Better to Light One Candle

This site contains many of the peace oriented postings from We Are All Volunteers in This Army because that space has perforce migrated to deal more with military issues themselves than visions of peace.

Location: United States

If you have a medical hold or PTRP story to share, please contact me at ptrosss(at)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Better to Light One Candle...

by Patricia deVarennes

"Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Well, I lit several candles and a couple of flamethrowers over the past year...especially in the last few months. The nature of my original blog, We Are All Volunteers in This Army , has changed. I believe it carries issues with it that supercede my anti-war sentiments.

I'm not trying to hide those sentiments. In fact, I've left a few posts that are obviously anti-war. However, due to events surrounding Fort Sill that I have recently related, I've been unable to continue with my own (hopefully) open dialogue and vision. I've been unable to write about other things that are also important to me in the context of the pursuit of peace. So today I deleted those posts that did not directly relate to my eldest son's experience in Iraq, or my youngest son's experience at Fort Sill, from We Are All Volunteers. I may comment on those issues here, but only in context with other subjects about which I am writing.

I am a writer, not a journalist. There's a difference. I had created another small blogspot at Nitnoid to natter about interesting stuff, but it too has been taken over by the ever hungry "Fort Sill" topic. So I had to use it to post documentation for the other site. But enough whining.

I am re-posting several of my 2005 entries deleted from the We Are All Volunteers site here...for the historical record (lest anyone accuse me of pandering to other interests)...and also because I think the thoughts and vision are still germane in their orginal context.

I hope to be active here as time permits...and thanks for reading.

One Soldier's Fight to Legalize Morality

by Monica Benderman

On July 28, 2005, in a small non-descript courtroom on Ft. Stewart, Georgia, a Court Martial is scheduled to begin. Again. One Army NCO who decided that he had no choice but to make a conscious choice NOT to return to war is being put on trial for caring about humanity.

This soldier fulfilled his commitment, he kept his promise to his enlisted contract, and when ordered to deploy to Iraq at the start of the invasion, he went, not because he wanted to “kill Iraqis” or “destroy terrorist cells,” but because he wanted the soldiers he served with to come home safely.

He returned knowing that war is wrong, the most dehumanizing creation of humanity that exists. He saw war destroy civilians, innocent men, women and children. He saw war destroy homes, relationships and a country. He saw this not only in the country that was invaded, but he saw this happening to the invading country as well – and he knew that the only way to save those soldiers was for people to no longer participate in war. Sgt. Kevin Benderman is a Conscientious Objector to war, and the Army is mad.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman, after serving one tour of duty in Iraq, filed for Conscientious Objector status, his Constitutional right. His commander refused to accept his application and one called him a coward. One chaplain was ashamed of his lack of moral fortitude, another, of higher rank, testified to the true sincerity of Sgt. Benderman’s beliefs, in writing. A military intelligence officer decided that he knew matters of the soul better than a man of God, and recommended to deny the CO claim. Five commissioned officers who had never met Sgt. Benderman agreed with the “intelligent officer” and the claim was denied, twice.

More than two weeks after my husband was placed in the Rear Detachment unit here at Ft. Stewart, charges of Missing Movement and Desertion were filed against him, even though he has never missed a single day of duty in almost ten years. At the first Courts Martial proceedings, the investigative hearing was over turned. According to the judge’s decision, the presiding officer had shown implied bias toward Sgt. Benderman, and a new hearing was ordered. As the session adjourned, the same command that brought the first charges were marching up the aisle in the courtroom to file a new charge, Larceny, against Sgt. Benderman.

The command that brought the charge, had erroneously ordered combat pay to be paid to Sgt. Benderman, along with 7 other soldiers in their unit. Rather than accept their responsibility for the error, these leaders chose to punish Sgt. Benderman for the mistake, and have yet to discipline any of the remaining soldiers for the officers’ gaffe.

The new investigating officer strongly recommended dismissing this larceny charge, but the convening authority, Ft. Stewart’s garrison commander, pressed on and filed the charges anyway, along with desertion and missing movement. The Courts Martial is scheduled to begin on July 28. The games began in January.

