Photo Information

Mary Lou Keester, left, and Thea Welke founded the Marine Moms of the Quad-Cities, a support group for the mothers of current or soon-to-be Marines in the Davenport, Iowa, area in April 2005. With many wary mothers and fathers urging their children to avoid military service, Marine recruiters in the area refer parents to Welke and Keester, who offer to share their own experiences about having kids in the Corps. (Photo taken May 11, 2005, by Staff Sgt. Bill Lisbon)

Photo by Staff Sgt. Bill Lisbon

Can Marine mothers save recruiting?

30 Jun 2005 | 9th Marine Corps District

In a time when Marine recruiters across the country face increasing opposition from their applicants’ parents, some here are turning to their "Moms" for help.The Moms of the Marines they enlisted, that is.A recently formed support group made up of area Marine mothers said they would back up recruiters if needed by sharing their own views to teetering or unyielding parents cautious of military service for their kids."It’s good for them to know that we have made it through that," said Thea Welke, co-founder and chairman of Marine Moms of the Quad-Cities.While some parents might be predisposed to disbelieve those they view as nothing more than a slick-dressed salesman, they could be swayed by fellow parents with children already in the Corps, said recruiters here."If you think we’re lying, go ask these people who’ve dealt with us before and whose kids are in the Marine Corps and becoming successful," Staff Sgt. Ryan Easton, who leads the Quad-Cities recruiting substation, said he tells parents.Easton welcomes the group in a challenging recruiting atmosphere.For five straight months, the Marine Corps has fallen short of it monthly goal for new contracts. Many point the finger at worried parents urging their children to avoid the military, believing signing up earns them a one-way ticket to Iraq and a death sentence.Even older prospects in their 20s are telling recruiters that they need to ask their parents before signing up, said Easton, despite the fact the Marine Corps doesn’t require anyone 18 or older to get parental consent."It’s putting a hurting on us," he said. "We’re essentially having to change everything we’re doing in recruiting."So far, the Marine Moms haven’t talked to any wary parents, but the group is still evolving, said Mary Lou Keester, another Marine Moms co-founder.The idea for the local group grew out of recommendations from recruiters as well as Welke’s involvement with online groups for Marine parents. Keester also realized that while her initial connection with the Marines was with her son’s recruiter, there were plenty of other parents in the area, regardless of whether their kids were in the Delayed Entry Program, going through boot camp or deployed to Iraq.A veteran recruiter in the Quad Cities area, Easton said his substation’s recruiters have enlisted approximately 500 Marines over the past five years. So, in theory, there are just that many parents, most who are likely to see their child’s decision to join the Corps in a positive light."It’s going to be a benefit for us in order to give the parents a better feeling about what their kids are going to do," said Easton.The group’s first meetings in April and May each attracted 15 people, a showing Welke said she’s proud of. Membership is now 25 strong.Meanwhile, business cards for the group sit on the recruiters’ desks and Easton and his Marines dispense them freely to parents in hopes of squelching apprehension and quite possibly creating a few more Marine Moms."It’s just nice to talk to people who understand," Keester said
9th Marine Corps District