Letters and advice from those who have been there before.
Someone Else's Sons and Daughters
Why are we Americans not outraged at the situation in which our government has placed our service people? Is it because they are someone else's sons and daughters? Did we learn nothing from the Viet Nam experience?
We have put our young people and our military professionals in harm's way based on flawed intelligence, and, perhaps, outright lies. The time-tested principle that war should be undertaken only as a last resort was ignored. Against the advice of our friends in the world, we and Britain went in alone, foregoing the credibility we would have had with the United Nations taking this action. We apparently have no real plan for restoring clean water, electrical power and basic law and order in Iraq. Our soldiers and Marines must hold on until we figure it out.
To add to the insult to our service people, we find that they are subject to disciplinary action for expressing their frustration to the press. To tell these young people they are "fighting for freedom" while denying them the right of free speech is ludicrous. Soldiers expressed their feelings freely in the Civil War, both world wars, and in Viet Nam. My own questioning of our policies in Viet Nam probably cost me a promotion, a price I was willing to pay. Never, however, was I disciplined or harassed for my views. It is the soldier's right to gripe and express frustration. He or she is not less of a soldier for doing so. To be a soldier is not to give up one's rights as a citizen.
Like us in Viet Nam, these people did everything our government asked them to do and did it well. America owes them respect, honor, and full affirmation of their rights as American citizens. To give them less is disgraceful.
Heed well, America. Your son or daughter will be next.
371st Radio Research Company, Viet Nam, 1968 retired from a civil service career in the Veterans Administration and the Department of the Army
"They volunteered, didn't they? What did they think they were signing up for?"
When I enlisted in the military during the Vietnam Era, I did so with the implied understanding that I would accept very little pay and be willing to jeopardize my life for American values.
In return, there was an implied contract that the political people who now held my life in their hands would be elected honestly, be of high integrity, put the good of the people, the nation and the world above business and special interests, be forthright with the people of the nation, hold high values and be intelligent enough to adhere to and implement those values.
The government failed to uphold most of its obligations then and is failing to uphold all of them now. In a democracy, the government serves the people. In America, the people serve the government.
We have no obligation to do the bidding of this government.
A Matter of Concience
Having watched and observed life from the standpoint of 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 on 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 isnít 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, ď Is this what humanity is meant to do, wage war against one anotherĒ? Why canít 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.
Iíve 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.
Canít 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 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 adult hood. 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 the understanding that war steals more from people than just the 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 ďartĒ of killing. That is a very deranged mindset in my opinion. It destroys the environment, life, and the resources which 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 also that it is against everything that is good about the world
Why I Refused a 2nd Deployment to Iraq
I am Sgt Kevin Benderman and:
These are the chronological events that led me to conclude that I had no other choice than to refuse the deployment order to Iraq.
I was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and returned in September 2003; while I was there I was with the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. We staged our vehicles in Kuwait and then proceeded to move out into Iraq. We were carried on the back of heavy equipment transporters to about fifty miles south of Baghdad and then we downloaded the vehicles. We were in the vehicles while they were on the trucks, which I thought was a little odd considering that in the garrison environment those types of actions are considered unsafe and are therefore not allowed.
During the road march north through the country I saw the effects of what war does to people, those effect are such; homes were bombed, people were living in mud huts, people were obtaining their drinking water from mud puddles along the side of the road and were catching rain in buckets when it did rain, they begged us for food and water and we had enough, we would share it with the people that were there, the kids looked especially hungry and thirsty. The commander told us to stop giving the people food because they would get food from other sources after the trucks started bringing in relief supplies.
Somewhere along the route there was this one woman standing along side the road with a young girl of about 8 or 9 years old and the little girlís arm was burned all the way up her shoulder and I donít mean just a little blistered, I mean she had 3rd degree burns the entire length of her arm and she crying in pain because of the burns. I asked the troop executive officer if we could stop and help the family and I was told that the medical supplies that we had were limited and that we may need them, I informed him that I would donate my share to that girl but we did not stop to help her.
