Jun 3, 2017
As I was trying to discern what God wanted me to write about, I walked into my 16-year-old son’s bedroom to discover a military calendar hanging on the wall. It highlighted young men and women in combat fatigues, fighter jets, an aircraft carrier battle group and plenty of American flags.
I knew from personal experience and deep soul-searching that hidden behind this calendar of military glitter was centuries of death and destruction. And as I removed this calendar, I knew exactly what God wanted me to write on.
Many years ago as young man in my 20’s I found myself in the midst of U.S. military basic combat training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
While firing my M-16 weapon at life-like pop-up targets, it occurred to me the army was not training me to hit pop-up targets, but was training me to kill some poor guy like me in a far off country who got caught up in the propaganda of his own country’s war machine.
I came to realize this was all wrong. And I knew that in my desire to imitate the nonviolent Jesus, I could kill no one.
I spoke to my drill sergeant about these deep anti-war feelings I had and my desire to apply for conscientious objector status. He urged me to wait until I completed basic training and apply for CO status when I arrived at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis for Advanced Individual Training.
At Fort Harrison I was being trained as a broadcaster for Armed Forces Radio in Germany. But that inviting future did not deter me. My broadcast instructors tried to convince me that the chances of my having to shoot someone from a radio station were extremely remote. And although they were technically correct, I knew my role as a military journalist and radio disc jockey would be to boost the morale of those who would be pulling the triggers and dropping the bombs. And I knew that I could have nothing to do with this unholy enterprise.
In my appeal for discharge as a conscientious objector, I had to write a research paper stating my position from the perspective of Catholic teaching on war.