Because of my religious, moral, and ethical beliefs I object to war in all forms and participation in the military service. In light of this I am requesting conscientious objector status 1-0.
1.. A description of the nature of the belief which requires the applicant to seek separation from the military service or assignment to non-combatant training or duty. .
I believe that war does irreversible damage to the spirit and nobility of man. War hinders man from attaining God's true purpose for life: a complete and unified love for God, selfless love for one's fellow man, and a genuine desire to value all human life. War not only propagates human suffering, but even more so, it encourages men and women towards irrational fear and hatred, it promotes fraud and deceit, anger and lack of compassion. All of the aforementioned emotions and actions are in direct contradiction to the teachings and life of Jesus Christ, as well as what I believe all the truly sincere religious teachers in history have taught and adhered to. I believe Jesus' teachings on "love for one's neighbor", "love for one's enemies", anger being equivalent to murder, and the entire spirit of His life are the very antithesis of war and participation in combat. The military service, whose soul purpose is to prepare for and win wars, only contributes to the tragedies of war by creating an environment where hatred, anger, victory at any price, and a desire to kill one's enemies are both taught and rewarded. It is my belief that war and participation in war eclipses the inner light that God has placed in all of us and promotes a callousness and lack of compassion for one's fellow man. Any so called "benefits" of war are remote and non-military, and are greatly overshadowed by the physical, psychological, and spiritual damage it causes. .
As a follower of Jesus Christ, the guiding principle of my life is His teaching on the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord God with all your heart mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself". In my daily life I attempt to adhere to this teaching by devoting myself to spiritual reading, contemplation, and prayer. In my interactions with others, albeit I fail too often, I try to think of other's needs before my own, I try to at all times put myself in their shoes. I attend Catholic Mass every Sunday when it is available, and daily mass when my work schedule permits. In the last year I have incorporated many of the teachings of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, as well as Taoism into my personal beliefs and daily life. I also read regularly the writings of Thomas Merton, Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II, Carl Jung, Alduous Huxley, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Catherine of Sienna, and many other great spiritual thinkers. All of which have greatly aided me on my journey towards enlightenment and a true knowledge and love for God and His children. Furthermore, these great teachings, combined with long hours of contemplation and first hand experience of war, have served to greatly solidify my opposition to war. The purpose of man's life is to love God, to foster a genuine experience of His presence and to adhere to an absolutely rigid desire to value and preserve all life, even the lives of our enemies. It is my belief that war and participation in war is in direct contrast to this purpose. .
2.. An explanation as to how beliefs have changed or developed, to include an explanation as to what factors (how, when, and from whom or from what source training received or belief acquired) caused the change in or the development of conscientious objection. When I first entered the military I had no remarkable objections to war, I viewed war as a "necessary evil", something that was even desirable in many cases. When I saw images on television of the Kosovo crisis, read the accounts of war heroes, or watched movies like "Saving Private Ryan", I saw participation in war as something noble and good. .
I enlisted in September of 1999, but it wasn't until December of 2001 that I really began to question the justness of war. It was at that time that I began meeting with a Roman Catholic Priest and seriously studying the teachings of the Church. I also immersed myself in the writings of many saints, church fathers, and men and women like Thomas Merton, Pope John Paul II, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Although I had been a Protestant Christian for about seven years, this was my first real exposure to a spirituality that completely embraced the value and dignity of all human life and elevated Jesus' teachings on love and justice above everything else. Prior to this I was pro-war, pro-death penalty, pro-birth control. Since my conversion and up until the present I have experienced a complete reversal in my beliefs on these topics. .
In the Spring of 2002, with a war with Iraq looming, I was challenged by a fellow Catholic convert, Chris Lord, to consider whether or not participation in war was really in keeping with the teachings of Jesus and the Catholic Church. I had never even thought of questioning war prior to that. I always assumed my government acted in accordance with what was good and noble. I never thought of questioning my government in such a way, I was a soldier. However, I began to read everything I could on the justness of war. I spent long hours reading, surfing the internet, and discussing this issue with people from all different faiths and worldviews. What I began to see was that many deeply religious men and women, many Christians, Buddhists, and people of many other faiths believed war was evil and an unacceptable state of affairs. I was especially taken aback when the late Pope John Paul II opposed the war. However, at that time I didn't feel strongly enough about war to attempt to separate from the Army. I still believed, while war was evil, I could still by participation attempt to be some sort of light in the dark if you will. .
