Can Volunteers Be Conscientious Objectors?
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  1. #1

    Cool Can Volunteers Be Conscientious Objectors?


    Can Volunteers Be Conscientious Objectors?

    By Ralf W. Zimmermann

    Reports from the Iraq front and a recent survey clearly indicate growing psychological pressures and disillusionment among many of our deployed troops. At the same time, more troops are seeking conscientious objector status to get out the Army.

    According to official Army statistics, the number of conscientious objectors has tripled since the beginning of the Iraq War. Sixty soldiers applied for conscientious objector status in 2003 and the numbers are on the rise for 2004.

    The latest soldier who has won notoriety for declaring himself a conscientious objector is Army Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia of the 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment of the Florida National Guard. Mejia, who’s been absent without leave for five months before he turned himself in to authorities, insists that he can’t return to Iraq because he believes that the war against Iraq was driven by oil. He also claims to have suffered trauma from an ambush he witnessed and during which innocent civilians were hit.

    Here you have an interesting mix of political misgivings, combined with traumatic combat memories, experienced by a noncom with several years in a grunt unit and who never previously had a serious problem. The Mejia case and a few others, such as paratroop Spc. Jeremy Hinzman, who moved to Canada to avoid deployment, raise interesting questions. Is the status of conscientious objector truly applicable in an all-volunteer military, and how should it be dealt with?

    When I joined the Army in the late seventies, the Green Machine had just morphed from draft force to VOLAR, or volunteer Army. As a volunteer, I signed an explicit contract of enlistment and pocketed 3,000 fast bucks. I knew that in addition to swearing an oath to our Constitution, I had become a professional soldier.

    As such, I was rightfully expected to provide a service in the specialty I had been signed up for. As a tank gunner, it would be my job to smoke any opponent to keep my M-60A1 tank crew alive. I also swore to protect the interests of my country. As a nineteen-year-old, I accepted the political risks with the firm hope that America wouldn’t send me to fight for unjust reasons, as my father’s native Germany had done.

    So far, the draft hasn’t yet returned to America and no U.S. citizen or resident alien is yet forced to join. One should expect that soldiers, who voluntarily and consciously join the ranks of America’s combat troops, know what to expect when they train for deployment. If nothing else they have to accept their assigned missions and especially to protect their fellow troopers to the best of their abilities. Saving your own butt and that of your comrades outweighs all political considerations.

    Having said that, I also believe in justice and fairness for America’s troops. Yes, a close-in combat experience can leave trauma and psychological residue on good people. Some might not ever want to touch a gun again – that’s okay.

    If a soldier suffers a breakdown, he/she should obviously be afforded every opportunity for treatment and rehabilitation. I don’t believe, however, that a soldier should have an immediate option to leave the service or turn conscientious objector.

    If frontline psychological rehabilitation fails, the next step could be serving in more rearward areas, not in direct-fire combat. Fact is that in guerilla warfare, no one is totally safe – convoys, supply dumps, and headquarters facilities are very lucrative targets for the insurgents.

    The other option for conscientious objection to serving with a weapon is to give COs a chance to help their fellow comrades as medics, as one highly decorated Nam vet reminded me. “The CO would often find himself in the middle of a rice paddy, trying to patch up Johnny while the bullets were flying around everybody’s ears.”

    To be very honest, I would highly respect and honor every CO who chooses to do that for his/her buddies. That takes guts!

    Although I’m not a political fan of the occupation quagmire in Iraq, I acknowledge that our military leadership has a problem. It can’t afford to bleed excessive personnel strength through over-diagnosis of combat-related stress and by accepting countless requests for conscientious objector status. Any careless policy moves could rapidly open the gates to serious personnel meltdown and quality erosion.

    With more and more people clamoring to get out of uniform, despite astronomic bonuses, pay raises and benefits bonanzas, I’m afraid that a big surprise could be in store after the elections.

    That surprise could be – the DRAFT. And with it, conscientious objection will become a valid issue once more.

