A Matter of Conscience

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Having
watched and observed life from the standpoint of a soldier for ten
years of my life, I felt there was no higher honor than to serve
my country and defend the values that established this country.
My family has a history of serving this country dating back to the
American Revolution and I felt that to continue in that tradition
was the honorable thing to do.

As
I went through the process which led to my decision to refuse deployment
to Iraq for the second time, I was torn between thoughts of abandoning
the soldiers that I serve with, or following my conscience which
tells me: war is the ultimate in destruction and waste of humanity.

Thoughts
that we could, and should, consider better ways to solve our differences
with other people in the world have crossed my mind on numerous
occasions. And this was the driving force that made me refuse deployment
to Iraq a second time. Some people may say I am doing so out of
fear of combat; I am not going to tell you that the thought of going
back to that place isn’t scary, but that is not the reason
for my decision to not return.

I
want people to know that the longer I thought about just how stupid
the concept of war really is, the stronger I felt about not participating
in war. Why do we tell our children to not solve their differences
with violence, then turn around and commit the ultimate in violence
against people in another country who have nothing to do with the
political attitudes of their leaders?

Having
read numerous books on the subject of war and having heard all the
arguments for war, I have come to the conclusion that there are
no valid arguments for the destructive force of war. People are
destroyed, nations are destroyed, and yet we continue on with war.
The young people that I went with to the combat zone looked at it
like it was a video game they played back in their childhood.

When
you contemplate the beauty of the world around us and the gifts
we have been given, you have to ask yourself, “Is this what
humanity is meant to do, wage war against one another?” Why
can’t we teach our children not to hate or to not be afraid
of someone else just because they are different from us? Why must
it be considered honorable to train young men and women to look
through the sights of a high-powered rifle and to kill another human
being from 300 meters away?

Consider,
if you will, the positive things that could be accomplished without
war in our lives; prescription medication that is affordable for
seniors; college grants that are available for high schools seniors;
I could name a list of reasons not to waste our resources on war.
The most important being to let the children of the world learn
war no more.

I’ve
received e-mails from people who said that I was a coward for not
going to war, but I say to them that I have already been, so I do
not have anything to prove to anyone any more. What is there to
prove anyway, that I can kill someone I do not even know and has
never done anything to me? What is in that concept that anyone could
consider honorable?

I
first realized that war was the wrong way to handle things in this
or any other country when I went to the war zone and saw the damage
that it causes. Why must we resort to violence when things do not
go our way? Where is the logic of that? I have felt that there are
better ways to handle our business than to bomb each other into
oblivion. When you are on the water in a boat and you have a chance
to see dolphins playing with each other as they go about their business,
you realize that if they can live without war then humanity should
be able to as well.

Can’t
we teach our children to leave war behind in history where it belongs?
We have come to realize that slavery was an obsolete institution
and we realized that human sacrifice was an obsolete institution
and we left them behind us. When are we going to have the same enlightened
attitude about war?

I
look at my stepchildren and realize that war has no place with me
in giving them what they need to survive the trials and tribulations
of early adulthood. And if you look at all the time soldiers lose
in the course of fighting wars such as birthdays and anniversaries,
their children going to the senior prom and college graduations,
and other things which can never be replaced, then you have to come
to the understanding that war steals more from people than just
their sense of humanity, it also steals some of that humanity from
their family.

I
have learned from first-hand experience that war is the destroyer
of everything that is good in the world, it turns our young into
soulless killers and we tell them that they are heroes when they
master the “art” of killing. That is a very deranged mindset
in my opinion. It destroys the environment, life, and the resources
that could be used to create more life-advancing endeavors.

War
should be left behind us; we should evolve to a higher mindset even
if it means going against what most people tell us in this country,
such as that we can never stop fighting with other people in the
world. I have made the decision to not participate in war any longer
and some people in this country cannot comprehend that concept but
to me it is simple. I have chosen not to take part in war and it
was easy to come to that decision.

I
cannot tell anyone else how to live his or her life but I have determined
how I want to live mine – by not participating in war any longer,
as I feel that it is stupid and that it is against everything that
is good about the world.

January
18, 2005

Kevin
Benderman [send him mail]
is an Army Sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division, Ft. Stewart, GA.

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