At the conclusion of the first hearing, I returned to the courtroom briefly for some things I had forgotten. The lights were dimmed, and no one was there. This small dark room, vintage WW II, had a reverent calm. Desks and chairs sat waiting, slightly turned, empty jurist panel, attorney’s podium – the stage had been set. I look back on it now, and the feeling is strangely surreal.

Last week we learned that the United States Supreme Court allows itself to keep the Ten Commandments hanging on the walls of its chambers, as a testimony to another form of law. The guardian of the Constitution of our country, presiding over the human rights of our people, maintains that the Ten Commandments, religious context aside, represent a form of law that is powerful enough to occupy a place in its chambers.

In a small, quiet courtroom, on the Ft. Stewart military installation, the stage is set. One soldier who, after firsthand experience with the destructive force of war, decided to take the Ten Commandments at their word – “Thou Shall Not Kill” – and use the rights given to him to declare his conscious objection to war, to no longer be in a position to voluntarily have to kill another human being, is now on trial for not wanting to kill.

The Army has removed itself so completely from its moral responsibility, that its representatives are willing to openly demand, in a court of law, that they be allowed to regain “positive control over this soldier” by finding him guilty of crimes he did not commit, and put him in jail – a prisoner of conscience, for daring to obey a moral law.

It is “hard work” to face the truth, and it is scary when people who are not afraid to face it begin to speak out. Someone once said that my husband’s case is a question of morality over legality. I pray that this country has not gone so far over the edge that the two are so distinctly different that we can tell them apart.

A sixteen year old in New York, was charged with involuntary manslaughter yesterday for stabbing another teen in the chest twice, over a computer game. There is no question of why. He broke a law – a legal, MORAL law – “Thou Shall Not Kill.”

After seeing war firsthand, Sgt. Kevin Benderman chose to follow a legal, MORAL law – “Thou Shall Not Kill.” A form of law significant enough to be represented on the walls of our Supreme Court. The US Army cannot let him go. I have to ask – “WHY?”

For more information about Kevin Benderman

The Criminalization of Peace

by Patricia deVarennes

I have settled for posting photos the past couple of weeks. It wasn't that I had nothing to say, it's that I am having difficulty understanding why it needs to be said...

Our military and our government actually criminalize peace. Think about that for a moment. Members of the armed forces who object to killing and refuse to participate are branded criminals. We have an old school mentality that says if you are a member of the "armed forces" you are a soldier, a.k.a. a warrior. Perhaps that was more true in times past. There was less infrastructure, less technology, and more soldier to soldier combat.

Today, thousands of members of the armed forces are designated by the military complex as "noncombatants". These include those who provide support services to their branch of the military, such as communications services, in addition to medical personnel and chaplains. If one of these “soldiers” refuses to kill, although designated as a noncombatant, he or she is subject to criminal conviction and the very real stigma of "dishonorable discharge". The spectre of imprisonment overshadows each thought of dissent.

Conscientious objector applications can be denied. The applicant is subject to criminal conviction and punishment if he or she is rash enough to refuse to participate in a war, even a war he or she believes to be illegal, until Conscientious Objector status is granted. If that status is denied, they have no recourse.

Why is this? Some would say that if you let one "soldier" get away with thinking he or she can just refuse to fight, others would get that same notion and by god then what would you do? What indeed? The governmental and military minds reel at the thought that thousands of soldiers could conceivably sit on their desert cammo behinds and refuse to go to a war they consider unjust and illegal.

Cries of "what would have happened in World War II if they had done that?" rally everyone back to Old Glory once again. But this is not WWII. Start comparing Iraq to Vietnam, and the blustering begins anew. This is not Vietnam. Fair enough. I give you that it's not Vietnam if you give me that it's not WWII. (Vietnam was in the jungle and our government was afraid that the Commies were coming to take away our freedom of speech, our freedom of dissent, our freedom of the press, our civil rights...and we don't have to worry about the bad old Communists coming to get us any more. We decided to legislate away our own freedoms. Oh, but I digress...)

The thought that soldiers who have been to combat and killed people are guilty of criminal offenses because they have defining moments in which they become convinced that it's wrong and they won't do it any more is INSANE.
HELLO!??? Is anyone listening to them? They are saying (for those of you who need translators) that THEY DON'T WANT TO KILL PEOPLE. Why is this a crime?

Freedom and Human Dignity are of Limited Use and Irrelevant

by Patricia deVarennes

This post originally appeared in February of 2005:

"The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq."

"Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"**
--George W. Bush

With all the talk of John R. Bolton's nomination to the post of ambassador to the UN, and his apparent notion that the UN is of limited value, it reminded me to look once again at what the United Nations is all about. Let's start with an excerpt of the preamble to their original charter, created by 50 countries in 1945:

to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

The entire charter is found here:

Purusuant to the charter, the General Assembly of the UN created the following Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 2. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
Article 7. All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Article 8. Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Article 9. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Article 10. Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Article 11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
Article 12. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14. (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Article 15. (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Article 16. (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Article 17. (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Article 18. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Article 19. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 20.(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Article 21. (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Article 22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

And just to be sure, in 1984, the United Nations added a declaration that claims people have a RIGHT to peace:

Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace

UN Document Series Symbol: ST/HR/
UN Issuing Body: Secretariat Centre for Human Rights
© United Nations

Approved by General Assembly resolution 39/11 of 12 November 1984

The General Assembly,

Reaffirming that the principal aim of the United Nations is the maintenance of international peace and security,

Bearing in mind the fundamental principles of international law set forth in the Charter of the United Nations,

Expressing the will and the aspirations of all peoples to eradicate war from the life of mankind and, above all, to avert a world-wide nuclear catastrophe,

Convinced that life without war serves as the primary international prerequisite for the material well-being, development and progress of countries, and for the full implementation of the rights and fundamental human freedoms proclaimed by the United Nations,

Aware that in the nuclear age the establishment of a lasting peace on Earth represents the primary condition for the preservation of human civilization and the survival of mankind,

Recognizing that the maintenance of a peaceful life for peoples is the sacred duty of each State,

1. Solemnly proclaims that the peoples of our planet have a sacred right to peace;

2. Solemnly declares that the preservation of the right of peoples to peace and the promotion of its implementation constitute a fundamental obligation of each State;

3. Emphasizes that ensuring the exercise of the right of peoples to peace demands that the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war, particularly nuclear war, the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations;

4. Appeals to all States and international organizations to do their utmost to assist in implementing the right of peoples to peace through the adoption of appropriate measures at both the national and the international level.

**Excerpted from "The President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly
New York, New York (Sept 12, 2002)

Wage Peace -- See the Movie

This post originally appeared in Feb of 2005:

Follow this link to the Wage Peace movie

Posted by Hello

The Adventures of Stick Man and His Friends
by Patricia deVarennes

Once upon a time, a neighbor everyone disliked named Stick Man said, "Someday I'm gonna get me a big stick and kick some butt".

Sure enough, Stick Man started collecting sticks, and Righteous Man and some other neighbors saw him doing it. Righteous Man did the right thing at first. He asked for the sticks to be taken away, or that Stick-Man should be taken away. An investigation ensued by an impartial body that collected all his sticks and they promised to monitor him to be sure he didn't get any more.

Yet Righteous Man suspected that he was still secretly collecting sticks. One day he went over to Stick Man’s house and shot up the place. Stick Man ran away. All but a few of the neighbors stayed in their houses, watching. Some came out and helped to demolish Stick Man’s house hoping that this would keep Righteous Man away from their own houses.

This enraged Righteous Man. He called in vain for the neighbors to come out. And when they didn’t, he realized that the neighborhood must actually have liked Stick Man. They probably sold him a stick or two themselves.

Of course, we know that you don't destroy all the homes and schools and churches and hospitals in the neighborhood simply because in a neighborhood of fifty houses, two of them hold sympathizers to someone like Stick-Man. That would be crazy, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t you call the police if that happened in your neighborhood?

Righteous Man had his own police, called Guards, and Grunts and other things. Let’s call them the Not So Merry Men. They were all bound by contracts that said if they didn’t do what he said, they would have to go live in cages. The rest of the neighbors who really didn't like Stick-Man in the first place started trying to take Righteous Man out because he had become as big a problem as Stick-Man. Righteous Man had some favors owed him, and he retaliated with those and some who were afraid of Stick Man. They swore that Stick Man had hidden caches of deadly sharpened sticks.

Righteous Man and his cohorts started killing all the neighbors who were giving them trouble because they were Un-Righteous. He had to save them from themselves. If they were Righteous like him and his followers, they would have come out and danced around their ruined neighborhood and thrown flowers at the saviors who destroyed their community. They didn’t appreciate the fact that Righteous Man had rid them of Stick Man. Meanwhile, Righteous Man worked hard to kill all of Stick Man’s supporters who might, if left alone, collect their own sticks and become more Stick Men.

In this process, Righteous Man and his Not So Merry Men had come close to the next neighborhood, and those neighbors got upset as well. They started giving support to Stick-Man's neighbors who were all homeless and jobless. They knew Righteous Man and his Not So Merry Men were coming for them next. Righteous Man didn’t disappoint them. And so it went -- on and on -- until the entire county, state, and everyone else in the region was all doing the same thing. Stick Man was caught, hiding, with no sticks.

You see, Righteous Man used Stick Man’s empty threats as an excuse for violence, and he frightened some others into joining him. Righteous Man caught Stick Man and killed most of his family. But that wasn’t enough. We leave Stick Man for now in the land of make believe…where he believes that the world is full of Stick Men. He’s sort of like a latter day Don Quixote. What’s scary is that in our make believe world, more and more Stick Men are being made as more and more of their families, neighborhoods, churches, hospitals and schools are being destroyed.

It’s nice to know that things like that don’t really happen in our neighborhood. Anyone who did what Righteous Man did to Stick Man's neighbors would go away for a long, long time.

Sgt. Benderman is Not A Traitor

This post originally appeared in Feb of 2005:

In this writer's opinion, it takes just as much courage to put down the sword as it does to pick it up. Sergeant Benderman is definitely a courageous man. (A chronology of events surrounding Sgt. Benderman's case appears below his article. ) -- Patricia deVarennes

Right To Life

by Sgt. Kevin Benderman

I have come to the conclusion that the Creator does not want us to fight wars or to leave our brothers to die in hunger or disease for we have been given the things we need to provide all men on the planet what he needs to get by in the world. I have been lead to question some things about myself that I could change to better myself as a man.

Why should I not help another human being that needs what I can help them with? I have ignored that for far too long. I have turned my head when the homeless person asks for a little help. I have taken advantage of others when I should have been offering a hand up. I have done things in my life that I am not proud of. I have not lived a perfect life so I do not claim to have the authority to tell anyone else how to live his or hers.

Some people are asking me why is it now that I have come to this conclusion that I can no longer take part in an organization whose primary purpose is to kill. People are asking how I can spend ten years in the military and now want to get out or how I can abandon the people that I have served with. I have to tell them that I have seen the wrong way that I had been living and that I need to make some changes. Changes that will hopefully let me live a better life and that will allow me to be a better part of the human society.

I have learned that I have done things that are not to the benefit to mankind and that to continue in that vein would be detrimental to my growth as a human being. And now that I have seen the errors of my ways, wouldn’t it be prudent to change the way I conduct myself? Why should I continue with what I see as self-destructive behavior? And why should I continue a way of life that does nothing to alleviate some problems that have plagued humanity far too long? If a drug addict learns that the drugs are killing him then he is expected to stop using drugs. That leads me to ask the question, "If what I am doing is killing me spiritually, why should I continue?

Some people claim that war brings peace; if that is the case then why do we not have peace in the world? There have been wars as long as I have been alive and yet we still have no true peace in the world. We are taught in school that we have had the American Revolution and the two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Grenada, Beirut, Persian Gulf War, and now the Operation Iraqi Freedom, and my point is, "When will it be enough?"

Do we want our grandkids to learn the "art" of war? Should we teach them to throw hand grenades and learn how to shoot center mass of a human being in order to kill them? Or should we be teaching them to hit home runs and to catch fly balls? We should teach them to throw the winning pass at the super bowl, anything but how to kill other humans. There are many things that should be shown to our young besides the "honor" of killing.

