Grannies At The Recruiting Office


s Valentine’s day neared,
the group Raging Grannies called for grandmothers from the Bay Area
to gather at the Oakland military recruiting office on Broadway
at 21st. (The Valentine’s Day action was coordinated to take
place in several cities across the U.S.) There they would enlist,
en masse, to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We are demonstrating
our love for this country and its young people by enlisting in the
U.S. military to replace the children and grandchildren too long
deployed there,” the women pledged in an announcement. 

“This is not a show of support for [Bush’s] military action
in Iraq; we are totally against it. Rather it is a Valentine’s
Day gift to our children and grandchildren. We grandmothers have
had long, full lives. Our young men and women deserve the same.
We are prepared to take their place.” 

One of the volunteers was Pat Maginnis. For her it would be a re-enlistment
because she’d already served three years in the U.S. Army in
the early 1950s. Since her discharge she’s been a life-long
activist for peace, women’s issues, and animal rights. A similar
group of grandmothers attempted to enlist at a military recruiting
center in New York’s Times Square last October—18 of them
were arrested. 

On February 14 I went with others to picket while the grandmothers
enlisted. There was a good turnout, over 300 people, most were elderly
women. However, the recruiting personnel somehow failed to show
up and open the doors. Disappointment swept through the ranks of
the volunteers. Exciting military careers, delicious army food,
battlefield glory—none of this would be theirs after all. Nevertheless,
recovery was swift and a good energetic rally ensued. 

 We crowded around the empty recruiting office and sang: “Give
Peace a Chance,” “When Every Woman,” “Dona Nobis
Pacem,” and “Johnny I Hardly Knew You.” Then it was
“Down by the Riverside,” followed by more songs. The rally
filled the sidewalk and gradually expanded out into the street,
taking up the outbound lanes of Broadway. Motorists in the inbound
lane honked in support. The day was warm, and a soft, gentle California
sun shined down on us as we sang: 

deep in my heart


do believe


shall overcome





he demonstration was sponsored
by Women for Peace, Grandmothers Against the War, Grandmothers for
Peace, NOW Oakland/East Bay, East Bay Progressive Democrats, Bay
Area Women in Black, and the Women’s International League for
Peace and Freedom. 


Borgstrom is an ex-Marine against the war. He lives in California.