    Senior Military Correspondent Lt. Col. Ralf W. Zimmermann (USA Ret.) is a decorated Desert Storm veteran and former tank battalion commander. His recent novel, “Brotherhood of Iron,” deals with the German soldier in World War II. It is directly available from and through most major book dealers. Zimm can be reached at or via his website at © 2004 LandserUSA. Please send Feedback responses to


  2. #2
    Volunteers can be Conscientious Objectors, but that shouldn't mean they are not to serve, just that they cannot carry a weapon while they serve as medical personnel or clerks. There have been COs who were decorated during WW2 for heroism as medics. They were true COs, not Cowards.

    Thats how I see it.
    Semper Fi!

  3. #3
    If they state that BEFORE they join and are in a support or non-combat role....Yes...but these COWARDS that say that when they get called to duty...NO

  4. #4
    Registered User Free Member arnoldyG/2/5's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Stephenville, TX
    In an all volunteer foce there is no such thing as a CO. When you sign the contract and take the oath to defend the constitution, you are taking the chance that you might find yourself in harm's way....of your own free will!!!!!!

    Make them medics/Corpsman or send the butts back to the front with a rifle in hand to do their f***ing job!!!!

  5. #5
    Registered User Free Member Tom Clear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Logansport, Indiana
    Seems to me they are in for the free ride, easy money, one weekend a month couple weeks a year hey they got nothing to worrie about. But then there is a war and all of the sudden they don't want to be an American soldier anymore. If there is truly a problem from combat stress them let the Docs sort that out... it could take years!!! If they just want to quit because their are rounds coming down range let them, Just one condiction when you quit it is complete we will provide yo uwith a ride to the front gate, if you are state side we will provide you with a ticket to anywhere put here. not a hard *ss just think it shouldn't be so easy to quit. As always this is a small group you know your 10% who just don't get it. God Bless all of our troops, Semper Fi

  6. #6
    here's the thing for me. Was I asked whether or not as a part of 1/6 I should be sent to Bosnia? No, but i took an oath, and i did my job. Was I asked what i thought of us going to Haiti in 94 with 2nd LAR? No, but I took an oath,. and i did my job. I joined The Corps as an 0311, and no where in my cantract did it state that I could choose when and where to fight.

    these objectors are nothing but traitors and oath breakers and i hope the deepest darkest pit of hell is reserved for them. they are COWARDS adn TRAITORS. nothing more. They left thier comrades high and dry. They KNEW what they were signing up for. they CHOOSE their MOS. If it was up to me? I'd hang aem all as traitors and deserters. and NO i do not feel that that is too extreme. I n case you have nver read me state this elsewhere, I have gone so far as to slap the hat off of a total strangers head for not removing it during the National Anthem. I may not believe everything our government does, but I DO believe in the American Ideals.

  7. #7
    I went looking for how George Washington handled cowards and traitors, because in the "Crossing" he had some from one company shoot cowards and deserters to discourage others from deserting.

    I found this;

    The words from these exceprts could be true today as they were in the 1864...


    The volunteer aid who fought and fell by the side of Gen. Preston Smith, at the battle of Chickamauga, near the close of the day and battle of the 19th of September, was CAPT. THOMAS E. KING, son of BARRINGTON KING, ESQ., both of Roswell, Cobb County, Georgia.

    My note;
    Captain Thomas E. King was wounded in the Battle of Manassas.
    He could have set out the war but he chose to volunteer to serve as an aid.

