CBS: Decrease in African-American Military Service Bush’s Fault

In what began as a Veterans Day tribute to African-American military veterans, a segment on Sunday’s CBS "Sunday Morning,"soon became a rant against the Bush Administration as reporter Bill Whitaker exclaimed:

The concerned Department of Defense has studied why black enlistment has plummeted and found that many of the so-called "influencers" in the black community, parents, teachers, clergy, feel in general, that Bush Administration policies have hurt African-Americans. And more than any other group, they oppose the war in Iraq.

Whitaker then examined the case of Macio Sheffield, an African-American high school student in Los Angeles who was a member of the Junior ROTC. After Sheffield explained his reason for being in ROTC: "I enjoy learning about respect and discipline. I like the Army. I love America," Whitaker followed with, "But first Macio will have to get past his parents, Macio senior and Terry Craten, who, like the majority of the blacks in the survey, oppose the Bush Administration and this war." Whitaker then talked to Sheffield’s parents:

MACIO SHEFFIELD SR.: If I was 17 or 18 years old and had that option, I would not go into the service myself.

WHITAKER: Why not?

SHEFFIELD SR.: Because it's not our war.

TERRY CRATEN: Exactly who are we fighting? What are we fighting for? What are we going to get out of this war?

In search of more anti-war sentiment, Whitaker went from parents, to a local teacher: "Other influencers, teachers like Jamal Speaks at L.A.'S Dorsey High....tells his students times have changed and they don't need the military anymore to get an education and a career." No one is being forced into military service. There is no draft and all young Americans have the freedom to choose whatever career path they want. However, showing a young man who would be proud to serve his country but is being keep back by his parents' anti-Bush views is troubling.

Whitaker began the segment at an African-American Marine reunion in Las Vegas and went back to the event at the end of the segment to get the views of veterans. One veteran, Gregory Black, was concerned, "If blacks continue to shun the military and to shun the combat roles and ratings, then there won't be any future leaders of – black leaders in the military." However, that observation did not keep Whitaker from finding more anti-war perspectives. Another veteran, Albert Tims, declared, "The war is very unpopular and it's going to get worse." And yet another, Skip Davis, shared a similar view, "The 'yes' part, the money's good. And the 'no' part is going to Iraq. That's the 'no' part."

Whitaker offered some concluding thoughts, "And that's the attitude Army recruiter Sergeant [Tolsa] Scales does battle with day after day...Talking up the Army's many non-combat jobs." Apparently those in the mainstream media view the military as being nothing more than a government jobs program.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

CHARLES OSGOOD: Whatever the war in which they served, veterans deserve to be heard about the issues of today. Bill Whitaker has filed this Sunday Journal.

BILL WHITAKER: It's a new tradition for some old leather necks.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINE VETERAN: 40 years.

WHITAKER: The second annual reunion of black Marines.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINE VETERAN B: I did most of my time at Camp Pendleton.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINE VETERAN C: We were just talking, just shooting the breeze about old times.

WHITAKER: Well, not all that old, because there weren't any black Marines before World War II. That's when blacks were first allowed into the Corps but had to train at a segregated base at Montford Point, North Carolina. Some of those old-timers joined younger Marines here in Las Vegas.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINE VETERAN D: You're in the Marine Corps, you're in the Marine Corps. I went through boot camp.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINE VETERAN E: This is the man here. I love this guy. I wasn't even born when he went to boot camp. If he didn't serve I wouldn't have had the opportunity to serve 30 years.

WHITAKER: The fact is American blacks had to fight for the right to fight in segregated units in World War II, not just the Montford Point Marines, but the famed Tuskegee Airmen, and Buffalo Soldiers too, and continued to sign up in great numbers for Korea, Vietnam, and beyond.

GREGORY BLACK: Once we entered the military, when the call went out that we had to fight, we fought. And in most cases, in a lot of cases, we fought above and beyond the call of duty because we had something to prove.

WHITAKER: Retired Commander Gregory Black was a Navy Diver for most of his 21 years in the service. Back home in Maryland, he runs a year-old web site blackmilitaryworld.com chronicling what African-Americans have contributed to the armed services of this country.

BLACK: So what the military got, was a ready source of young, eager, educated Americans who were eager to prove themselves.

WHITAKER: To the point where African-Americans, who make up 13% of the total population.

BLACK: Right, right.

WHITAKER: Made up a full quarter of military service.

BLACK: Right, yeah. African-Americans have been the backbone of the ground forces of the military since World War II.

WHITAKER: And African-Americans have gotten back plenty too.

BLACK: Blacks in the military looked at the military as a source of opportunity, a source of self-improvement, and most importantly as a source of economics.

WHITAKER: And a source of several generations of black leaders and role models.

UNIDENTIFIED Marine Veterans: One nation, under God.

