March 28, 2006
a soldier no longer wants to fight, when his conscience tells him that he
can no longer believe in the mission and commanders order that soldier
back to combat against his will, there is something wrong. There is
something very wrong when commanders send that soldier to jail simply
because they cannot control what he believes, and what he believes scares
Afghanistan, we are witnessing a tragic violation of basic human rights --
rights given to all people simply for being alive. A
man has made a choice -- a personal choice -- and he is being
threatened with death because of his choice.
government officials have stepped in and offered their thoughts on how the
Afghan government should proceed in their treatment of this man. Members
of our administration have publicly stated that freedom of religion is a
personal choice, one afforded all human beings; the man should be set free
and allowed to practice his religion as he chooses. This is the same
administration that allowed my husband to go to jail for making a choice
-- a personal, moral choice based on his ethical beliefs.
husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, chose to no longer participate in war. He
followed the Army regulations, filed a Conscientious Objector application,
and acted honorably every step of the way. His unit commanders chose to
punish him for not allowing them to control him with their threats, and my
husband went to jail simply because his commanders had no integrity, no
honor and no respect for the very constitution they had given a sworn oath
-- the military administration has sided with my husbandís commanders to
this point. At any time, any member of the military hierarchy could have
stepped in and ordered the command to abide by the regulations. Instead,
the military powers that be chose to turn a deaf ear to the truth and the
facts, and allow the continued mistreatment of one of their own -- a
veteran who has served with distinction for ten years.
sworn testimony given verbatim in the Record of Trial from my husbandís
court martial clearly shows an incompetent command; a command that lied,
mishandled their administration of my husbandís request, and fabricated
evidence after the fact. It shows a command that had no knowledge of the
regulations, no idea how to respond to my husbandís request and admittedly
made no effort to learn.
company commander stated for the record that "Sgt. Benderman is just one
soldier out of 191 that I command. I did not have time to worry about
him." He went on to admit that he "was not aware of the proper procedures
for handling Sgt. Bendermanís request, but if he had been he would have
taken steps to correct his actions."
five separate occasions, the Command Sgt. Major of the battalion gave
sworn testimony regarding a meeting he requested with my husband to
discuss his Conscientious Objector application. These sworn testimonies
contradicted each other with regard to several of the facts that, had the
truth been told, would have exonerated my husband before there ever was a
court martial. On the witness stand, this Sgt. Major was questioned about
the fact that his sworn statements contradicted each other, and was asked
if they were indeed his statements. He confirmed that he had made each
one, and went on to state that none of those had been the truth; that he
was telling the truth in the courtroom that day. The first statement given
was most accurate, having been made right after the meeting with my
husband. Subsequent statements appeared to change as the prosecutors
needed to bend the rules to make their allegations fit. The "truth" on the
stand was remembered seven months later, noticeably altered from the
original testimony, also given under oath.
included in the Record of Trial for my husbandís court martial was a
statement made by the Convening Authority overseeing the court martial --
the Acting Commander of Ft. Stewart, Georgia. During the first week of
February 2006, this commander had a meeting with the Staff Judge Advocate
at Ft. Stewart. He stated that he would not accept a plea bargain, and he
wanted to make sure that my husband went to jail for "no less that 18
months." This is the man who would ultimately determine whether all
procedures and regulations had been properly followed during the court
martial process, and approve the final outcome of the trial. The question
here -- why had he already determined my husbandís guilt -- and for what
crime was he expecting to sentence my husband? There was not even an
investigation into the charges that they would consider bringing against
my husband until a week after the commander held this meeting.
husband has now served eight months in jail, apparently because the
commanders of the US military are not bound by the oaths they take. The
commanders of the US military have a choice -- they can abide by their
personal integrity and lead by following the rules, or they can make up
the rules as they go along -- so much for integrity.
husband was eligible for parole on January 27, 2006. According to the
Dept. of the Army Regulations 190-47, the rules governing the operations
of military corrections facilities, the command of the correctional
facility where he is incarcerated should have held a hearing regarding my
husbandís request for parole in December 2005; no later than 30 days prior
to his eligibility date. The command did not set the date for his hearing
until mid-January, and it was finally held on February 15, 2006. Three
weeks later they got around to sending their recommendations to the Parole
Board in Virginia.
Apparently, it does not matter where the commanders of the US Army are
stationed, or what their assignment -- few of them seem bound by the oaths
ten years, Sgt. Kevin Benderman served the Army of this United States with
honor and integrity. He received nothing but commendations and
outstanding evaluations, and not one derogatory counseling statement.
Kevin went to Iraq and performed his duties with the same integrity and
honor that he gave to all aspects of his service. After firsthand
experience, knowing that he could no longer participate in war,
recognizing it as "the greatest form of manís inhumanity to man" he
prepared to leave the military when his enlistment expired. The US Army
refused to let him go peacefully and issued him a stop/loss order.
Following regulations, and staying true to himself and his beliefs, Kevin
submitted a Conscientious Objector application in spite of a Company
chaplain who would rather "debate" Kevin than assist him in his legal
request and a Company commander who believed that threats, intimidation
and character attacks would convince my husband to bend to his will.
actions of the command make a statement loud and clear. It is not the
statement they would like us to believe however. While their public
statements mentioned that the sentencing of my husband was meant to "show
other members of the military that they could not use Conscientious
Objection as a way to avoid service in Iraq," their actions show nothing
more than cowardice in the face of moral courage and personal integrity;
two character traits sorely lacking in many of the commanders my husband
has been forced to serve with for the past three years.
called to hold themselves accountable to the oaths they took, these men
failed miserably. At a time when leadership at all levels is sorely needed
these men showed clearly why this country is in the mess weíre in.
RULES are there for a reason, and an oath taken is one that is meant to be
kept unless the party to whom the oath is given has broken their word.
Perhaps that is the problem in a nutshell. The oath that is taken relies
on the integrity of an individual to keep his word. For the commanders in
the military to understand the meaning of keeping their word, they would
require an example in those who lead them.
member of the military and our government has taken an oath to uphold and
defend the Constitution of the United States. My husband went to jail
because he refused to compromise on the oath he took, nor on his personal
principles, and continues to defend the right to freely choose how he will
Integrity -- the true measure of a man is in the word he keeps.
is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman, Conscientious Objector to war and the
current status of this country, and currently serving a prison sentence at
the RCF at Ft. Lewis, WA. To learn more, please visit
www.BendermanDefense.org. Kevin and Monica may be contacted at
Other Articles by Kevin
and Monica Benderman
to Conscience to Peace
Roller Coaster Ride
* Where is
Letter to President Bush and Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
An Open Letter to My Husbandís Chain of Command: The Players of the Game
Freedom of Choice
A Matter of Conscience
Has Stopped Killing: Hope for More to Do the Same
Letter to Our Leaders From a Concerned Iraq War Soldier
In Praise of Kevin Benderman by Norman Solomon
* CO Status
for Army Sgt. Kevin Benderman Denied by Robert Finnegan
* Army Sgt.
Benderman Steps Up to Plate, CO Status Pending by Robert Finnegan
* US Army
Sergeant Kevin Benderman Charged With Desertion by Robert Finnegan
* Army Sgt
Refuses Redeployment to Iraq; 2 Soldiers Attempt Suicide, 17 Go AWOL
by Robert Finnegan
Benderman, Alvin York, and the Voice of Conscience by Joel T. Helfrich
* To War or
Not to War, That is the Question by Jack Dalton