When the opportunity to re-class to Psychological Operations presented itself I felt I had found a possible solution to my dilemma. I was not yet fully convinced my beliefs were incompatible with all types of military service, furthermore PSYOP seemed more focused on limiting casualties on the battlefield rather than multiplying them. What I have come to see is that PSYOP is just as susceptible to the irrational hatred and ethnocentrism that war creates as any other branch in the Army. During and shortly after completing the PSYOP AIT it seemed my beliefs were becoming even more and more incompatible with military service. I voiced my concerns to my good friend SGT Russell Belina, as well as to my friend Chris Lord, and my confirmation sponsor SSG Dale Jilek. I remember particular cadences about killing and bloodshed began to bother me tremendously, so much I couldn't bring myself to repeat them. I still didn't feel my beliefs were totally incompatible with military service. I thought if I could acquire a job where more than likely I wouldn't have to kill someone then I could continue to be a soldier in good conscience. I requested assignment in 5th BN, 4th PSYOP GRP, which is a strategic assignment, a desk job if you will. Also, I had always been viewed by my superiors and peers as an excellent soldier. I was honor grad of my Basic Training, made the commandant's list at DLI, 98G AIT, PLDC, and PSYOP AIT, I was 311th MI BN soldier of the quarter, I was promoted to SGT well in front of my peers, I consistently scored 300 on the APFT and was an expert marksman. I knew that if I became a conscientious objector all of these things would be as if they never happened and my supervisors and peers would lose respect for me and even despise me. Looking back I see that I put my personal pride above what I believed to be the will of God for my life. I lacked the courage of my convictions and I have had to live with that cowardice ever since. .
While I was in 5th Bn I deployed to Korea for six months. During this time. I tried to make myself forget my spiritual struggles with war and military service. In many ways I tried to destroy my conscience, in a sense I was like Jonah running from God. However, I began to study Taoism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism. Inadvertently these studies led me right back to God, and added a new found depth to my spirituality. When I returned from Korea I still had a lot of things I needed to straighten out in regards to my beliefs, but one thing that began to become evident again was my troubled conscience in regards to war, participation in the military, and it's incompatibility with the path of enlightenment and the Way of Jesus Christ. I was still struggling with my fear of how others might perceive me, however I set up an appointment with CPT Cooper (former 4th PSYOP GRP JAG Commander) to discuss possible conscientious objection. CPT Cooper and others advised me that since I was still in 5th BN and only had about a year left in the military I should just ride out the time and ETS without incident. CPT Cooper advised me that I wouldn't want to damage my career by becoming a conscientious objector. At the time this seemed like the "common sense" decision. Furthermore, I did not want to put further stress on my wife ( I had just come back from a deployment) or my 19 month old son. .
In January of 2004, to my complete surprise, I was transferred to 9th BN, Tactical PSYOP, for the sole purpose of mobilizing to go to Iraq. I spoke with the 5th BN SGM and my 1SG about my desire to stay in 5th BN. I argued that my language skills and experience in Korea would make me more valuable and effective in Korea than I would be in Iraq. However, the need for personnel in 9th BN was more important to our command so I was transferred. At this point, because of my personal pride and even a lack of moral courage, I couldn't put in for conscientious objection, everyone would definitely think I was a coward just trying to get out of a deployment. Furthermore, my beliefs were not fully crystallized in regards to war. I even rationalized that maybe in spite of all the evils inherent in war, I could somehow rise above and be detached from it. That while being in the military service itself condones killing, maybe I wouldn't have to kill anyone, maybe I could be a light in the darkness, maybe I could actually do something good for humanity. I see now, after being in Iraq for two months that this is a very naïve almost foolish way to think. I believe war is too evil, and the war machine is too powerful. The concept of me just being a soldier, and carrying a weapon, condones something that I believe to my incompatible with my own beliefs about God and about the value of human life. What's more prior to coming to Iraq my beliefs seemed somewhat theoretical. But now I have seen first hand to hatred that war inspires, I've even felt it. I've listened to soldiers and Marines speak with an unbelievable hatred for the Iraqi people, not just insurgents, but all Iraqis and their culture. I've listened while Field Grade Officers propagate and ignorance and ethnocentrism that rivals even Nazism. I have come to see that these are not isolated or peculiar events, most soldiers and officers think and act in this way because that is what they are in many ways conditioned to think, in spite of all the military's so called EO and cultural awareness training. I do not believe these men are bad or evil. However, human frailty combined with the evils inherent in war, coupled with a military that encourages a sort of "group think" and bloodshed, creates a state of affairs that in my mind is totally against Jesus' teachings on love and acceptance of one's neighbor, and the natural law written on all human heart's that we are all children of God. .
3.. An explanation as to when the applicant's beliefs became incompatible with military service and why? .
As I mentioned earlier, this is an issue I've been wrestling with for over two years. However, it wasn't until just recently that I reached a breaking point. Prior to arriving in Iraq, although I believe my struggles were real and sincere, in a way they seemed almost theoretical. However, as I have been deployed here in Iraq, it seems as if my day by day my soul is being stretched thin by participating in this war. Condoning something that I have come to believe goes against the very heart of everything I now believe about God, spirituality, and the value of human life is hypocritical for me, and this hypocrisy is plaguing my conscience daily. When I wake up in the morning and realize where I am at, when I read the scriptures, when I pray, when I see and hear about wounded and dying American servicemen, and Iraqi's, I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. Guilt because I am have not been true to God, my beliefs, or myself. Since I have come to a point where I feel I have to apply for conscientious objection, and have made that decision, I have felt an overwhelming amount of peace, and confidence in what I must do. .
As I have served here in Iraq, day by day, the evils of war continuously confirm my beliefs about God and the incompatibility of my beliefs with military service. Particularly listening to the words of Marines and soldiers from E-1 to 0-5, words of hatred, lack of compassion, ethnocentrism, not here and there, but consistently over and over again both in personal conversations and professional ones. Just recently I took part in a raid. During the raid I was struck by the callousness in how we treat Iraqi civilians, how quick we are to belittle them and take away their personal dignity. I witnessed soldiers and Marines officers and enlisted treating elderly Iraqi men like little children, treating them in a such a degrading way, it pains me just to reflect on it. Around 30 men flexi-cuffed, pushed around, treated like common criminals, in front of their wives and their children. Soldiers and Marines repeatedly saying "how stupid the Iraqi's are" "how worthless this culture is", "how we should just wipe this entire place out". One of the detainees fell out of a moving 7-ton, blindfolded and flexi-cuffed, sustaining severe injuries. The Marines and soldiers who witnessed the event and relayed the story merely laughed at the man and his misfortune, even the medics. We were forced to deny medical treatment to an Iraqi man who had been bleeding from a gunshot wound for about 9 hours and from all accounts was close to death. All because an officer didn't want to have Iraqi's coming to our post looking for medical treatment. Even though just about every military publication will show pictures of military doctors and medics administering medical aid to Iraqi's, this officer received no reprimand or punishment. I believe the military only allows for medical treatment in order to gain victory over the hearts and minds of the people they are trying to conquer, not out of any sort of genuine concern or compassion. If attending to the medical needs of the Iraqi people somehow inconvenienced our military success it would be stopped. .
Following the day of the raid I had some free time which I spent reading a collection of writings by religious thinkers both eastern and western. It was during my contemplation of these readings and all of my experiences here in Iraq, sitting under a star filled night sky, that a light flashed in my soul and in my mind. In an instance my resolve was firm, and I became aware that if I am going to live a life of true devotion to God, for me, that is first going to involve taking a stand against war and the damage it needlessly inflicts on my fellow man. .
It seems so clear to me now that my career, my personal pride, my immediate comfort, are small prices to pay for a clear conscience and the knowledge that I can stand before God and say "I didn't willfully contribute to the death of so many of Your children". I was further inspired to action by the words of a Sufi mystic and poet "It makes absolutely no difference what other people think of you". I alone will stand before God, to give an account of how I lived my life, and I have to live with my decisions of conscience. I have already done far too many wicked things in my life. I will not willfully with full knowledge of what I do add an even worse wickedness, the taking of the life of God's people in war or condoning it in any way. .