    Ye speculators! ye sordid money-making harpies of the nation, who coolly seek the very life-blood of the land to feed your unhallowed lust of filthy lucre! Look at him! He sacrificed covetousness to patriotism, and sought rather to serve his country than to enrich himself. Go ye and do likewise--ere dread retribution overtake you at the hand of patriot men who by privation, toil and blood, shall have won a national liberty in which they are deeply purposed that your cold and cruel selfishness shall never, never have an honorable share. Ye heartless, worthless exempts in every corner of the land, who bribe the pliant surgeon to endorse your pretended disabilities! Look at him! You have twice the physical power to serve your country that he possessed; but in her extremity give her none of it. He first studied how he could best advance her interests, and then laid out in her service all the little strength he had. Go ye and follow his example; lest deep disgrace from an injured country settle upon you and your posterity for all time to come! Ye base and infamous skulkers, who hide a coward heart behind some fraction of a Nitre contract, or in some work or office that pays you well for the shelter it provides against the face of the enemy!

    Ye thousands of furloughed sick, wounded and well, scattered through the generous households of the people and your own homes, who by time and kind attention have regained your health and home refreshment, and are now every way fit for service, but, ignobly self-indulgent, still cling to the luxuries of the family when your struggling country calls you back to the hardships of the camp; whose entertainers grieve that their hospitalities have beeu spent upon such undeserving men, and, day and night, do now begrudge you that bed and board they would so gladly spread for the suffering faithful, returning from the battle field! And ye, miserable stragglers, who are sure to lose your regiment when an engagement is imminent! And ye, pitiful cowards, who are the scorn of the brave, because you are sure to become desperately ill when the line of battle is formed! And ye, faint-hearted warriors, who enter the battle but are sure to sneak out exhausted before you have fired a gun! Yes, all ye miserable skulkers of the country! look at him! look at him! When the noblest cause for which man ever shed his blood was put in peril; when the brightest flag the sun ever shone upon was unfurled to the breeze; when our country's liberties were actually placed upon trial by battle; did he turn his back and abscond? Did he seek an excuse to be absent from the fray? Did he pretend to some physical incapacity to stand at his post? Did he content himself with luxurious indulgences at a distance when his country's life was perilled on the battle field?-- No! never, never! Creation could not keep him from his place in the ranks of the faithful and the brave. Many and strong were the powers that tried their hand upon his patriotism; but they tried in vain. Nor false pleas, nor sensual comforts, nor the cares of business, nor the counsels of friends, nor the cries of kindred, nor a feeble body, nor the dread of death, could arrest his gallant rush into the fiercest of the battle. Oh! ye poor patriots! ye shrinking dishonored men!

    Do you not know that man is fallible; that, especially at such a time as this, there will be, there must be some inequalities, some improprieties? And have you no more regard for your character, love for your country, appreciation of the right, and command of your intelligence than to give up every great thing under heaven simply because every little thing about you has not been done to your liking? You are in the wrong, my countrymen, grievously in the wrong. Come back to the ranks, and come at once. Say! before high Heaven, did you not swear to your comrades in arms that if they would stand by you, you would stand by them? that if they stood ready, in every fight, to shoot down the man that aimed his rifle at your breast, in every fight, by their side you, too, would stand ready to shoot down the men who aimed their muskets at them? Alas! how many of your faithful, noble comrades have been slain in battle and sent to man's long home, simply because you violated your solemn oath and were not at your post to defend them!

    Wonder how many CO see themselves in these words spoken in 1864...

    Semper Fidelis

  8. #8


    I think that those C.O.'s should have a choice of going to the brig or going straight to the front lines. If they were C.O's in the first place they should not have gone into the military. In my opinion they are all a bunch of candya** cowards, they knew what they were getting into when they enlisted into the military. SEMPER FI!!

  9. #9
    Registered User Free Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    western US
    Desmond Doss is probably the best example of a principled CO who was definetely no coward. He won the Medal of Honor as an Army medic on Okinawa. He saved many lives at the risk of his own, being wounded in the process.

  10. #10
    I think that if an individual is a CO then they should state so up front and then if they still want to enlist the only MOS' open to them should be Medics or Chaplins, nothing else, even support troops may be called to fight. This would allow them to still serve their country and still uphold their beliefs. I have a problem with someone who enlists and then when the time comes they suddenly become a CO.

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