WASHINGTON – Shaken by the Sept. 11 attacks and stirred by a renewed sense of patriotism, some young Americans have enlisted in the war on terrorism by seeking to join the CIA, FBI and the military.
University of Maryland student Ameena Hameed has decided it’s better to make friends than to fight for America.
“People in other countries need to understand America and know we are for peace,” said Hameed, 24, one of a dozen potential volunteers who showed up for a Peace Corps recruiting event at the University of Maryland Thursday.
Peace Corps recruiters have seen an increase in applications since the attacks, with many would-be volunteers saying they are looking for “an unselfish way to show people of other lands what Americans are like and then bring that knowledge of other cultures back to share,” said agency spokeswoman Ellen Field.
Although statistics were not yet available for the mid-Atlantic region, Field said Peace Corps recruiters in San Francisco, Chicago and Boston reported 10 percent to 25 percent more applications in October than in the same month last year.
Visits to the agency’s web site increased 35 percent during September, said Lynn Kneedler, manager of the mid-Atlantic Peace Corps recruiting office in Northern Virginia.
Students said the attacks made them rethink their values.
“We’re Americans. We’re about money and our ride to the top,” said Ray Bryson, 21, a senior. “But since Sept. 11, more people realize that we need to reach out to other countries.”
Since its inception in 1961, the Peace Corps has placed 163,000 volunteers in 135 countries. Currently, more than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve in about 70 countries. Volunteers must be U.S. citizens, 18 or over, with a skill that they can put to use in the host country.
University of Maryland Peace Corps recruiter Elizabeth McGovern said many students have asked questions about safety overseas, but none have been dissuaded by fear of attacks.
McGovern emphasized that the agency places volunteers only in countries where they can be safe.
Last month, the Peace Corps removed its 311 volunteers from the central Asian nations of Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan because of their proximity to Afghanistan. It also evacuated 43 volunteers from Bangladesh because of anti-American sentiment in that country.
Senior Zachary Friedman, 23, said security concerns will not deter him from joining the Peace Corps. But he said reaction to the attacks and the war in Afghanistan made him more aware of America’s role on the world stage.
“It woke me up to the fact that there is a fair amount of anti-Americanism out there,” said Friedman.