WHITAKER: A theme that ran through the reunion. Master Gunnery Sergeant Robert Council has three tours in Iraq under his belt. What would you say to a young black man or woman today about military service?

ROBERT COUNCIL: I mean, if you don't have no direction right now in life, and your life is at a stand-still and you don't know where you're going. You know, the armed services right now, you know, you need a foundation. And to help you establish that foundation, it helped me establish that foundation.

WHITAKER: And these women Marines agreed. Former Staff Sergeant Benitta Williams.

BENITTA WILLIAMS: If you believe in this country, then you should be willing to go over and fight for it.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINES: I used to wear my faded jeans!

WHITAKER: But lately the message has been falling increasingly on deaf ears. African-Americans aren't signing up like they used to. Just in the last several years enlistment by blacks in the Army, for example, has plunged, down by about half. Which means Army recruiter Sergeant Tolsa Scales has his work cut out for him, burning up shoe leather in the South Los Angeles area.

TOLSA SCALES: Which one's graduated from high school?

UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I just graduated middle school.

SCALES: I was coming back to see y'all.

WHITAKER: Scales is out there reminding African-Americans the Army can be a ticket to a bright future.

SCALES: You say, 'I want to be a truck driver.' He say, 'I want to be infantry.' They say, 'I want a career,' then you talk about a career. If they say, well, I want college money, like myself that wanted college money. That's the thing the recruiter talked to me about, college money.

WHITAKER: The concerned Department of Defense has studied why black enlistment has plummeted and found that many of the so-called influencers in the black community, parents, teachers, clergy, feel in general, that Bush Administration policies have hurt African-Americans. And more than any other group, they oppose the war in Iraq. Take 10th grader Macio Sheffield. He loves his junior ROTC class at L.A.'S Fairfax High School.

MACIO SHEFFIELD: I enjoy learning about respect and discipline. I like the Army. I love America.

WHITAKER: But first Macio will have to get past his parents, Macio senior and Terry Craten, who, like the majority of the blacks in the survey, oppose the Bush Administration and this war.

MACIO SHEFFIELD Sr.: If I was 17 or 18 years old and had that option, I would not go into the service myself.

WHITAKER: Why not?

SHEFFIELD Sr.: Because it's not our war.

TERRY CRATEN: Exactly who are we fighting? What are we fighting for? What are we going to get out of this war?

JAMAL SPEAKS: And why are you going to college?

WHITAKER: Other influencers, teachers like Jamal Speaks at L.A.'S Dorsey High.

SPEAKS: Does everybody know about the job fair on Saturday.

WHITAKER: Speaks tells his students times have changed and they don't need the military anymore to get an education and a career.

SPEAKS: I think that it is my social responsibility as a teacher, as a father, as a mentor, as a person who call themselves a role model, to give those kids that information so they can make a well rounded choice on what they want to do after high school.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I feel that going to college and becoming somebody, I think that shows a love for my country because I can change something. I can make a difference in my community. I can change my community.

SPEAKS: Who else has family in the military right now?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT B: My cousin was one of the fortunate ones that went to the military and came out, you know, with all his body parts.

SPEAKS: A lot of what we're seeing is they're not falling in line with the grandfathers and the uncles, who their only option was the military.

WHITAKER: Back in Las Vegas.

UNIDENTIFIED Marine Veteran F: It's a pretty good representation of six-and-a-half decades of black service in the Marine Corps.

WHITAKER: Some of these grandfathers and uncles who served proudly themselves, worry about the ranks of black officers thinning down the road.

BLACK: If blacks continue to shun the military and to shun the combat roles and ratings, then there won't be any future leaders of... black leaders in the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MARINE VETERAN F: Can I get a hurrah.

WHITAKER: But even here, there are gung-who Marines troubled by this war. Albert Tims retired as a staff sergeant 30 years ago.

ALBERT TIMS: The war is very unpopular and it's going to get worse.

WHITAKER: So if you had to give advice to a young person today, what would you do? What would you say?

TIMS: Well, as long as there is a volunteer Army I'd tell them not to volunteer.

WHITAKER: And an old combat vet who loves the military, Pearl Harbor survivor Skip Davis, ten years in the Navy, 20 in the Marines.

SKIP DAVIS: The 'yes' part, the money's good. And the 'no' part is going to Iraq. That's the 'no' part.

WHITAKER: So what would you tell a kid today?

DAVIS: I wouldn't go. If I didn't have to.

SCALES: They ran back in the house, man.

WHITAKER: And that's the attitude Army recruiter Sergeant Scales does battle with day after day. So he hits the streets and works the phones. Talking up the Army's many non-combat jobs.

SCALES: So, if you didn't have to go to war, then would you join the Army? If the Army could give you a scholarship, or get you a situation so you could have a scholarship...

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC