Sgt. Kevin Benderman — Prisoner of Conscience for objecting to war:
come to the conclusion that the Creator does not want us to fight
wars or to leave our brothers to die in hunger or disease. We
have been given the things we need to provide all men on the planet
with what they need to get by in this world. Why should I not
help another human being that needs what I can help them with?
I have ignored that for far too long. I have turned my head when
the homeless person asks for a little help. I have taken advantage
of others when I should have been offering a hand up. I have done
things in my life that I am not proud of. I have not lived a perfect
life so I will not tell anyone else how to live theirs. I have
learned that I have done things that are not to the benefit of
mankind, and to continue in that vein would be detrimental to
my growth as a human being.
I ask myself, u2018Why should I continue with what I see as self-destructive
should I continue a way of life that does nothing to alleviate problems
that have plagued humanity for far too long?'
a drug addict learns that the drugs are killing him, he is expected
to stop using drugs.
leads me to ask, u2018If what I am doing is killing me spiritually,
why should I continue?'
have become so engrained to the face of war that we can no longer
see that it solves nothing. I will no longer participate."
who haven't experienced war and all of its trappings firsthand,
will never know just how deep the dehumanizing effects go: Dehumanizing
only if they succeed in barring people from their heart and from
acting on their conscience. For some, the effects do anything BUT
dehumanize us. For some, they galvanize us against the robotic trend,
and make us LIVE from this point on, feeling everything, pain and
good, knowing just how important every feeling is, for it means
we are alive, we are safe and we ARE human after all.
affects us all. We just don't know it until it is sometimes too
late to change what it has done. Mothers cry, Cindy Sheehan is crying,
and there are mothers all over the world crying with her. This is
beyond political. As Kevin said, we cannot tell others how to live
their lives or what to believe in. We can, however, let others see
our humanity, and hopefully others will come to face theirs as well,
by asking questions of themselves, as we have, and demanding that
they answer honestly, unafraid to feel in their responses.
was midnight the night that Kevin's unit deployed. The barracks
room was eerily quiet, surreal, as if we were in a cocoon living
out this last bit of time; separate from everything else that was
going on. All of his movements cast shadows on the blank wall as
the lamp on his nightstand kept us from darkness. Watching him put
on body armor, a Kevlar helmet, 100 pounds of equipment and supplies,
sneaking last minute little notes into all the pockets of his uniform
and armor so that he could find them in his downtime, was a difficult
memory to keep. As he packed the charcoal chemical suit, the antidotes
for chemical attacks, the gas mask… so many thoughts surfaced and
it all seemed to be slow motion… there was little more to say —
there really aren't any words. We drove at 1 a.m., in the dark,
to the arms room to draw his weapon. Waiting… more briefings,
more waiting in the dark. Knowing that time was running out… knowing
everything the government had said about the horrors those soldiers
were about to face… knowing that he was so thoughtful about the
idea of going to war and that we had to find the strength for what
we had committed to… knowing that there were many who would not
respect what the soldiers were about to do… and then — 3 AM. I had
to let him go and watched while the units formed and marched past
us into the gym. The only sound to be heard was the shuffled cadence
of their boots. Something impacted me that wasn't expected. Standing
in the doorway watching, Kevin came through not a foot from me,
and another soldier handed him a plastic chock to put behind the
pin of his M-16 to keep it from firing on the plane. It was added
safety… but for me it was the realization that we were going to
three weeks ago, in a courtroom that was eerily quiet, even with
people surrounding me; strangely surreal, as if we were in a cocoon
living out this last bit of time, my husband was sentenced to 15
months confinement for not wanting to participate in war. As visitors
left the courtroom, prosecutors tried not to smile but didn't quite
succeed, government witnesses shook hands as if they had accomplished
their mission, and friends were not quite sure what to say or do.
It all seemed to separate from where we stood. We wanted to remember
every second of the short time in the waiting room, quick hugs and
assurances – we have been through this before. Together we will
get through this again. Watching while the MP's came to lead him
away, the only sound to be heard was the sound of the handcuffs
and leg irons that his supervisor refused to allow the MP's to use,
telling them that Sgt. Benderman would walk on his own to the van.
As I stood in the doorway, Kevin came through not a foot from me
with his head held high — the power of his confident strength was
added comfort… and for me it was the realization that we were heading
Sheehan and Kevin Benderman are no different, just using a different
story to help others see how much we need to reach for a better
way. War should be obsolete; it must be, if we are to regain our
humanity. We should not have to watch our soldiers load their weapons
and prepare to fight others. Sadly, no one can truly understand
who has not seen or felt the entire experience. We hope the day
will come when no one ever will feel it again. For those of us who
have, we look at the sunshine a little longer and dare to walk in
the rain. We see our children as gifts, not nuisances. We wake in
the morning and do our best to defend good things and brush off
the little ones that don't really matter. We accept what we have
as the gifts we must use. We do not take for granted that by being
here, speaking out to no longer participate in war, to find a better
way, we are fighting for freedom and the right to live, as we believe.
We remember that we are not fighting for the right to destroy others
or ourselves for the sake of power and control. We do not forget
what good is — all the natural gifts we have to share that have
nothing to do with money or power or instant gratification. We do
not forget the honor in being able to defend Life over the taking
of life to solve our problems.
us, this is about our home, and the fact that it no longer seems
to have real meaning for so many people who dare to speak against
what Kevin has chosen to do saying, "I will study war no more."
We join people like Cindy Sheehan and so many others who are offering
their stories with feeling, in the hope that it will help others
to learn to feel as human beings again as well. It takes a strong
person to have the kind of heart that is willing to reach out and
help defend their home, especially when so many in that home are
not ready to understand what they are being offered. Kevin, Cindy,
those who stand with us, know that there is a better way. We will
do everything we can to help others to see the value of Peace because
we have lived through the destructive force of War.
the glory comes from a life well lived.
Benderman [send her mail]
is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, who was recently sentenced
to 15 months confinement for the charge of Missing Movement. Amnesty
International has issued an urgent appeal for Kevin's immediate
release, and declared him a Prisoner of Conscience. For more information
and updates please visit their