Way back when—or back in the day—I was an active duty Air Force bomb loader, officially called an Aircraft Armament Systems Specialist. Oh, I didn’t load any conventional fire-bombs that would burn, maim, but not contaminate. My specialty? Loading nuclear and chemical munitions onto fighter-bomber aircraft. I had entered the Air Force as an “open-field” enlisted candidate and, though I had scored high in the ASVAB test in all areas except for mechanics—hey, I’m a chick—the AF gave me a mechanical job.
I hated it, but I stuck it out for three years, until I was able to cross-train into another field.
Around the middle of my third year as a bomb loader (1983), I started thinking about my purpose in life. I was around twenty-one. (I’m forty-three now.) Nukes and chemical weapons? They were the containers of death and more death; writhing, disgusting demises; the gift that kept on giving. I had become one of the conduits through which such horrible deaths would occur. Could I live with myself being such? No. Not then.
So I applied for Conscientious Objector status. I didn’t want to separate from the AF necessarily, but I didn’t want to be a party to the type of death that the AF served up. Understand, back then I had no concept of the flow of history, the surety of purpose of fanatics/fascists or the nature of evil. The fact that the US was the only nation-state that had used nuclear weapons but, subsequently, was the most hesitant to use them in the nearly fifty years up to that point, didn’t occur to me. Not then. All I knew was that we held the largest amount of the most deadly weapons on the planet.
I didn’t understand that evil must be opposed and that that was what we were doing.
So I let my application run the channels. Maybe I could become a medic or something. (Ironically, that’s what I became in my Reserve incarnation, after two other career fields.)
A month or so after I submitted my application for CO status, Beirut occurred. Marines, Navy, and Army folk were blown to bits. Oh, not in a trench or a foxhole, holding various deadly weapons in their hands to take the enemy out as well, but in their beds sleeping. Or up shaving or taking a shower. Or making love to some female Marine (or a male marine; hey, you never know). In any case, those GIs who died on October 23, 1983, weren’t killed by the usual enemies--those with "western" concepts of honor. They were murdered by enemies who had a code separate and alien to ours.
The day after that, my application was rescinded. It took me all of about two minutes to make the decision and it had absolutely nothing to do with revenge. With the snap of a finger, I understood that, with some, there’s no negotiating, no compromise, no bargaining. Not unless you’re doing any/all of these with your proverbial boot on their neck.
So when guys like Jeffrey Hinzman and Pablo Paredes—both volunteer military members—publicly rethink their views on war and killing, I can understand their feelings, to a point. What I can’t understand is how they came to the decision to become conscientious objectors after 9/11, after the liberation of Iraq, after the uncovering of the Hussein tortures, massacres and mass graves.
So maybe the CO thing is just a cover for some and they’re simply afraid of dying. (Hey, join the club.) But will either of these gentlemen be able to enjoy the time that they’ve allegedly bought themselves between now and their dates of actual death? It seems neither will die in Iraq; dying in prison, however, might be another story; dying a slow death each day, yet another.
I hope they bought themselves good lives.
In the meantime, others have taken their places and heroic or cowardly or ordinary deeds are done daily; done in the name of bringing liberty to others; the type of liberty that Hinzman, Paredes and I all volunteered to defend and that we—and so many millions of others—too often take for granted. Others are doing the work that Hinzman and Paredes abandoned, including endeavoring to give better lives to millions of Iraqis.
My nieces and nephews from the post below this one have all manner of goodies and opportunities. By donating to the Spirit of America, you can give Iraqis at least a chance to have the same type of opportunities for their families.
Some things are worth fighting for.
(Thanks to Citizen Smash)