages of the service, let’s think about what it means to “volunteer” for something when economic circumstances make “Option A” the only option or what it means to sign on the dotted line when the fellows holding the paperwork haven’t given you the entire document to read first.

I don’t know if Hinzman was completely duped, but I think he was misled about what the Forces could offer him, and what the Forces expected back in return. The Army doesn’t play a fair game; he found that out only a little too late. Poor dude.


Written by mitchellirons

August 13, 2008 at 6:07 pm

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