...At the center, teenage boys sit in a row of Army-green recliners facing flat-screen monitors. They square off in video war games like the popular Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Once visitors register and prove they're 13 years or older, they're given free access to the facility's array of war-themed games...
...John Gallato, 18, and three of his 15-year-old friends sit atop the Army vehicle eagerly waiting for their mission to begin. With a lifelike machine gun in hand, Gallato says experiences like this will help prepare him for the future.
"I'm going to be killing people," he says. "I'm actually joining the Marines and will be doing this in real life."
When they get the green light, the four teens begin maneuvering through virtual war zones and shooting at targets while dodging bullets themselves.
These simulated war experiences have met with strong opposition. Combat veteran Staff Sgt. Jesse Hamilton says the Army has sanitized the horrors of combat.
"The heat, people screaming, blood, flies, horrible smells, smoke in your eyes stinging, sand — the list goes on and on — and they've taken all of that out," he says. "What they've effectively left is what they consider to be the 'fun' part."
Demonstrators have voiced opposition to the Army Experience Center in Philadelphia throughout the two years the pilot program has been operating.
Kathy Leary, of the BuxMont Coalition for Peace Action, says war is not a game. "We've heard kids come out of the Army Experience Center saying, 'They're really showing me what war is really like' — and obviously that's not what war is really like. There's no reset button in war."
As a former military wife of 18 years and the mother of a son currently serving in the New Zealand Army who spent six months in Afghanistan recently, I think I have the right to say this completely sucks...
We need to be moving towards educating for peace, not brainwashing our young people to prepare them to go and kill in any country's name...