Since coming to this decision I have experienced more peace than I have felt in a long time. I believe that living in a way that my innermost being knew was wrong was creating inner turmoil, and a spiritual conflict that was greatly effecting my life. I recognize the struggles ahead, but I would rather face them with this peace of God, than continue living my life in turmoil and self-deceit. .
4.. An explanation as to the circumstances, if any, under which the person believes in the use of force, and to what extent, under any foreseeable circumstances. .
I admit the possibility of circumstances where the use of force is acceptable. Having never personally experienced such a situation, any thoughts I have on the subject would have to be somewhat theoretical. I believe it's difficult and even somewhat dangerous to speculate on "what one would do if" such and such happened, or if someone lived in a different point in history. However the first "real" possible situation that comes to mind would have to be if someone immediately and directly threatened the life of my son or my wife. For example if someone was intent on killing my son ( who is 2 years old ), and I had exhausted all non-violent means, I believe the use of force to save my son's life would be acceptable. However, the taking of anyone's life is an extremely difficult issue. The reason being, I believe God values all human life, even the lives of those people who we may think are evil. It is a tenuous position to be in to try to determine which life is more valuable than another. For example, I understand that police officers are put into situations where they feel they must use lethal force. Unfortunately, the basis for their decision making process, as well as what constitutes innocence or guilt in our society, often seems incredibly arbitrary. I have lived in other countries where the police force maintains order without the use of firearms or overtly violent tactics. .
Furthermore, whenever a person's life is immediately threatened, I believe our innate instinct to survive is almost uncontrollable. If someone directly threatened my life, I would like to believe that I would exhaust all non-violent means before I felt it necessary to use force to save my own life. I think if someone kills another person, even merely in order to protect their own survival, it is possible they spend the rest of their lives wondering if they did the right thing. Questions like "Is my life intrinsically more valuable to God than my attacker?", "If I were to die, I feel I would be ready to stand before God, anyone who would attempt to murder me must have inner conflicts that need to be resolved before they die", "If I die, my soul will go to be with God, but if I kill this would be murderer, am I sending him to hell?". .
As far as firearms and weapons are concerned, I' ve used them since I was a small child. Living on a ranch for a good portion of my life, I spent a lot of time hunting. In the last year, however, I have come to believe that any kind of hunting, apart from necessary nutritional self-sustainment, is morally wrong. To kill an animal merely for sport, or to supply yourself with meat you don't need, is in my opinion, an offense to God's creation. .
When I first joined the Army and up until about 2 years ago, I enjoyed shooting weapons. As silly and naïve as it sounds, I never really associated it with the reality of killing someone. To me it was more of a skill, something I could gain satisfaction from by mastering. However, as the realism of what weapons of war are actually designed for has set in, I have become more and more uncomfortable handling them. I still enjoy firing them, and acquiring the skill, but when I think about it, I have to admit that becoming adept at the use of something which sole purpose is to take human life, it is not acceptable if I want to truly follow and know God. Unfortunately, there are many things that are enjoyable and at the same time contrary to God's will for us. .
Weapons of Mass Destruction are an affront to God, His children, and His creation. When I think of all the innocent Japanese civilians who died as a result of our nuclear attacks it makes me ill. There is, in my opinion, never under any circumstances, a justification for the development and use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is man' s greed for power and control over the lives of others that brought the existence of these weapons about. Nations that possess, create, or distribute such weapons are committing a grievous sin against God and mankind.