War should be left behind us in the memories of history. The people of the world should practice it no more. Better results in peace could be realized if we were to reach out to our fellow man with an understanding instead of aligning them in our rifle sights. I know that this is a concept that will take time for people to understand, but isn’t it time to start trying?

We have recently observed the day that honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and shouldn’t we remember his words and try to live them? "I have a dream that one day that all the children of the world can live together" That may not be the exact quote but I believe that is the essence of what he wanted to see in our world. When will we try to attain that goal?

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today."

Why can’t we take that view for peace in our country and expand it to the nations of the world? It made sense then and it makes sense now. ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.

And if is the case that all men are equal, why I am facing the possibility of seven years in Federal Prison because I do not want to kill another human being?

January 25, 2005

Kevin Benderman [] is an Army Sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division, Ft. Stewart, GA.
Copyright 2005 Kevin Benderman
The above article first appeared on ( on January 25, 2005. Sgt. Benderman has graciously given me his permission to reprint it.)

Chronology of Events Beginning February 07, 2005
provided by The Kevin Benderman Defense Committee

As you know, combat veteran Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman was charged by his command at Fort Stewart on January 19th with: 1) Desertion with the intent to avoid hazardous duty and 2) Missing Movement by design. He faces 5 years in prison if found guilty on the first charge; and up to 2 years on the second charge.

Faced with the prospect of having to submit to the Army's equivalent of a pre-trial hearing (called an Article 32 investigation) less than 48 hours after the charges were read, SGT Benderman, through the military defense counsel provided to him, submitted a request for a reasonable delay of the hearing. A delay in the case was granted until February 7th by Lt Col. Linda Taylor, the investigating officer.

Meanwhile, the military attorney representing Kevin challenged the appointment of the Article 32 investigating officer, Lt.Col. Linda Taylor. They based their objection on the fact that Ms. Taylor served as the chief military prosecutor at Ft. Stewart, where Kevin is being tried. Reportedly, Lt.Col. Taylor served in that capacity for over six months in 2003 and actually provided legal advice on criminal matters to the current Convening Authority, Lt.Col. Kidd. The request for recusal was denied by the appointing authority prior to the Article 32, and again by Lt.Col. Taylor at the beginning of the hearing.

The Article 32 spanned about six hours. Telling testimony from various witnesses revealed the negative reception SGT Benderman endured by his command from the time he submitted his Conscientious Objector claim in December 2004. Without even reviewing the governing regulation, his company commander at the time informed SGT Benderman that he intended to recommend disapproval of the application based on his belief that it could only be a reuse to avoid deployment. The first military chaplain SGT Benderman sought to meet with shunned him despite the fact that a chaplain's interview is a required step in the application process.

This chaplain later emailed SGT Benderman from Kuwait and told him he was ashamed of him. SGT Benderman's unit first sergeant called him a coward. Fortunately, SGT Benderman was able to meet with another Fort Stewart chaplain who understood the process, conducted a thorough interview with SGT Benderman, and concluded that SGT Benderman's beliefs are "sincere" and that "his lifestyle is congruent with his claim of conscientious objection."

Article 32 testimony also confirmed that on January 6th, within days of SGT Benderman submitting his application, the company commander called SGT Benderman in for a separate counseling session based on allegations of Disrespect to a Commissioned Officer and Disloyal Statements to the United States. This counseling proved atypical.

SGT Benderman was brought into a conference room where 15-20 others from the unit were present. The commander chastised SGT Benderman in front of the group citing various articles he had read from the internet and which he assumed were directly attributable to SGT Benderman. The commander informed SGT Benderman that he fully intended to prosecute him, that he considered him a security risk, that he intended to have SGT Benderman's security credentials pulled for the remainder of his career, and that SGT Benderman was to be excluded from all access to company and battalion operations centers. The counseling was reduced to writing.

