The Washington Times
April 27, 2009

Washington Times Op-ed—Military Policy Allows Enlistment

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

On Aug. 1, 2008, Steven D. Brewer graduated from his 13-week course at the Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego. He was awarded the rank of lance corporal, a rare honor, and was selected as Bravo Company Honor Man, identifying him as the top graduate in the company of 292 men. His company broke the regimental drill record, which required precision and discipline in rifle movement and marching. This record has been tracked since 1921.

Steven is not only a credit to the Marine Corps, he’s also a credit to homeschooling. The second of eight Brewer children, all of whom were homeschooled through high school, he grew up hearing his pastor-father teach that if you have nothing worth dying for, you have nothing worth living for.

Steven decided to join the Marine Corps when he was young. It was Sept. 11, 2001. As the family prayed for the tragedy that was occurring in New York City and the District, Steven had great concern for his country and its future. Obviously, there was still work to be done in Steven’s life to prepare him for his task, and his parents, Don and Nancy, did just that.

After Steven’s graduation from boot camp, he was assigned to Camp Pendleton to participate in the Marine School of Infantry. On Nov. 14, 2008, he graduated with 400 fellow Marines who gave him the Outstanding Marine Honor. This honor goes to the Marine that the rest of the class would most like to serve beside in combat.

Steven is serving in the District of Columbia in Special Services as a “body bearer.” His duties include serving at the burial ceremonies for fallen Marines at Arlington National Cemetery. His next deployment likely will be to Afghanistan.

Many homeschool graduates are interested in serving their country in the military, but it has not always been easy for them to serve because the military had difficulty deciding how to recognize a homeschool graduate’s diploma. They were looking for some form of “accreditation” from the state, which a homeschooler cannot provide.

In the mid-1990s, HSLDA began to work with the Department of Defense to encourage the military branches to be open to homeschool graduates. The first response by the military was to admit homeschool graduates, but treat them as high school dropouts. This immediately placed homeschoolers at a disadvantage because they were ineligible for many of the incentives and special programs the military offered for enlistment. In 1998, the Department of Defense agreed to place homeschool graduates in Tier 1 in order to conduct a five-year study program to attempt to measure the attrition rates of homeschool graduates.

At the end of that period, unfortunately, the results were inconclusive because a large number of recruits were incorrectly classified as homeschool graduates. In 2007, the Pentagon agreed to conduct a new four-year pilot program, opening Tier 1 status to homeschool graduates who score 50 or above on the Armed Forces Qualification Test.

We appreciate the willingness of the military to work with the homeschool community to allow more homeschoolers to join. Homeschool success stories like Steven’s also demonstrate that the military is on the right track when it comes to homeschoolers.

More and more homeschool graduates are deciding to serve their country through the military. Despite the policy change in 2007, some recruiters still need to be reminded that homeschoolers are allowed to enlist in Tier 1 and should experience no discrimination from the military for being homeschooled.

If you know a homeschool graduate who is having trouble getting into the military, please call HSLDA.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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