5.. An explanation as to what, in the person's life, most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of his beliefs that have rise to this claim. I realize that by applying for conscientious objection I will be putting a "black mark" on an otherwise spotless and good military career. In spite of my experience in Military Intelligence, Special Operations, my Top Secret clearance, my Bachelor's Degree, and my proficiency in Korean, I will never be able to get the numerous jobs working for government agencies these skills would allow me. Even though I have been recommended for the E-6 promotion board, I will never be able to advance my career in that way. I recognize that some of my superiors may attempt to "teach me a lesson" by ordering me to do the most humiliating and ridiculous duties. I understand that in every way, shape, and form some of them may attempt to make my life a living hell by making me work extra long hours. I recognize that if this treatment extends beyond our re-deployment to Fort Bragg, it will create tension and difficulty in my marriage and home life. I am sure many of my fellow soldiers will call me a coward, or accuse me of letting down the team, or that my immediate supervisors might ridicule me, and that all will probably think I am in some way judging their participation in war. I know that to almost everyone my past performance, awards and achievements, the example I've set as an NCO and as a soldier, every "good" thing I've done in the Army may very well be forgotten. .
I will gladly lay down my weapons, even though I will have no way of defending myself if we are attacked. I understand that I could just as easily die by indirect fire, or while traveling in a convoy or riding on a helicopter, than I could if I was participating in combat. I recognize that most of my family and civilian friends, even fellow parishioners will not support or understand my decision. Even my own wife may feel I am jeopardizing our financial security and the future of our son. I understand that even if I follow every order and regulation during this application process, my commander can still decide not to give me an honorable discharge, which would result in the forfeiture of all benefits. I know this decision could effect my ability to find employment, especially by those business owners who are pro war. This decision will not only effect my financial and professional future, it will alter the very course of my life..
Quite possibly, fellow soldiers who I believed to be friends, could turn their backs on me. I realize that by putting in this application I will not be "going home". I know that now this deployment will probably be several times more difficult than it would have been if I would have just continued to act contrary to my beliefs and that when we re-deploy there will still be even more difficult situations to deal with. There is a good possibility that for the next 4-6 months I will be completely alone and that many people will refuse to even speak to me. An Army conscientious objector on a Marine base, without the support of his fellow soldiers and officers, is one of the more unpleasant situations I can think of..
While preparing this application I have made many worthwhile sacrifices. I have sacrificed time that I could have spent getting support from my wife and family. The past week I have worked myself to the point of near exhaustion trying to finish this application and fulfill my responsibilities as an NCO, and still get a few hours of sleep a night. I have had to maintain an uncomfortable secrecy, even with my most trusted friends, and figure out how to answer the question "What are you writing?" without lying. For fear of having my access to time, phones, and computers blocked, I have had to keep this entire process a secret from all of my supervisors. Who knows how many meals I've skipped and how much sleep I've lost writing and rewriting, reading and re-reading this application..
I had to say goodbye to two men I have faced death with, knowing that the next time I see them they will both feel I have let them down. I also recognize that in light of the fact that I only have about 7 months left in the military, this application process could take longer, and that if I would have just "kept quiet", I could have finished my enlistment without incident..
However, I would gladly do it all again, and I will gladly suffer all the possible future hardships in order to journey on the path of enlightenment, in order to do the will of God. I will gladly sacrifice everything, my friends, family, even my own life to live as Jesus Christ's disciple, to achieve unity with God, to be enlightened, to truly love my fellow man..
I believe that all wars are opposed to God's true purpose and desire for this world and the people who live in it. Any supposed "benefits" that war produces are remote and non-military and completely overshadowed by the physical, moral, psychological, and spiritual damage it creates. I believe the military perpetuates the notion, that for a soldier to be good for anything as a soldier, he must be the antithesis of a reasoning, thinking, and compassionate human being. Military service capitalizes on the insecurity and barbarity of young men, and makes them so afraid of "getting in trouble" that they will make almost any moral compromise in order not to damage their career. The idea of "Mission First", in my opinion perpetuates the notion that victory and success are our ultimate end, no matter how much death and destruction it may cause..
I believe that I cannot truly "love my neighbor as myself" if I am knowingly trying to kill him, or participating in a military that's purpose is to end his life. I do not believe I can truly follow the teachings of Jesus, or attempt to be the kind of complete human being the Buddha or Mother Theresa was if my main professional objective is to participate in war and prepare for war. In my eyes the path of the soldier and the path of the one who truly seeks enlightenment and unity with God are irreconcilably divergent..
