NonCombatant Conscientious Objector Application

Everything from the regulation is in bold italics and drawn verbatim from the official text of Army Regulation 600-43, dated August 21, 2006. Sections A, C, & D ask for information that would have inappropriately exposed personal information, especially that of of third parties, so I have excluded my responses thereto. Section B is made up of questions that outline one’s beliefs, when and why they changed, and how they conflict with armed service. Do not take the views expressed here to be my current views, this is posted mostly to give an example of what a CO application looked like and to give friends some insight into my theological trajectory.

a. General Information

1. Full name.

2. Social security number.

3. Selective Service number (if applicable).

4. Service address and component (Regular Army (RA), USAR, ARNG).

5. Permanent home address.

6. Name and address of each school and college attended together with dates of attendance, and the type of school(public, church, military, commercial, and so forth).

7. A chronological list of all occupations, positions, jobs, or types of work, other than as a student in school or college, whether for monetary compensation or not. Include the type of work, name of employer, address of employer, and the from and to date for each position or job held.

8. All former addresses and dates of residence at those addresses.

9. Parent’s names and addresses. Indicate whether they are living or deceased.

10. The religious denomination or sect of both parents.

11. Was application made to the Selective Service System (local board) for classification as a conscientious objector before entry into the Armed Forces? If so, to which local board? What decision, if any, that was made by the board, if known?

12. Was any previous application made in service for classification as a conscientious objector? If so, for which status (1–0 or 1–A–O)? Where and when was application made? What was the final determination? Attach a copy of the previous application(s), if any.

13. When the person has served less than 180 days in the Armed Forces, a statement by him or her as to whether he or she is willing to perform work under the Selective Service civilian work program for conscientious objectors if discharged as a conscientious objector. Also, a statement of the applicant as to whether he or she consents to the issuance of an order for such work by his or her local Selective Service board.

b. Training and Beliefs

1. An express, specific statement as to whether the person requests classification as a conscientious objector (1–0), or as a conscientious objector (1–A–0): I am requesting classification as a conscientious objector 1-A-0

2. A description of the nature of the belief that requires the person to seek separation from the military service or assignment to noncombatant training and duty for reasons of conscience: I am opposed to participation in combatant training and service because I believe that all life is sacred, that no single human life is worth more or less than any other. I am opposed to violent forms of military force, and the bearing of arms against others, including training myself or others in the use of weapons or munitions. War is wrong, and contributes to the degradation of both the oppressor and the oppressed. In the Old Testament, Yahweh used war to punish sin and protect His people. As a Christian, I believe the Old Testament is a history of God’s people, describing His works through Man, while the New Testament is the fulfillment of God’s plan for atonement, containing the divine word of God, through Jesus. Within the Old Testament He was preparing the Israelites for the coming of our Messiah. Once the Son came to earth, to bring a new era to humanity, war and killing became obsolete; all mankind is now God’s chosen people. The payment for sin was death, but Jesus Christ himself paid the ransom for all of us, leaving death as atonement for sin obsolete; anyone who delivers death, then, takes the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for that person from Him. Judgment is God’s task and His alone; for me to render Death, which is the punishment for Sin, would be no less than to usurp that power from the Godhead Himself (Romans 12:19). Additionally, to harm any human being would be to inflict that same wound on Jesus himself, as it is written in Matthew 25:40 & 45. God’s chosen people (all of mankind) are no longer called upon to judge the sins of others through death and destruction. Instead of committing atrocious acts against our brothers, we are to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us, as Jesus did, and urges me to do. Modern violence as a means of solving a problem is fruitless, and I feel any less than complete, wholehearted rejection of violence and its principles are required of me to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth; the humble, loving, self-sacrificing Son of God. Additionally, my conscience and plain reason stand in the way of me taking another person’s life, as well as the message of peace the Gospels teach. As the reformer Martin Luther said; “my conscience is captive to the word of God.” [Testimony before the Diet of Worms, 1521] I have learned that the unconditional love that the New Testament describes applies to everyone; your neighbor and your enemy (Luke 6:27-28 & 35, Matthew 5:44-45), and in no way can loving them be confused with killing them. I value all human life; skin color and nationality have lost their exclusiveness. Ethiopian, Kurd, Jewish, Latino, South African, American, Christian, Chinese, Iraqi, Russian, Muslim, Afghani, Dutch; all of these titles have equal significance to me now—they are all just like me, human. As for serving in the military; there is no difference between a person in a green, grey, or blue uniform and any other human being. I wish to continue to love my brothers in the Army even if they choose to act in ways I do not support. In that sense I am not supporting the war, I am supporting them. When they need reassurance, hope, compassion, strength, and caring, my hope is that Jesus Christ can use me to supply them with that (Isaiah 6:8). I hope to be an example of Christ’s infinite love, as it is meant even for those who reject it. Love is the overriding message of the entire Bible; the word occurs approximately 584 times. God’s agreement with Man is referred to as a “covenant of peace” throughout the Old Testament (Numbers 25:12, Isaiah 54:10Ezekiel 34:25 & 37:26, Malachi 2:5). God has put it on my heart to be what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “an extremist for Love.” [Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963]

