Know Your Rights

Joining the United States military is a big step, so be sure to educate yourself before enlisting.  There are many resources available for potential recruits to learn about the enlistment process, enlistment programs, and basic training.  Before going any further you should know some of your basic rights:

  • You have the right to refuse to answer any questions from a military recruiter, even when filling out a form with your information.  You do not have to answer any questions about your or your family’s immigration status.
  • If you sign up to join the military as part of their Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP), also known as the Delayed Entry Program, you can change your mind before leaving for boot camp.  This means that if you have second thoughts, you can withdraw without receiving a dishonorable discharge or being considered absent without leave (AWOL).  There are no consequences for withdrawing before leaving for basic training, and no records will be kept as a result.  You can simply not go, but we highly recommend that you write a letter to the recruitment command station (not the recruiter) stating your decision not to go.  You can just say you’ve changed your mind and/or chose to go to college instead.  Withdrawing has no effect on future employment, although it may affect your ability to enter the military at a later time.  Once you go to basic training and are given a unit, you CANNOT change your mind and leave without permission.  You will be considered a deserter and may be subject to court-martial.
  • The military may request your directory information (name, address, phone number) from your school district to help with their local recruitment efforts.  You have the right to keep your personal information private by filling out an “opt out” form. Your school should provide you with an opt out form but if they do not, you can download and fill one out and return it to your school administration office.  A parent or legal guardian can also fill this form out on your behalf.  You should keep a copy for yourself.  Please note: you can have your personal information withheld from military recruiters but still be given to colleges and potential employers.  By “opting out” schools should not remove you from college or job recruiting lists.
  • Military recruiters are not entitled to special access to your school.  This means that military recruiters receive the same access to your high school campus as college representatives and prospective employers do.  Military recruiters are not supposed to be aggressive or provide you with information that is untrue.  If you feel that either of these rules are being broken, please contact your PTA, your principal, and your local Civil Liberties Union.
  • The New York Civil Liberties Union has put together a free pamphlet in both English and Spanish with information on the rights of students regarding military recruitment.  Click HERE to visit their website and order your copy of the guide.
  • When thinking through such a big life decision, it is often helpful to talk to someone who has made the decision before you. If you would like to speak directly to a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can help put you in touch with someone. Email us at with the subject line “Contacting a Veteran.”

Learn more about life after the military here: Coming Home: Confronting the Realities of War


Art that asks questions:

The Soldier Billboard Project
soldier-billboardThe Soldier portraits take a serious look at the faces of individual American soldiers, and shows the impact of war on their lives and the lives of those dear to them. We all experience crucial moments when we feel most alive.  These are the moments we will always remember, be they transcendent or horrific.  After all, what are we if not our collection of memories?  In making these portraits of soldiers, artist Suzanne Opton wanted to look into the face of someone who had seen something unforgettable.

Eyes Wide Open
A multimedia journey through the Iraq war, this traveling exhibition features a pair of boots honoring each US military casualty, giving us a chance to explore the cost and consequences of the war.

Support our veterans:

The Fisher House
This private-public partnership creates “a home away from home” for family members of hospitalized servicemen and women.  There are currently over 31 houses located on the grounds of every major military medical center and several VA medical centers.

Homes for our Troops
This organization builds specially adapted homes for severely disabled soldiers and their families.  Take part in one of their events and help build a home for a veteran at no cost to the vet.