Finally, I do not judge the men and women who participate in war as combatants or non-combatants. I do not know their hearts and minds, I choose to believe they are doing what they sincerely believe to be right, just as I currently am. It is for good reason that Jesus said "How can you remove the splinter from your brother's eye while you have a plank in yours?" I have enough shortcomings and failings in my life, I don't need to judge others because of theirs. I pray daily for the men and women fighting this war, their families, the dead, and all those, on both sides, who are effected by this tragedy. Whatever problems we now or in the future will face, in my opinion war is not a rational or reasonable option..
6.. An explanation as to how the applicant's daily lifestyle has changed as a result of his beliefs and what future actions he plans to continue to support his or her beliefs. When I first became a Roman Catholic the most immediate change was in my relationship to my wife. I've spent much of my life and marriage as an aloof and even cold person. I also grew up very cynical, sarcastic, and brusque. I've always been quick to get into arguments and disputes, and as a teenager, even fistfights. Along my journey to God, and particularly after my conversion to Catholicism, I became a much more peaceful and loving person. Of course my wife was the first to notice the difference in how I treated her. I also began to be a lot more accepting of other people and their faults, particularly as I saw more and more my own shortcomings. I read the Scriptures and other spiritual works daily, I began to pray the Rosary, attend daily mass and Sunday Mass. I began to make quiet times of prayer and contemplation a regular part of my schedule. My views on the death penalty, abortion, birth-control, war all began to gradually change. I became less focused on my own selfish concerns and made attempts to actively help my fellow man. I volunteered with helping the poor in our community and teaching confirmation classes to high-school students in our local parish. Prior to my conversion I filled all my time with work, personal pursuits, and learning. Since that time I have increasingly learned the importance of stillness and quiet contemplation. I also began to observe the fasts, I stopped eating meat completely ( I have eaten meat occasionally during this deployment to keep my nutrient levels up ), and attempted to consume only the food I needed to survive. My wife and I also began giving 25% of our income to the Church and other charitable organizations..
Along my path to enlightenment and unity with God I have most definitely experienced spiritual setbacks, and too often failed to love God " with all my heart, mind, and strength". I believe if anyone truly seeks to know God and His truth they must experience suffering and hardship. While I was in Korea, I began to see that maybe there were religious and philosophical truths I might be closing my mind to, because of a rigid, one sided belief in a Western version of the Christian faith. Initially, these intellectual and spiritual struggles caused me to in many ways run from God. I was going through a sincere change in my understanding of who and what God is, and how I should live. I think these factors coupled with living in the Far East with it's completely different worldviews, forced me to think outside of the philosophical box I had been living in. Unfortunately, this turbulence led to me doing some things and living in some ways that I realize now are not in keeping with the life of the person seeking God. I also used this time and experience in many ways to escape my continuous struggle with war and my own participation in the military service..
Fortunately God is gracious, and through the opening of my mind and spirit, and through much moral, physical, and spiritual hardship, I have come out on the other side with a fuller more experiential relationship with God. The past 2-3 months has seen my beliefs continually solidify and crystallize..
Furthermore, this deployment to Iraq has made me deal with my own mortality as I never have before. I do not know of anyone who truly welcomes death, or in their heart of hearts isn't just a little fearful of that great unknown. Being here has helped me realize that I could die at any moment, and in any place, be it here in Iraq or riding my bicycle in Southern Pines. Being here just brings that reality home with a force. However, it wasn't until I made my final decision to apply for conscientious objection that I began to really be at peace with death. Death will inevitably find us all, but now, when it finds me, I will be able to stand before our gracious and forgiving God with a clear conscience. This decision has given me a new found zeal to know and follow God, and an even greater compassion for and acceptance of my fellow human beings. I feel whole and integrated and have only increased the amount of time I spend fasting and praying and the lengths to which I am willing to go to daily show kindness to other people..
