This is Not Our War: The Story of Juan Tellez

Cassandra Twining | @cass_twining

I was born in July of 2001, making me 17 years old. Here is a short list of things I currently cannot legally do in the United States: vote, drink alcohol, drive more than one non-family member in my car, get married, rent a car, get a tattoo or pierce my ears without parental permission, you get the idea. There’s a lot that I can’t do. However, I can enlist in the military to fight in the Middle East. Born in November of 2001, (exactly 4 months younger than me) Juan Tellez is one of the newest enlisted Privates of the Marine Corps

Juan Tellez, just like me, has so many legal restrictions on his actions. He could not enlist without his parent’s permission. His parents, unlike him, were actually alive and witnessed the attacks on 9/11. The attacks that started the war, Juan Tellez, is now fighting. 

We have spent over 1 trillion dollars on the war in Afghanistan. Everyone knows that’s a lot of money, but what does it really look like? For starters written out that’s $1,000,000,000,000. That’s a lot of commas. Now to give you some scale to understand the insane amount of money that is, here is what 1 trillion USD in $100 bills looks like next to a person for scale. 

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Children are fighting in wars that they weren’t even alive at the beginning of. This is not our war. This also is not our fight. I write this as a plea to those who are my age watching this happen. This needs to stop. We need to be the generation that puts a stop to it. We can no longer rely on the older generations to enact change. They have failed us time and time again. I fully expect that trend to continue. Change needs to happen, and we need to be the ones to bring it. Before more of our peers are subject to the danger and pain that a war like this brings as well.

Juan Tellez is a 17-year-old kid who has little to no rights as a citizen. He has no voting rights, therefore no say in foreign policy. Within the military, he also has no voice. In an interview, Scott Horton, author of Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, discusses our fear to criticize the military for fear of offending people. For far too long the generations before us have silently and passively allowed the military to unilaterally make decisions with no backlash.  

Our generation needs to stop being silent on these issues and speak up for what is right. We need to be the generation of critical thinkers. The generation that questions authority and demands something better for us as citizens. We need to step up where those before us have failed. I believe with my whole heart that letting a 17-year-old child risk his life for a war that is not his to fight is not right and I refuse to sit back while this is tolerated and even encouraged… And neither should you.


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