29 August 2009
It’s annoying when a grown man is wrong at the top of his lungs. It’s worse when he’s a fellow US Army veteran who thinks his diatribe important enough to share in print. (Sergeant convicted of refusing to deploy right to put conscience first, Letters to the Editor, 23 August 2009)
Combining an example of Jesus’ behavior with a cherry picked scripture passage and a screwy Biblical interpretation is standard data for someone struggling to make a fallacious faith-based point. Our weeping Austin neighbor is no different and in doing so he typically and utterly misses the point.
If this “Soldier” wanted to follow his conscience, then more power to him. He should have engaged the well established Army process; not blamed the Army and claimed victim status. He should have also been willing to accept the legal consequences of his actions. Real men do that. But when a Soldier takes a “moral stand” with the goal of avoiding his duty then any justification should fail to evoke the desired sympathy, especially from those who profess Christ and have served. I’ll go first.
AR 600-43, Conscientious Objection is clear. Submission of a CO request does not relieve a Soldier from his duty to deploy with his unit, no matter when it is filed. This Soldier served honorably in Iraq for 14 months and then had a “spiritual awakening” and "learned about the CO process..... just days” before a second deployment. OK, fine. He should have deployed again as scheduled and engaged the Army system that deals with his situation. I know a private who did that when his unit deployed to Afghanistan. And not surprisingly, the system worked. But the Soldier in this case was a non-commissioned officer; someone held to a higher standard. Instead of doing the right thing he chose to run away and whine about alleged mistreatment to the media. His subsequent unlawful behavior then had righteous consequences, just like it did in Jesus’ day.
The Army regulation also states that a CO request will be denied if the condition either predated enlistment or is based on policy, pragmatism, expediency, objection to a certain war, or insincerity. Even though humans can be sincerely wrong, sincerity is deemed by the Army to be a critical factor in evaluating an applicant’s thinking and living in totality, both past and present. This evaluation is subjective and determined by examining the applicant’s conduct, in particular the outward manifestation of the beliefs asserted.
The burden however is on the applicant, not the Army, to establish clear and convincing evidence to support a CO claim. Relevant factors include the rigor of training received in the home or church, general demeanor and pattern of conduct, participation in religious activities, and the credibility of character witnesses. Relying on input from a local anti-war coffeehouse was probably not a wise choice. Where were his parents, pastor, Sunday school teacher, and ministry or service organization leaders?
Chaplains are an integral part of the Army’s interview and evaluation process. In this case, the body of evidence led the assigned chaplain to conclude that the applicant failed to meet the required standard. His opinion was one of several that helped inform the judge’s decision. I know this chaplain; he’s a good man.
The crux of this issue was the Soldier’s behavior, not the chaplain’s opinion. This Soldier volunteered to serve, enjoyed a plethora of taxpayer funded benefits, and then decided to shirk his duties and abandon his Soldiers when he hit “the wall”. Our military is a reflection of society; both the good and the bad. Like other derelicts before him, it’s ultimately helpful that the Army discovered this character flaw before he was entrusted with the care of American Soldiers in combat.
The only failure here was a Soldier who violated the trust placed in him by the Army and the American people. Do you think he’ll reflect on that over the next year and allow his new found faith to reshape his character and lifestyle? Probably not if his post-courtroom rant is an indicator; “When I get out, I’m going to be louder, more active, and p***ed off.”
Aberrant behavior like this should be unusual coming from someone claiming CO status based on a spiritual conversion. Perhaps this former Soldier should now spend some time reconciling his audio and video since they certainly don't match.
Still Serving, Army Strong!