When my military service is finished my goal is to live a selfless life of devotion to God and His children. Being a good husband and a loving father is of paramount importance. I am working on applications for the PhD programs in Analytical Psychology at the University of Oregon and the University of Oklahoma. Upon completion of my doctorate I plan on going into psychological and spiritual counseling. I have plans to develop what I would call a "Center for Awakening and Conscious Living", where people can get in touch with the divine externally and internally. My family owns well over 120 acres of land in just outside of Norman, Oklahoma which upon completion of my military service, I want to dedicate to helping the poor and disowned children in the Oklahoma City area and possibly orphans in South Korea. It will be a place where they can learn, experience the outdoors, learn the work ethic inherent in farm living, but most importantly feel loved and connected. There are so many ways to serve God and humanity, it is a tragedy to me that so much time, energy, money, and human life is trampled under foot by war..
UPDATE STATEMENT OF AUGUST 29, 2005.
AR 600-43 par. 2-10.a..
"Except as provided in b below, persons who have submitted applications (see para 2-1) will be retained in their unit and assigned duties providing minimum practicable conflict with their asserted beliefs (emphasis mine), pending a final decision on their applications.".
As with many laws or regulations the wording here seems almost purposely vague in order to allow room for interpretation and comprehensive application. However, laws and regulations are created and drafted with the hope, even the preconceived notion, that those with the power and ability will interpret them and enforce them in accord with what is ethical and what is just. When those in power use their authority to manipulate interpretations to support their own self-seeking or vindictive purpose, we are left with what is commonly known as corruption..
As I stated in the essay portion of my application, I have never seen "conscientious objection" as a means by which I would be allowed to go home early. Furthermore, when I submitted my application to MAJ Fisher I communicated to him that I did not want to carry a weapon any longer, and that it conflicted with my beliefs. However, in light of the fact that all camps and bases in our AO require personnel to carry a weapon, I have been obligated to carry one, even though it troubles my conscience. I was aware that it was not "practicable" for me at that time to be moved to a location or "assigned duties" that would not "conflict" with my "asserted beliefs". Therefore, I have followed the orders and regulations governing my conduct, in good faith, believing that when it was "practicable" my command would "assign me to duties providing minimum practicable conflict with my asserted beliefs"..
It is my belief, and more importantly the belief of MAJ Fisher, that there is no sufficient reason to keep me in Iraq past the departure of the advanced party. My role and input in the mission, as well as my presence here, is at this point completely inessential and could become detrimental (see Appendix 1). Furthermore, seeing as how this is the case, re-deploying with the advance party would both allow my command to fully adhere to AR 600-43 para 2-10.a. and relieve me from duties (being obligated to carry and handle weapons) which do in fact "conflict with my asserted beliefs". Therefore what "practicable" reason could there be for me to stay past the departure of the advance party? Granted, I am sure there is someone who could conjure up some "reason" why my presence here is essential. However, would doing so truly be just or right or even professional? From my perspective, the only reason I can see for my command ordering me to stay, would be out of some desire to "punish me" or "teach me a lesson". If that is the case, then that is both immoral and pathetic..
First of all, every course of action I have taken thus far in regards to this situation has been in keeping with my oath, UCMJ, and Army Regulations. That being the case, what need is there to punish me? Those who wish to punish me or teach me a lesson, betray their own insecurity and lack of character. Those who are frustrated or angered with the situation should direct such emotions at the Army and the drafters of the regulations governing our conduct. Furthermore, those who believe that an extra month and a half here would somehow "teach me a lesson" have severely misjudged me. As if there is anything anyone, let alone the Army or my command, could ever do to me that would cause me to alter my beliefs or experience fear. Jesus said "Do not fear those who are able to destroy the body, but fear Him who is able to cast both the body and soul into hell." As if UCMJ action or time in prison is a possibility I haven't considered. If I am prepared to alter my entire life, risk my future "well-being", and even die for my beliefs, how can I do anything but laugh at the idea of someone trying to "punish" me by making me stay in Iraq for another month and a half?.
The issue at hand completely transcends my re-deployment with the advanced party. The issue at hand is integrity. The situation, from my perspective, seems relatively clear. The regulation is as straightforward as possible, and my presence here is no longer required and could possibly become detrimental once the company comes back together (see Appendix 1). Re-deploying with the advance party would allow me to live in accord with my conscience and allow my command to do its duty in regards to AR 600-43 para 2-10.a. The only possible reason I can see for me to stay would be someone's misplaced desire to punish me. Which seems not only irrational and futile, but completely in contradiction to the good conduct soldiers are entitled to from their leaders. Of course, reasons can be "conjured", tracks can be covered, and I or anyone else can not do a single thing about it. However, is this the type of conduct we are called to as "supposed" men and women of character? Maybe I am too idealistic, but I would like to believe that those with the ability, power, and intelligence to know and do what is right and just, will do so..
