What makes Aspenites ‘Go Army’? | AspenTimes.com
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What makes Aspenites ‘Go Army’?

Steve Benson
Sgt. Mark Juliano says Aspenites often enlist for the "adventure." Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.
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Shortly after 9/11, Marcus Kissner was sent to a different world. The National Guardsman and Grand Junction resident wasn’t deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, but to another exotic location closer to home. With airports around the nation beefing up security following the attacks, Kissner was ordered to join a security force at the Aspen Airport, where he served for four months. “That was the first time I had been to Aspen,” said Kissner, 26, who would later serve a 15-month tour in Iraq. “You hear about it on TV and you see the million-dollar homes, and then you get up there and it is truly different – like a different world away. “You have to have money to be up there, money to go play in Aspen.” As Kissner discovered, money does more than buy a certain lifestyle: It creates options, like not having to seriously consider a military career.Affluent towns like Aspen typically aren’t hotbeds for military recruiters, he said. Rural, less wealthy areas produce the bulk of the military’s service members. For people in those areas who want to better their lives, the military may be their only option, he said. “There are just economical and financial differences,” Kissner said. “Some kid at Aspen High who comes from a family with bucks isn’t going to go into the military.”

But that’s not necessarily true. Several Aspen High graduates have joined the military in the last few years, and some are currently serving or have served tours in Iraq. One of those is Will Graham, an Aspen High graduate and a member of the Army’s 82nd Airborne. His mom, Geraldine Graham, is a guidance counselor at Aspen High. Graham said her 20-year-old son, who may be deployed to Iraq soon, has always been intrigued by the military. He joined up after giving college a try for a semester. “He was a little ‘GI Joe’ kid … he’s always wanted to go into the military,” she said. “It’s kind of his thing – jumping out of airplanes for a living.” From Graham’s close-up point of view, it’s education, not financial prosperity, that is the determining factor of who joins up. The notion that only poor kids join the military and go to war is inaccurate.”Not everybody is rich in Aspen,” she said. “But we’re a well-educated community, we value higher learning – whether you’re rich or not.”There are a lot of us that are poor here that are well-educated.”

As a result, most Aspen High students are driven to go to college, not into the military. Nevertheless, Graham said that in the past few years an increasing number of students have expressed interest in the military. “We’re getting a shifting population,” she said. “Not every single person is going to college anymore.” Sgt. Mark Juliano, commander of the U.S. Army’s recruiting post in Glenwood Springs – which covers 6,000 square miles – admits recruiting in Aspen is different from the more rural communities. “A lot of what we see [in rural areas] is kids that are interested in the mechanical part of the military and the opportunities the Army can give them – guaranteed [job] training and the guaranteed college fund,” said Juliano, who visits Aspen about twice a month during the school year. “In Aspen, the biggest influence is the adventure the Army has to offer.” Still, Juliano said Aspen is one of the more supportive communities in his coverage area.”Aspen is a very patriotic area; a lot of people do support the military,” he said. “The [students] have a great sense of adventure, or even a desire to just serve their country.” Kissner agreed: “The people of Aspen were very accommodating. The Elks [Lodge] invited us up there multiple times, and many people up there were happy to have us.”

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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