Matter of Conscience
By Sgt. Kevin Benderman
GEORGIA, January 18, 2005-- Having
watched and observed life from the standpoint of a soldier for 10
years of my life, I always 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.
Sgt. Kevin Benderman and his wife, Monica
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
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
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 school 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 anymore. What is there
to prove anyway that I can kill someone I do not even know
and who 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 realized that slavery and human sacrifice were obsolete
institutions, 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 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 that can never be replaced, then you have to come
to 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 firsthand 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 by advancing our 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 against everything
that is good about our world.