By: Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC … Date Published: November 1, 2023
On October 30th of this year, I put a post of Facebook that really got to me. While I am a grown man of 72 years of age and have not cried in a long time … this one brought a tear to my eyes. It was a picture of a young girl, a child soldier, from somewhere between 1970 and 1975 who was fighting the civil war in Cambodia. You can see the picture of the girl and the link to the post below:
After posting this I got to thinking what a sad situation when we live in a world that must recruit kids to fight in their wars with the adults and for the governments that think they must have a war. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for kids growing up a lot quicker than they do here in America (living on their parents until the are in their 20s, 30s and even 40s) … but to send them to war to die … come on.
Yes, by age 13 they are old enough to work and start to generate an income … but to go fight and die – I don’t think so. Maybe at age 18 to go to war – as we have it in this country, but not at 10 to 13 years of age. Sometimes I think even 18 is much too young.
Science tells us the human brain is not fully formed and developed until a person is about 25 years old. This means that the ability to make sound decisions, including life and death decisions, is not fully developed until this age. Yet our military will accept a person (without parental consent) as early as age 18 … and as early as 17 with parental consent.
However, that has not always been the case. It may surprise you to know that the youngest American Soldier killed in the Vietnam war was only 15 years of age … and he was there legally.
The actual minimum age for military recruitment in America was not raised to age 17 until the year 2019 (and this was with parental consent). Unbelievable … but true.
However, that was not the case in the 1960s. I personally joined the Army on the delayed entry program when I was a senior in high school 3 months before my graduation on the day I signed up for “selective service (aka the draft)” at age 18 without my parent’s permission.
The youngest American Killed in the Vietnam War:
The youngest American soldier to die in Vietnam was Private First-Class Daniel Eugene Conrad, who was 15 years old at the time of his death. He was killed on March 29, 1967, while on patrol in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Daniel was a native of North Carolina and had joined the Army under the Delayed Entry Program, which allowed him to enlist at the age of 15 but not begin active duty until he was 17. However, he was able to obtain a waiver to enter active duty early. Daniel was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. He was killed when his unit was ambushed by Viet Cong forces.
Daniel’s death was a tragedy, and it highlighted the dangers that young soldiers faced in Vietnam. He was one of over 58,000 American soldiers who were killed in the war. Daniel’s death also serves as a reminder of the importance of supporting veterans, both young and old.
CORRECTION: The youngest soldier killed in action in Vietnam was not Daniel Conrad (thank you A. I for being wrong) but rather Dan Bullock. You can find his story right here:
What I’ve found about Child Soldiers:
Child soldiers are boys and girls under the age of 18 who are recruited or used by armed forces or armed groups in any capacity. This includes children used as fighters, cooks, porters, spies, messengers, or for sexual purposes.
Child soldiers are victims of grave violations of international law. They are often abducted, forced to fight, and subjected to violence, abuse, and exploitation. Child soldiers are also more likely to be killed or injured in conflict.
The recruitment and use of child soldiers is a serious problem in many parts of the world. In 2023, the United Nations Secretary-General reported that there were verified cases of child soldiers in 23 countries.
There are a number of factors that contribute to the recruitment of child soldiers. These include poverty, lack of education, and exposure to violence. Child soldiers are often recruited by armed groups because they are easy to manipulate and control.
The consequences of being a child soldier are severe. Child soldiers often suffer from physical and psychological trauma. They may also be addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many child soldiers have difficulty reintegrating into civilian life after conflict.
There are a number of organizations working to protect child soldiers and help them to reintegrate into society. These organizations provide child soldiers with education, counseling, and other support services.
The international community has taken steps to address the problem of child soldiers. In 2000, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325, which calls for the protection of women and children in armed conflict. The resolution also calls for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of child soldiers.
According to the United Nations Secretary-General’s 2023 report on children and armed conflict, there were verified cases of child soldiers in the following countries in 2023:
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Republic
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- South Sudan
It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and there are likely other countries where child soldiers are used.
Child soldiers are used by both state and non-state armed groups. They are often recruited from poor and marginalized communities, and they are often abducted or forced to join armed groups. Child soldiers are used for a variety of purposes (as stated before), including fighting, cooking, carrying supplies, and spying. They are also often subjected to violence and abuse.
The use of child soldiers is a serious violation of international law. But ask yourself, does the countries listed above really give a damn about “international law?” The answer is NO and they will not until the countries that do, do something to make them care about it.
The use of child soldiers is also a major obstacle to peace and development. Child soldiers who survive conflict often face significant challenges in reintegrating into society. They continue to be soldiers raising hell on people that want nothing to do with politics and only want to be left alone.
Who’s trying to help worldwide?
There are a number of worldwide organizations that are working to prevent child soldiers from taking place. Some of the most well-known include:
- UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund): UNICEF is the leading global organization for children. It works to protect the rights of children and provide them with essential services such as healthcare, education, and nutrition. UNICEF also works to prevent child soldiers by providing education and support to children and their families, and by advocating for the protection of children’s rights.
- Save the Children is a global humanitarian organization that works to save children’s lives and help them reach their full potential. It works to protect children from violence, exploitation, and abuse, and to ensure that they have access to healthcare, education, and other essential services. Save the Children also works to prevent child soldiers by providing education and support to children and their families, and by advocating for the protection of children’s rights.
- War Child is an international humanitarian organization that works to protect children affected by conflict. It provides education, psychosocial support, and protection services to children in war zones and post-conflict countries. War Child also works to prevent child soldiers by working with children and their families to address the root causes of child recruitment, such as poverty, lack of education, and displacement.
- Amnesty International is a global human rights organization that works to protect and promote human rights for all. It works to prevent child soldiers by campaigning against the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and by advocating for the rights of children affected by conflict.
- Human Rights Watch is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote human rights for all. It works to prevent child soldiers by investigating and reporting on the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict, and by advocating for the rights of children affected by conflict.
These are just a few of the many organizations that are working to prevent child soldiers from taking place. These organizations are working together to raise awareness of the issue, to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, and to provide support to children who have been affected by conflict.
One more heart-wrenching and heart-warming story:
A long journey: The story of Ishmael Beah
From a child in war to renowned author, human rights activist and Goodwill Ambassador.
You may read this story by following this link … https://www.unicef.org/stories/long-journey-story-of-ishmael-beah
But even if you choose not to read the story, I encourage you to watch this 3-minute video featuring Me. Ishmael Beah – who survived being a child soldier:
Use the link, or the photo to get to the You Tube Video.
How can you help?
If you are interested in learning more about child soldiers or how you can help, I encourage you to visit the websites of the organizations listed above. You can also donate to these organizations to support their work. Here are their website addresses:
- UNICEF: https://www.unicef.org/
- Save the Children: https://www.savethechildren.org/
- War Child: https://www.warchildusa.org/
- Amnesty International: https://www.amnesty.org/
- Human Rights Watch: https://www.hrw.org/
Thank you for reading this and remember … for every child, there is hope!
~ Jerry Nix | Freewavemaker, LLC ~