The Findings and Recommendations of the Article 32 Investigation are pending at this time. Less than 18 hours following completion of the Article 32, SGT Benderman had to report for his Conscientious Objector hearing. SGT Benderman had timely requested a brief delay the previous week, but the Investigating Officer denied the request. The hearing officer was clearly hostile and not the detached, neutral, and impartial officer required by the regulation.

Over objections by representative counsel, the IO persisted in asking SGT Benderman potentially incriminating questions, including whether or not SGT Benderman had ever brought an unregistered weapon on Fort Stewart. Countless other questions pertained to articles alleged to have been written by SGT Benderman. These questions persisted despite the IO's assurances at the beginning that he did not intend to consider any articles.

The hearing was not recorded, although we were informed the previous week that it would be. SGT Benderman's representative counsel, who is also his detailed defense attorney, immediately objected to the legitimacy of the entire proceeding and to the continued appointment of the IO. The numerous objections were reduced to writing and sent to the appointment authority on Wednesday, February 9th. To date, we have received no response.

As if the marathon events of the 7th and 8th were not enough for one week, other developments ensued. Following the CO Hearing on the 8th, SGT Benderman reported to his rear detachment commander for further guidance. The commander informed SGT Benderman that he intended to sit SGT Benderman down within a day or two to issue him a new order to deploy to Iraq. The commander stated that the decision was based on the guidance he received from the prosecution and that it would all be summarized in a counseling statement.

SGT Benderman promptly informed his attorney, who promptly sought confirmation with the prosecutors. Our understanding is that while the prosecutors admitted to having a discussion with the command, they indicated that they would not likely follow through with such a course of action.

The Kevin Benderman Defense Committee

A Naval Veteran's Response

Originally posted in January of 2005:

I received a response to my last week's post from a Naval veteran, Matt (last name withheld). Both the profound sadness and the hard learned wisdom of his letter made me realize I had to reprint it. Matt was kind enough to give me permission in the hope that it might help someone.
Matt's letter:

To All Concerned,

I can feel the pain of such a world tragedy as the current war, having served for six years in theNavy.

It breaks my heart that we haven't learned not to use destruction to reconstruct because out of the carnage of war comes suffering that takes lifetimes to heal from.

It's painfully hard to release the horror of death caused by your own hands. It's there every night when you go to sleep, and there in the subtle messages each day you wake.

Forgiveness is the only tool to help cope with it…Forgiveness for yourself, then atonement by creating good things for people to try and make up for your fear of acceptance. I can't even begin to explain the depth of this statement. I only wish that others would not have to feel it.

If countries could ever apologize for the hurt they cause, or even reach out and forgive another country for an act of aggression that would be so welcome. Countless soldiers would be released from some of their pain, even those who have crossed.

Death is only transformation, yet our actions will speak even when we are gone because of written words and memories.

There's so much our leaders have yet to discover in how to deal with soldiers that have crossed and ones that live. For one, they could forgive them and then apologize for sending them into death. When I say death, I mean hell. War is the hell we need to learn to get away from it.

The leaders, if they think of themselves as that, should know that the simple laws of truth are in play and that killing, destruction, and invasion are not worthy of repeating.

What we need to do is learn together that this earth and every living thing around it, upon it, within it, above it, below it, and everything in this universe and beyond, is sacred. It is us and drives us. Why do we still want to destroy ourselves instead of correcting our faults through patient remedy?

I cannot write what I have lived inside from my six years of being a part of an ignorant endeavor. When I say this, it is not against those who have served, it is more against the ignorance of thinking war is necessary.

It's hard to condemn anything but the ignorance of it. An ignorance that I was a part of and allowed to become a part of me.

Although I served in a time of peace, we never stopped using force and weaponry to exact a mission against others. Killing still went on, people died, and others suffered and continue to suffer by our combined actions.

I have tears as I write this still.

I've rededicated my life towards peace and helping others to realize the truth of peace.

You're right in saying it must stop and your ancestors have sent that to be heard. Please forgive them and love them for doing what they thought was right at the time. Send them peace and pray that they succeed in helping others stop.

We must forgive each other and I pray to be forgiven as well.

Life is a blessing that needs to be revered and loved and thankful for everyday.

Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you success in helping others to understand why peace is important and that war is the wrong solution.