3. An explanation as to how his or her beliefs changed or developed,to include an explanation as to what factors (how, when, and from whom or from what source training received and belief acquired) caused the change in or development of conscientious objection beliefs: During my participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, I found it incredibly difficult to suppress emotions I was conditioned to ignore. My feelings toward what I was asked to do would not be quieted. I recognized that the people around me were simply reacting in the way they thought was necessary to ‘be a good soldier.’ I was fortunate with how little bloodshed I actually encountered, even when I did, the horror was pacified by the degrees of separation I was taught; that they were faceless “enemies” or “insurgents.” I was surprised when I finally was struck by human suffering in a vehicle rollover near the end of my tour. A cargo Humvee full of personnel rolled over a 15 foot embankment. My platoon was called to assist in the recovery, and we were the first to arrive. Of all 12 people that were in the vehicle, only one did not survive. [He] was on his right side facing the front of the Humvee, lying perpendicular to the vehicle, on the edge of a small water reservoir. I thought I was the only one who noticed him, as all the medics shrugged the pair of boots off as not important. My main focus, once my attention was on the injured specialist, was to get one of the several people, including medics, to help me try to remove him from the wreckage (as all the effort was focused on the victims who were conscious). Nobody would come to his rescue. An hour later, as Special Forces Medics arrived, they finally lifted the vehicle by a crane and pried his limp body from the wreckage. Miraculously, they found a pulse and tried to revive him, just as my platoon was released to return to our Forward Operating Base. I later learned he died on the way to the hospital. That meant he was alive the entire time I was trying to raise attention among those around me. I didn’t sleep for two weeks thereafter. It was this that made me realize that the degrees of separation all militaries indoctrinate into their soldiers are a farce. Human life is human life. When I returned from Iraq, I dealt with the PTSD and moved past the guilt. In May of last year, I met an enormously influential family that taught me many things about God’s love for his children, and how it is infinite and unconditional. He loves you despite everything,even if you reject Him. Not only did they teach it, they lived it. Their awesome example lead me to study the Bible for the first time in years; until I was about 5 or 6 I went to an Episcopal church, after they prayed that I might not die at three weeks of age from a bout of infantile bronchitis. Because of my newfound interest in the Bible, I decided to enroll in a New Testament history class from Wayland Baptist University. As a result of this class, I began to understand what Christ taught his followers. As time progressed, I began reading more and more Biblical resources and books on protestant theology; to this day I have shelves and shelves of books I couldn’t resist picking up, but couldn’t wait to finish before I started another one. My views evolved; I went from being Pro-Choice to Pro-Life with a few exceptions, to simply Pro-Life. My views toward women evolved; I began to understand roles, that women and men were not totally equal (legally and civically they are), but were meant to compliment one another physically, spiritually, and emotionally in awesome ways, like two unique puzzle pieces. Additionally, I came to an understanding of what Jesus called his followers to do; follow Him. I was no longer allowed to be just a believer, but I was to enact everything which I had come to understand. I began to apply that to my occupation in the Army as well. I reflected on what I had experienced in OIF 2 and tried to find a resolution. I realized quickly that I could not compromise my religious convictions. I reached a point where I realized I was serving two masters. My arms are not big enough to carry the sword and the Cross. Anything less than complete devotion to His Word would be as if I reject it all. I was to cut the umbilical cord to the old me.

