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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
1/LT LOUIS FONT: LOYAL DISSENTER
Lieutenant Louis Font recently applied for a discharge from the Army on the basis of conscientious objection to the Vietnam war. He received nationwide television and newspaper coverage for his stand. Lou Font graduated from West Point in the top five percent of his class and is a model officer in every sense of the term. Extremely loyal and dedicated to the Army, his decision to apply for a C.O. discharge was clearly a difficult one.
Excerpts from his statement follow:
"I have thought long and hard about my role as a military officer during the Vietnam war. I have been guided by the statement in DOD Pamphlet 1-20 (The Armed Forces Officer) that an officer 'has veracity if, having studied a question to the limit of his ability, he says and believes what he thinks to be true, even though it would be the path of least resistance to deceive others and himself'. On grounds of conscience I can in no way participate in the Armed Forces in any capacity during the Vietnam war. My religious beliefs compel me to regard the Vietnam war immoral and unjust and I cannot contribute in any capacity to an immoral war.
I know deep down inside me that I could no more lead a company of men --120 souls -- in Vietnam than I can cease to be Louis Paul Font, human being. I cannot write condolence letters to the mournful mothers and fathers and new widows. I have seen military funerals up close; I have served on the honor guard of some of my close friends who are now interred at the West Point Cemetery. I know it would destroy me to gaze into the tearful eyes of a mother whose son I led into a war I regard as immoral.
"To me, the war is destroying the integrity of the United States and of some of its best men. I have spoken with Vietnam returnees. Some of what I have been told has jarred my conscience. There is no doubt in my mind that this war is dehumanizing some of America's finest men, some of America's finest military officers. At West Point I once spoke with a Major, not a member or the academic faculty. I asked him, "How does it feel to kill?" He replied, "I feel the same elation as when I kill deer." I could not believe his words. I paused for a moment, collected my thoughts, and then asked, "Do civilians die in Vietnam, and if so, to what extent?" He them said, and these are the exact words he used, for they are etched in my memory: "Cadet Font, it is like this. You are walking down a street after a battle and you see a six -year-old girl lying there. You roll her over (and with this he made a rolling motion with his foot) and you say 'How about that, the Viet Cong are now using six-year-old girls to do their dirty work'." I stood listening, dumbfounded. I had asked the questions because they were on my mind; his replies caused me to investigate further questions pertaining to the Vietnam war and conscience and religious belief. This claim, written after considerable personal anguish, is the result of my inquiry.
"I hasten to add that I in no way mean to disparage the Armed Forces by relating this incident. The abhorrent incident concerning the village of Song My and its inhabitants has already painted a dark and bloody picture of many officers and enlisted men in the U. S. Army. Also, I should point out that at West Point and elsewhere I have met many officers whom I regard with the highest esteem. Nevertheless, I did war with my conscience to learn, for example, of the photograph mailed in a Christmas card by Colonel George S Patton III. According to public reports, the color photograph featured Col. Patton standing before a pile of dismembered Vietnamese bodies; the caption on the card read "Colonel and Mrs. George S. Patton III-Peace on Earth". Col. Patton is now a Brigadier General. Countless times I have asked myself: is this the American ideal or has America somehow gone astray?"
" ....The Golden Rule, 'Do unto others as you would have then do unto you, compels me to view the Vietnam war from the standpoint of the victim, the Vietnamese peasant and the American Soldier. I am convinced that it makes no difference whatsoever to the Vietnamese who looks up into the sky and sees silver napalm canisters tumble down toward him, whether the napalm falls because the United States government loves him or hates him or is liberating him or pacifying him. The point is that the bombs fall and the human being is dead--and with him a trace of mankind and humanity."
"It is only after long and careful study, meditation, and prayer with my God that I have come to these conclusions. I have had to ask myself some difficult and grueling questions: Given that I regard the Vietnam war as immoral, can I, should I accept assignment to Vietnam, even if to sit behind a desk in Saigon? Could I perform my job with the initiative and high performance expected of a West Point graduate? Does a moral man, whose religious beliefs compel him to find the Vietnam war immoral, remain in the Armed Forces that wages that war? Where do my loyalties lie when there exists a clear conflict between my duty to God and my duty to my country?"
"In essence, then I have concluded that I am part of an immoral force, an Army engaged immorally in war. In clear conscience I cannot participate in the Vietnam war in any form; I cannot squeeze the trigger that would unjustly take another human life, I cannot command others to do so. I cannot participate in any way in a military organization where such things are being done. I therefore respectfully request discharge from the Armed Forces. I place my trust in my God and in the United States of America.
Concerned Officers Movement Newsletter, no. 1