Peace and love,

Matt A.

Visions of Peace

This was my original post from early 2005:

We Are All Volunteers in This Army

by Patricia deVarennes

I was sifting through 11 years of accumulated possessions. That day I was sorting books. It was an exhausting task as we have a couple of thousand tomes whose ownership history covers 3 generations. I discovered bits of memorabilia lovingly, sometimes carelessly, placed between now musty pages. I put these things aside. I thought my current task more pressing. After all, we were moving.

My late father and uncles all served in World War II. My father was a Marine, present at Pearl Harbor, Guadalcanal, Iwo Gima among others. One uncle was in the Coast Guard, another in the Navy. One had been a POW. Health broken, he died in his early forties. Because I was so young when he died, this uncle was the least known to me. My memories of Uncle Paul were pleasant, but overshadowed by the recollection of my father’s grief at his passing. That remembrance too, I put aside for a more convenient time. No time now.

After that, the effects of dead relatives popped up repeatedly, sometimes in the oddest places, most particularly, small things relating to Uncle Paul’s military service. The amateur genealogist in me looked forward to exploring these items later. I took a break from the parade of books and finished off a closet. In a happier frame of mind, I returned to the living room to empty a bookcase, leaving the boxes of older books for later.

A book fell and struck me. OUCH. Not surprising, you say. That’s what you get for having books precariously perched in bookcases. But I didn’t. The only things that were on top of the tall bookcase I was near were a globe and a framed print. I sat on a stool and picked up the offending book, Horror Trek, by Robert W. Levering. It was old, but in good shape. What the heck? I’d never seen it before. I opened it, and inside there was a personal note from the author to Uncle Paul. The book was about the Death March to Bataan. I leafed through it quickly, and found his name on the list of those who were there.

I should backtrack for a moment and note that ghosts and such are good-naturedly accepted where I come from. Intuition was a source of pride for my grandmother, who always knew when “her boys” were coming home during their stints in the military. They used to tell about how she would be waiting on the front porch when each arrived for a surprise leave, and always had the correct son’s favorite food ready and waiting for him. “Mama always knew.” And they would laugh. She once said that she wouldn’t let herself see the ghosts at the old home-place, because then it would scare her and she wouldn’t be able to stay there alone. Maybe my reaction on that steamy summer afternoon is more understandable now.

I said out loud, “What? What! What do you want?” Never ask unless you want the answer.

There was a cloud, a fog, a swirling white hole opening in the living room. I was afraid. What had I done?

There were three men standing at the edge of the opening. They stepped forward. At first I didn’t recognize them because they were wearing uniforms and they looked so young. But there they were, just as they had looked in pictures from long ago: my father and uncles. My father smiled at me. Uncle Paul spoke. “It has to stop. The death, the dying, the war, it has to stop. IT HAS TO STOP. The time has come. WE have come to help. We are ALL here to help. You need to tell people. We are all volunteers in THIS army.” The urgency of his message was mingled with sadness and love.

Then, the brothers stepped aside and revealed what was behind them. As far as my eyes could see, were soldiers. They were of all races and colors. They were from all times and places. Their uniforms and regalia spanned the gamut of history. There were soldiers of two world wars, “modern” soldiers, veterans of the so-called Civil War, cavalry soldiers, native peoples, Roman centurions, and strange people in garb I did not recognize. The crowd of soldiers extended over the horizon of the hole, into a blurry, illuminated beyond. The hole closed, slowly, and the last I saw was my father and uncles standing in the ranks of these soldiers. Tears streamed down my face.

Six months have passed since that time. I have done very little. I feared ridicule. I feared derision. I told a few people. It’s hard to tell the story because I cry every time in the telling. Last night, I had a dream. My father said, “Puddin,’ it’s time to talk.” He used to call me Puddin’ when I was a child. My Uncle Paul was there again. This time he said nothing, but smiled at me.

There aren’t enough tears in the world to keep me from telling this story now. There isn’t enough ridicule or derision. Why did this happen to me? Perhaps it is because I am the mother, daughter, and granddaughter of soldiers. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, for it’s not the messenger who is important. It’s the message.