4. An explanation as to when these beliefs become incompatible with military service and why: It was in early April that I stumbled upon a friend of mine with whom I had briefly fallen out of touch. He told me he had applied for Conscientious Objector status. I did not realize Conscientious Objectors existed inside the military; I thought it was only for the draft. The most useful tool he gave me was the number of the Army Regulation covering Conscientious Objectors. I initially thought it wasn’t for me, but the more I researched it and other sources, I remembered how my arms were stretched between two masters. I began to seriously contemplate my beliefs; studied both pacifists and supporters of Just-War Theory. After reading several sources, most notably Mark Twain’s The War Prayer, I found that I do not believe there is such a thing as Just War, under any circumstances. The Bible reminds us that there is no authority on earth independent from God. Naturally, no governing body may use authority outside God’s providence, which has been clearly defined by Jesus, who is God, for such authority would have no foundation. All true authority rests, therefore, on Jesus and his message of love for all mankind. I cannot be coerced by a governing body into contradicting the word of God, for they would be acting outside the authority of God. Leo Tolstoy wrote “A Christian cannot surrender his conscience into the will of another man, no matter by what title he may be called.” [Notes for Soldiers, 1901] On Judgment Day, I will be weighed based on everything in this life, including actions I took with which I was conscientiously opposed to but carried out despite my convictions. My allegiance must rest ultimately with God. I spent several days’ worth of time talking to others, reading the AR [Army Regulation] and other written resources. I discussed my plight with many people that have been influential in my life, including secular friends and family, even pastors and religious lay leaders. The most useful thing I did was to pray about it. On April 20, at 9:40am, my prayers were answered. On a bus from Schofield Barracks to the Honolulu Airport, on our way to NTC, I was mulling the issue over in my head while listening to Olivia the Band, a local Christian music group. It was during the fourth track, titled simply “Heaven,” when my mind was filled with ideas and thoughts different from my own. My thought pattern had spontaneously gone from ‘what should I do,’ to a soft, compassionate whisper; ‘here.’ I was being given the guidance I sought from the one I call Lord. It was ideas, pictures, and emotions all in one. I saw myself walking the streets with the confidence of a man who never knew defeat. I knew my assurance came from Christ, and that I was in the Army to love my brothers, be they American, Iraqi, Muslim or secular. I was ‘touched’ by joy; it was such a profound mixture of extreme happiness and assurance, mixed with sadness for knowing how I am still a sinner and need Jesus. I remembered I was once an enemy of God, and I recalled how He waited for me with open arms despite my iniquities. I knew it was the Holy Spirit working to restore me; my heart was broken and I realized where God wanted me. As I was brought to this new realization, I recorded simple thoughts and words onto some receipts I had in my wallet, the only writing material I had on me. Having read the AR, I knew this was what is referred to as ‘crystallization.’ It was the need to document my experience for this application that led me to write what little I could. As I wrote down what had occurred and how I felt, I noticed a friend of mine, a devout Catholic (the first person I had told about my moral misgivings about war), was seated behind me. I turned to him, still a little overwhelmed by the experience, and handed him the slips of paper, without a word. He read them all and asked for another piece of paper, on which he wrote (referring to what I had gone through); “Have discerned your own special spiritual vocation from God by extensive prayer and meditation… i.e. ‘calling’” I had found my vocation, to remain in the army and provide the light of discipleship to those who may find themselves in a dark world. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of this darkness when he wrote about violence from the Birmingham jailhouse; “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it… adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.” I was immediately faced with the question of when I should inform my superiors of this realization. Over the course of discussing my query with others, I was given numerous quotes from the Bible about obeying the authority of those appointed over you. Most notably Hebrews 13:17, which states in part: “[Have confidence in your leaders] so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be no benefit to you.” (other great passages are Titus 3:1-2 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2) These passages showed me it would not be appropriate to enact this as we headed to the most pivotal training we had planned before our deployment, while stress levels were high and the work load was highly demanding. I would not be asked to kill or harm a single person in training, and I knew there are other facets of my MOS that I could focus on which encouraged survivability, observation and information sharing. Within days of arriving at NTC, I informed a few more people of my feelings toward war, including the Chaplain, the battalion Fire Support Sergeant, and my Fire Support Officer. I told them of my intention to respectfully approach my commander and First Sergeant once the two week training was complete and when we reached an appropriate administrative pause. My wish was to informally bring them up to speed about how I felt. With that information, I hoped to show them that I wished to be open and honest about my religious beliefs, and then formally submit this application upon return to Hawaii. Fortunately, the one private I was entrusted to train knew the training in NTC was not intended in any way to be an encouragement to kill, but to maintain situational awareness and to use our job as a last resort, or to defend the maneuver platoon. I have an enormous amount of respect for him to this day for the understanding he had for how conflicted I was at some points of the training. He knows that I have been called to be a peacemaker, as Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:9; “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Not only is my objection to war a religious conviction; morally and ethically it is wrong as well. Since I was a child I was taught ‘two wrongs don’t make a right,’ at what point are we, as adults, told that that is no longer valid, yet continue to teach our children a lesson we do not follow ourselves? Violence begets violence, and I cannot continue to contribute to the descending spiral. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” (Romans 12:17)