Whether unfortunate or not, the past is gone, all we have is this moment. I can only will to do what I believe is in keeping with the desire of God in this present situation. None of us are perfect, or possibly even required to be. None of us are omniscient, or possess the ability to always think objectively. However, we are, I believe, required to pursue what we know to be good, true, and just. My conscience is clear; I can lay may head on my pillow in peace; I can look myself in the mirror. My hope is that all involved in this situation will be able to do the same..
I can imagine someone saying "allowing me to leave with the advanced party will encourage others to apply for conscientious objection". The idea that someone would fabricate a belief that would enable them to "create" a 12 to 15 page application, take the time and trouble to commit all of this, in a coherent way, to paper, and then type it up, rewrite and check the document for consistency and accuracy, take the trouble to contact people to provide references, have those references mailed to Iraq, look up the addresses and telephone numbers of every school and place of employment, endure the possible and probable repercussions that come with applying for conscientious objection, and complete all the other necessary prerequisites to submit an application, while serving in a combat zone, just so they can go home 1 month early, is completely irrational..
If higher is sincerely concerned about keeping me from "influencing" others to become conscientious objectors, it seems only reasonable that they would want, as soon as possible, to remove me from situations where I will be visible to other soldiers and have opportunities to answer questions about my beliefs and my situation. When A Co arrives, and when C Co comes back together, my presence alone will cause, at the very least, soldiers to discuss just "what is going on with SGT Hardesty". I do not have to say a single word. I merely have to be around other soldiers, and they will begin to wonder about my beliefs in regards to war and conscientious objection. Of course when people, as they have numerous times already, ask me about my situation and beliefs, I have, and will continue to, answer them candidly..
Furthermore, if higher is really concerned about "mission", they would realize that my presence during the re-assembly of the main body, will only create unnecessary tension. It will, more than likely, create scenarios that will only make MAJ Fisher's, and everyone else's job more difficult. For example, the men who have been working in the Detachments and on TPTs have spent the last 8 months in "harm's way" doing their best to fulfill their duties. These men have risked their lives, and more than likely, have feelings of great pride and accomplishment in regards to what they have done here in Iraq. What do you think will happen when these men, in their joy and relief at the end of this deployment, see me, someone who is completely opposed to the very things they just spent the last 8 months doing? One can only conclude that, at the very least, it could create and environment that is extremely bad for morale..
If you think I am merely concerned about having to face these men, you are wrong. In all honesty, I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this issue with men and women I know and respect. As a matter of fact, I have already had numerous conversations in regards to my beliefs. When the soldiers here in the TPDD and HQ have questions about life or religion, or even future career decisions, who do you think they go to?.
Furthermore, I am not afraid of confrontation. I have spent a great portion of my adult life learning to debate, and debating "difficult" and often "un-popular" viewpoints. No situation you can hope for in regards to me being persecuted, perceived as an outcast, or even humiliated can compare to what I have already experienced in my life, and what I am willing to endure for my convictions..
As I have already mentioned, the idea of making me stay past the re-deployment in order to "teach me a lesson", is not only futile, it is immoral. I am amazed that someone could even consider my being "taught a lesson" more desirable, than a smooth and successful re-deployment. Is this the kind of leadership soldiers in this unit are to expect? It is shocking that someone could be so completely unsupportive of a Company Commander, and in the end unsupportive of the soldiers in their command..
Again, I can only see the situation from my level. I concede there are possibly factors that are beyond the information I currently possess. If this is the case, then I believe my Company Commander, at the very least, is entitled to know about such "factors". At this point, until I am given the opportunity to believe otherwise, I cannot help but think that certain members of my command do not have the best interests of the Army, this unit, its officers and soldiers in mind. They would rather punish me out of vindictiveness, than do what is not only right, but required of them as leaders.