When we were there, the command elements ordered the unit to perform all types of actions that are considered unsafe to soldiers, such as, having military vehicle maintenance personnel retrieve missiles that were present in our area of operations using a M88 recovery vehicle and transport them to sites to be destroyed by the explosive ordnance personnel. They also ordered mortar personnel to enter into a compound that held various types of munitions that the Iraqi army had left behind and to load these munitions onto trucks. When these personnel were not working fast enough for the 1SG he ordered them to throw the mortar rounds onto the trucks whereupon one of rounds exploded and inflicted shrapnel wounds on two soldiers.
We were using an old custom building that was located in the middle of the town that we were in for the troop HQ and naturally that attracted the attention of the local populace. Small children would come up to the wall that surrounded the place before we had a chance to apply concertina wire along the top of the wall and they would toss small pebbles at us inside the walls. We would tell the children to get down from the wall and leave the area, one day the troop commander saw us telling the children top get down from the wall and he told everyone there that if the children came back at any time after that to shoot them if they were to climb back onto the wall.
I was in charge of a group of soldiers that were in their late teens through their early twenties and I had to constantly tell them to keep their heads down because they thought that the war was like the video games that they played back at the barracks. War is not like that at all and until you have the misfortune to engage in it for yourself you cannot begin to understand how insane it all is. There are no restart buttons on reality and that is why I cannot figure out why now we are pursuing such a policy in this day and age. War should be relegated to the shelves of history, as was human sacrifice. If you stop to think about it you become aware that war is just human sacrifice. There is no honor in killing as many as you can as quickly as you can.
We, in America refer to ourselves as civilized and people from other countries still living the simple life are backwards and un-civilized, but what is civil about the capability to create atomic weapons? What is civil about being able to kill over 100,000 people with just one bomb? We may be more technologically advanced but are we more civilized? I think the answer is no. War has to be considered the absolute enemy of mankind. Where we would be without it? I would presume that we as a nation would be out of debt if we were to apply as much energy to pursuing sound economics as we do pursuing war, we would never get sick if we spent as much on preventive medicine as we do on war, the elderly would get affordable prescription medication if we were to use the resources that are spent on war to work for that purpose, there would not be un educated children if we were to buy new classrooms and books for schools instead of new weapons systems, social security would be a lot more secure with some of the money that war costs.
Why do we want to train the young people in the world that the only way we can settle our differences is to kill one another? Why shouldnít we train them to become surgeons or homebuilders? Why shouldnít we train to become anything but killers? I think that the world would be better off if we were to do that instead. I have talked to veterans from every war from WWII on and their opinion is that the wars they fought were to be the last war ever fought. How many more are we going to fight before we realize that the act of war is for small minded people that are intent in only satisfying their own needs and not the needs of the people in general? I do not want to be killed because I am living in a place that has a ruler that wants to go to war with any one.
The only way to bring peace to the world is to let the people of the world decide for themselves what they want to spend their efforts on. I feel that in this day and age governments start wars, and not people, and since the governments want the wars then why donít we let the government fight the war? All of the politicians that want to fight a war are free to trade places with me at any time. I will gladly go and learn war no more.
There are activities that I have been involved in that have led me to these new and developed beliefs, and they are numerous but I can tell you some of them. When you walk in the woods and you see a deer stand and look at you, or you are on the river in the morning and the mist rises off the water while you hear the morning calls of the river birds, and the otters just lie there as you glide past in your boat and donít even move, you know that there is a better way. When you can find solitude in the woods that are so filled with peace and the wildlife that is all around you, you feel the better way all around. A person must acknowledge the fact the we are a part of the universe and the universe does not want to be out of sorts with itself, so why do we spend so much effort on trying to be out of sorts with others of the human race?