5. An explanation as to the circumstances, if any, under which the person believes in the use of force, and to what extent, under any foreseeable circumstances: The use of force which I oppose includes excessive, premeditated violence benefiting one individual or group over another. Military force is wrong because it is detached, indiscriminate violence often perpetuated against innocents. Combatants are often required to remove themselves from their intellect, as the popular saying goes, they are not “paid to think.” As a Christian, I cannot separate myself from my mind or conscience. No war can be free from collateral damage, and is therefore destructive to people completely free from transgression, or who may even oppose the same ideology the aggressor is attempting to defeat. As an ethical proposal, war can never achieve its intended purpose, and history has shown us that violent overthrow leads to more violent replacement regimes; the French Revolution led to the Reign of Terror, World War II and the Russian Revolution led to the Red Terror and the rise of Stalin, etc. That is the reason I am opposed to revolutionary violence as well, as it is based on the idea of ‘redemptive violence,’ that one can solve violence with violence. Jesus didn’t overthrow the Romans, as the Jews [of the first century] wished the Messiah would do; he overthrew the power of sin, through His nonviolent sacrifice on the cross. Redemptive violence is self-defeating. Albert Einstein believed “peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.” [Notes on Pacifism] Acceptable uses of force may include personal self defense or defense of other oppressed or innocent individuals. Although, in drawing the sword to protect Jesus, the only sinless, innocent man ever to walk the earth, Peter is corrected and told “he that draws the sword shall die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Not even the defense of the divine Son of God constituted bloodshed.
Acceptable means of force must still appeal to the end of loving another human being, for example, spanking a child. You may be teaching the child a lesson, but you would not spank a child to death, that could never be an appeal to love them. Police force may constitute an acceptable means of using force, since all policemen only act within a specific, assigned area and do not deviate from their jurisdiction. International war does not; it brings fear and persecution to the doorsteps of innocent people. Also, police aim only to arrest and subdue through non-lethal means, while military violence lays destructive waste to entire peoples and villages. War also frequently is conducted outside the limits of even international law, while police forces must answer for their deeds and misdeeds. There can be no distinction between killings on a mass scale and killing singularly; both are equally wrong. I am reminded of the lesson I was taught when I was a child; ‘just because everyone else was jumping off the bridge doesn’t make it right.’ Nonviolence is an ideal which many people feel is a viable alternative, and it has been proven successful in the abolition of slavery, the American Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Suffrage in America, even the liberation of India from Great Britain. I feel nonviolence exemplifies Christ’s undying love even for those who crucified him. Only the most committed, determined followers succeed in nonviolence. Regardless, I feel it is an objective the scriptures have steered me toward pursuing.

