Editor's Note: Please visit Sgt. Kevin Bendermanís website, www.BendermanTimeline.com, for a chronology of events, complete with documentation, leading to his court martial, along with a continuous discussion about Conscientious Objection and veteransí issues.
On July 27, 2005, Sgt. Kevin Benderman was found guilty of Missing Movement and sentenced to 15 months confinement, loss of pay and dishonorable discharge. In actuality, Sgt. Bendermanís crime was daring to tell the truth, and daring to challenge the very philosophy of the military machine in which he had volunteered to serve by filing for Conscientious Objection for no longer wanting to participate in war, and for speaking out to end violence as a means of resolving our differences.
Conscientious Objection is not just objecting to war. It is objecting to chaos, to everything about life that keeps it from a peaceful path. War is chaos, but chaos is also war.
Each person is going to have to one day face the process of becoming conscientious objectors in their lives before we can achieve peace. You will not all face the combat zone of war to do this. You may face a war of your own, far from the battlefields that our soldiers now face in Iraq.
As Sgt. Benderman made every attempt to live by his beliefs, his command did everything possible to dissuade him. They went to great lengths to keep him from speaking his truth, and from talking about what he had come to believe about war versus peace.
What was it they were afraid of? Why were they so anxious to regain control of this soldier? Did his declaration of conscience make them think? When he spoke of what he saw, when he spoke of how it made him feel, did they look in the mirror and see the same questions in themselves? Was it their own conscience that made them afraid?
Sgt. Benderman didnít run. He stood his ground and faced down every wanton act of corruption it took from his commanding officers, as they scrambled to create a story that they could all keep track of, and put Sgt. Benderman in jail. He had done nothing wrong, except dare to point out actions that his principles would no longer allow him to be part of. Like little children who cover their ears and hum to avoid hearing that playtime is over, the command was desperate to find a way to imprison the truth to avoid having to look it in the eye.
Conscientious Objection is no longer defined merely by oneís religious commitment. It is about living with your principles, values, and morals. It is about maintaining high standards for your own life, and letting your conscience be your guide. It is knowing the best way to lead when it comes to defending your country, its constitution and your honor, and letting that wisdom dictate your actions regardless of whom it calls into question.
The rules of Conscientious Objection have changed. In this day, a Conscientious Objector must be aggressive in defense of peace, and must rely on his own integrity and moral principles when many around him dare to call him coward.
Sgt. Bendermanís command would like people to believe that because he chose to no longer participate in this war, that made him a coward, and it made him unpatriotic. Being a Conscientious Objector is the highest form of patriotism when it is an objection to an aggressive war that destroys a culture of innocent people for no good reason, and abuses the integrity of the service of those who volunteered to defend our country, expecting the same integrity from those who lead them.
Sgt. Bendermanís command would like people to believe that he was denied his claim because he was not sincere in his beliefs of Conscientious Objection - that he really only filed the claim to avoid returning to hazardous duty. He did file the claim to avoid returning to war, but he is not avoiding his duty.
The duty he now serves is to defend his country against people who refuse to see just how destructive the path they have chosen really is. The service he now gives, is in speaking of his own change of beliefs, in the hope that others will see that we all must become conscientious objectors before we can achieve peace.
The defense of oneís home does not always mean ďtaking the fight to the enemyís soilĒ and it does not always mean defending your home against an outside force. Sometimes, the enemy is within, and sometimes defending oneís home means standing up against our own fears, looking in the mirror and facing our conscience when we realize what it is that we have become.
The journey to Conscientious Objection is a personal journey, no different than the journey to peace. We each must embark upon it in our own time, and through our own experiences, but until every individual takes that step, we will continue to have chaos, and we will continue to confront the violent actions of others who would choose to disrupt the peaceful path that Conscientious Objectors have chosen to walk.
It is when those who have come to understand the true meaning of peace have learned to live it in spite of the chaos others seek to encourage, that we will finally begin to emerge from the cycle of hate and destruction.
We cannot control the life of another. We can only understand this when we have learned to control ourselves. To embark on a personal journey to Conscientious Objection could be the best way to begin.
To learn more about Sgt. Kevin Bendermanís journey to Conscientious Objection, and to understand the psychological and manipulative tactics he faced from the Military and the chain of command to deter him from his public stance on Conscientious Objection, please visit our website, www.BendermanTimeline.com
Monica Benderman may be reached at: monica@BendermanTimeline.com.
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