By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
STEVENSVILLE – The Lakeshore Rotary Club seemed an unlikely venue for a U.S. Army recruiter to talk about the military.
Sgt. Ken Brook’s usual audience features high school students, often hundreds of them at assemblies.
That’s why it may have felt like such a breeze to speak to the group of 30 inside the First Church of God in Stevensville, a location the club uses for most of its meetings.
Spectators asked questions ranging from what it’s like recruiting “millennials” to his time spent in a foreign land.
“Afghanistan is the most beautiful place I’ve seen in my life,” the Niles native told the audience “You find beauty anywhere you go out there. Iraq is like a giant kitty litter box. There is sand, everywhere.”
He served two tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq.
Brook graduated from Niles High School in 2000 before leaving for basic training.
He said recruiters see themselves as helping the people they sign up.
“They always say a recruiter has a bleeding heart,” Brook said. “It’s about changing lives. I’ve helped a lot of kids that a lot of people gave up on.”
Many Rotarians appeared surprised when Brook told them what community he would like to recruit from.
“Benton Harbor has so much to offer,” he said. “I feel kids in that area are used to being put down instead of being picked up.”
He said a lot of his recruits come from the blue-collar families who don’t have many options when it comes to college. Brook said the Army was his way of expanding his horizons.
Brook earned a few laughs when he said his female recruits were more mature than the male gender.
“The average 17- or 18-year-old female knows exactly what she wants to do, sometimes years before her male counterpart,” he said. “My female (recruits) are more goal-oriented.”
Members gave Brook a standing ovation afterward, where he stayed behind to speak with a few curious spectators.
Rotary Club President Katie White said the effort was organized by Brook’s father-in-law, who is a Rotary member.
White said they normally bring in officials from local nonprofits to speak about their organizations, but also try for individual speakers like Brook.
“We are always trying to look for more interesting programs in the club,” White said. “(Brook’s) story kind of reads like a movie script. We just happened to be able to get him to come in the Thursday before Memorial Day.
“We wanted to find out more about the recruiting status and how it works for the Army.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 22, 2015)