6. An explanation as to what in the person’s life most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of his or her beliefs that have rise to his or her claim: The traits that I feel demonstrate my consistency and depth most are probably my open-mindedness and willingness to discuss with others what I feel is the true message of the Gospels. I was never so vocal or confident in my beliefs until I began studying the Bible on a personal level with an open heart. I have lost sleep some nights because I want to shout from the rooftops that I am a new creation. My eagerness to share the Gospel, or evangelize, is apparent to those who know me personally. Also, I now take an earnest interest in immersing myself in the Bible and the writings of the early Christian fathers. Violent video games have lost their allure, as well as horror movies and books. I just don’t have an interest in them anymore. I have also found new music I thought I’d never listen to; Christian rock and gospel. I have written to several authors who have inspired me, and some have written back. They have expressed gratefulness that I am abiding by His commandments and have sought my vocation earnestly and fervently. In order to meet with people across the country who have shown me support, I fought vigorously for a week of leave in late June. In order to see the commander personally about my request for leave, I changed my flights within the block leave period and gave up three days of leave that I was told were already approved. On a professional level, my first Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Report stated in the remarks that I was willing to stand up for what I thought was right. I had no disciplinary marks on my record, but more than enough professional accomplishments which display both my determination and my dedication to those in service. I also had good practice in turning the other cheek when I was assaulted by a subordinate earlier this year. Had I returned the force, I would have mirrored exactly that which I seek to destroy. Also, since returning from the National Training Center, I have made all the arrangements for interviews and furnished all the agencies with copies of my application. This is clearly assigned to command responsibility in AR 600-43, Chapter 2, Paragraph 2, Line E. Additionally, in mid-May, while deployed to the National Training Center, I wrote an email to all of my friends, family, and acquaintances explaining how I had changed dramatically, but wished to remain their friend or family and yet be recognized as radically different. It was a leap of faith, one which I feared might meet with some rejection. The umbilical had to be cut if I was to be reborn. On a deeper level; the development of and adherence to my newfound beliefs has cost me my relationship with my now exgirlfriend. One of the main reasons she felt we were incompatible was the fact that our beliefs were going in different directions. We had been dating over a year when we went our separate ways. Soon, I hope to be baptized near my home, offering myself as a living sacrifice to God as the baptismal water washes my sins from my soul. Baptism is tied irrevocably to repentance, or turning from sin. A changed life is the outward manifestation of reconciling one’s heart to God and becoming His child. To be God’s child is to follow in His way. It is for this reason that I can no longer hate and induce fear in my fellow man. For to hate him would be the same as killing him, as 1 John 3:15 reminds us “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in Him.” Matthew 5:21-22a also reminds us that even mere thoughts are as potent as the deeds themselves; “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder [Exodus 20:13], and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…” The root of this change lies in my eagerness to show love for my fellow man, that is the critical test of discipleship. God is not interested in destruction, but in redemption.

7. An explanation as to how the applicant’s daily lifestyle has changed as a result of his or her beliefs and what future actions he or she plans to continue to support his or her beliefs: Jim Wallis reminds us that “The making of peace can result in great conflict… it will cost something, and it will often make us misunderstood in a world that knows violence better than peace.” However, “Following the way of Jesus into practical peacemaking and nonviolent conflict resolution has become a critical vocation for Christians in a world of violence.” [Call to Conversion] In a violent world, the peacemaker has an uphill battle, one which is seemingly endless and without reward. Despite obstacles, one must do what they can to promote peace and offer alternatives to violence, as Jesus calls me to do. While I was in Tennessee, I was asked to speak on my feelings toward war and how I feel peacemakers can contribute to waging peace in response to violence. For three days in Washington DC, I lobbied Hawaiian and Californian Senators to make poverty and war issues of utmost importance and relevancy to their political agendas. I approached major religious leaders with ideas for how to tackle issues of war as Christians in a violent world. To other emerging youth in the political arena, I reminded them not to forget the real issues surrounding war and injustice that peacemakers are called to combat. I was interviewed in depth for a documentary about how I believe the Bible addresses the issue of violence both in history and in the world today. In Hawaii, I am preparing to lead a bible study on Biblical war and what bearing that it has on Christians in the modern era. I am an active member of several Christian message boards and forums, both seeking the advice of others and being sought for advice. Besides my offering in church on Sundays, I also tithe at least ten percent of my total income to a community devoted to developing relationships with the poor and helping to meet their needs both materially and financially. In short, I am quickly learning my calling to be a faith based social justice and peace activist. I will seek to provide the fruits of the spirit; “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” as Galatians 5:22-23 says “there is no law” against such things.

c. Participation in Organizations

1. Information as to whether the person has ever been a member of any military organization or establishment before entering upon his or her present term of service. If so, the name and address of such organization will be given together with reasons why he or she became a member:

2. A statement as to whether the person is a member of a religious sect or organization:

3. A description of the applicant’s relationships with and activities in all organizations with which he or she is or has been affiliated, other than military, political, or labor organizations:

d. References.

Any more information that the person desires to be considered by the authority reviewing his or her application. Letters of reference or official statements of organizations to which the applicant belongs or refers in his or her application are included. The burden is on the applicant to obtain and forward such information.