Volunteer Stories

Before Enlisting is group of people diverse in age, gender, experience, race and background. What we share is a deep concern regarding predatory recruiter tactics, opposition to war and armed conflicts, and a commitment to trying to make sure young people understand the realities of joining the military before they enlist. Read our stories below.

VETERAN VOLUNTEERS:

Eddie Falcón served for four years in the USAF as an active duty enlisted aircrew member. He was stationed in Little Rock Air Force Base. He completed four short overseas tours, two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, as well as performed medical evacuations in Hurricane Katrina. Eddie is a California native and moved back to his home state after separation from the military in 2005. He resides in Bay Area where he received a Masters degree in Spanish and has worked in high school education since 2012. He is currently a board member of Warrior Writers, facilitates writing workshops for veterans and civilians, and organizes events for these writers to share their work in public. He also gives presentations to high school classrooms about the realities of military service.

CIVILIAN VOLUNTEERS:

Effie Dilworth was a computer programmer at U.C. Berkeley for 30 years, working with the campus's natural history collections. She had no history of political or social activism until very recently. In fact, she was brought up by parents who stressed keeping a low profile. But she now has two sons and three grandchildren, and if any one of them wanted to "fight for our country," she could not bear the thought of their enlisting without knowing full well what they were signing up for. Informing herself and taking that information to impressionable kids has become very important to her.

Judy Nakadegawa, on November 1, 1961, joined women all over the country marching in front of city halls protesting atomic weapons. It was the inauguration of the organization Women Strike for Peace. Currently, Judy is an active member of Women's International League for Peace & Freedom. For the past 20 years she has volunteered at a mediation service devoted to community peace & restorative justice.

Siri Margerin came into this world the child of a military parent, and grew up through the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam. She went to art school, worked as a farm laborer, factory worker, waitress and bartender before settling into her professional career in Animation Production. By 2001, thanks to a triple wammy of a wake up call: the death of a beloved childhood friend of her sons' at the hands of the police, the dot-com bust, and 9/11, she was kicked back into the world of activism and organizing. She organizes against the idea that violence and war are the best tools to be used to build a just and secure world, particularly for our youth. She is the Bay Area coordinator of the GI Rights Hotline, providing telephone counseling to servicemembers in difficult times. She is on the board of About Face Veterans Against the War. She has also worked extensively with BAY-Peace (Better Alternatives for Youth) and Before Enlisting to provide youth with honest information, alternatives to violence and war, and critical resources. Another world is possible.

Roberta Stern has been committed to social justice issues for most of her life. As a psychotherapist for 40 years, she has seen firsthand the affect of social injustices on peoples' lives. She was an early member of Therapists for Peace and Justice which formed after 9/11 and continues today. She has been working with the Before Enlisting program for 4 years and is committed to helping high school students be fully informed about this life or death decision before deciding to enlist.

Sandy Thacker has been a high school and middle school teacher, a documentary photographer, and a house builder. She now teaches carpentry to elementary school kids. There are so many wonderful opportunities for young people after graduation. She joined Before Enlisting to encourage high school students to get the facts about joining the military and to look at all of the alternatives before making a decision that will affect the rest of their lives.

Leni von Blanckensee was an educator for 39 years before retiring in 2009. Throughout those years, she always chose to work with low-income, diverse populations, and later coached teachers and administrators who worked with these students. Her first teaching position was at an elementary school close to the Alameda Naval Air Station during the Vietnam War, where she saw firsthand the effect of war on military children and families. Later, while teaching in a continuation high school, students often told her of promises made by military recruiters that were clearly too good to be true. Now in retirement, she helps bring veterans into schools as part of the “Before Enlisting” program, sharing the downsides of military service that contrast with the rosy picture painted by recruiters, and presenting alternative career paths.