I have been to the war zone and I have seen the devastation it causes. Why canít everyone agree that war is the most repugnant of all human endeavors? Why is it considered noble to be able to look through the sights of a rifle and kill another human being from 300 meters away? Why are you a hero if you can throw a hand grenade farther than the next guy in the foxhole? Shouldnít these young men and women that are in the army be throwing footballs or baseballs or softballs instead? It would impress me a lot more to see someone make the winning free throw at the basketball game or kick the winning extra point at the football game, or knock in the winning run at the World Series than to see them be able to shoot more humans from 300 hundred meters. I would rather they spend their time at the golf course or the tennis courts or in college, any where but in the war zone trying to survive and having to kill to do it. It just doesnít make sense to me.
A Brief History of Sgt Kevin Bendermanís Military Service
I first entered the army on 27 Jan 1987 and received basic training at Ft. Bliss, TX. I received advanced individual training at Ft. Sam Houston, TX. My military occupational specialty was designated as 91R10 Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist which is basically the equivalent to a U.S.D.A Food Inspector.
My first duty assignment was Ft. Leavenworth, Ks. Where I worked in the commissary and my duties included; inspecting poultry and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, and the general sanitation of the facility. My mission was to ensure the health of the soldiers. Was a part if the United States Army Medical Dept. Activity or USA MEDDAC.
I received an Army Achievement Medal while serving on the unit fund counsel, which utilized funds, raised through various activities to help provide for soldiers that were not able to get home during Christmas. I received another AAM for assisting during an increased workload due to personnel shortages during the Persian Gulf War. I also received my first Good Conduct Medal during this enlistment.
I received an honorable discharge from the Army after the Persian Gulf War on 24 Apr 1991. I re-entered the Army 26 Jun 2000 and was awarded the MOS of 63M10, which is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. Re-took basic training at Ft. Knox, KY and went the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY
Received AAM for being honor graduate from the Class.
First duty assignment after completion of training was Ft. Hood, TX. Unit was 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Also known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Went to Iraq with the 4th I.D. in March 2003 returned to Ft. Hood Sep 2003. Re-enlisted with choice of duty station of Ft. Stewart, GA.
Army awards received include two Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, three Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, one Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, numerous letters of commendation, Combat Lifesaver Certification, and he was chosen to be the student 1st Sgt. of the Primary Leadership Development Course.
From a Marine Veteran
From a Marine Veteran: My son has recently returned from his second combat deployment with the USMC in Iraq. I can only imagine what he faced over there every day of both deployments and I know that those experiences will be with him forever. Even though he made it back to us safe and sound, I still check the casualty list every day to keep this terrible war at the forefront of my thoughts and to spend a few moments thinking of those brave Americans who have given their lives so gallantly while the "armchair patriots" back home barely give them more than a passing thought. To so many in the United States these heroes are casualties of war. To those of us who have served in the Armed Forces and whose loved ones are serving now, this war and the terrible losses we've suffered so far are a constant reminder of how those who never put themselves in harm's way are always the ones to send others to fight and die. Not only are they protected from the grim realities of their misbegotten war, they even go a s far as to ensure that the majority of the people here in the United States only see a cleaned-up version of the toll this war is taking on our family members. If the right wing conservatives who gave Bush his "mandate" to carry on with this lunacy could see the devastation of human lives and families that is occurring each day, they would surely think differently. It is so much easier to send our brave troops off to war when we can't see the results up close. Every flight bearing our military dead should arrive at Dover Air Base in the middle of the day with the media giving these fallen heroes the honor and recognition they deserve. Pre-empt the game shows, soap operas, and home improvement shows and encourage people to watch in silence what their arrogant President has caused with his lies. Every military funeral should be covered by the media and attended by the members of Congress in whose district these heroes once lived. Only when every American shares in the losses suffered by the families who have made the ultimate sacrifice of a precious loved one will there be a great uprising of conscience that will bring our troops back home to the lives and families they were meant to enjoy. Hiding the truth brought this war to our families. Only baring the truth can end it. Semper Fidelis. Bob Tanner, USMC, 1971-1973