|On Thursday, August 31st, Army Specialist Mark|
Wilkerson joined the growing numbers of war
resisters speaking out about their refusal to participate
in the illegal war in Iraq. With the support of
CODEPINK, after being AWOL for a year and a
half, Mark issued a public statement from Camp
Casey and then turned himself in to Fort Hood to
face the consequences of his courageous decision.
Mark has been absent without leave since January '05
when his unit was
about to be deployed to Iraq for the
second time. Mark saw that the war
was wrong and
tried unsuccessfully to apply for conscientious objector
status. Mark's willingness to publicly resist and surrender himself
back to the military has the potential of empowering the estimated
8,000 resistors to speak up and out about the war.
fund has been set up to help Mark and other resistors with legal
counsel. To make a donation to the fund click here. The
OIF-OEF assistance fund in a 501c3 tax deductable fund.|
Click here to visit Mark's blog.
Statement by Mark Wilkerson
Thursday August 31, 2006, Camp Casey, Crawford, TX
I would like to thank you all for being here today. Today is a big day
for me. I am turning myself in from being absent without leave, or
AWOL, from the military. I have been AWOL for a year and a half.
name is Mark Wilkerson. My experience in the Army began in June 2002,
shortly after my high school graduation. I enlisted prior to September
11, but I found a new resolve to join after that tragic day. I thought
that somehow, through my upcoming military experience, I would be able
avenge those people that had been killed on that day. After basic
training, I ended up in Ft. Hood, TX where in March 2003, I deployed to
Iraq with the 720th Military Police Battalion. I was nervous and
scared, but at that time I was supportive of my presidentís decision to
go into Iraq, and I was optimistic about the good things that we could
do there for the people of Iraq. I quickly learned that wasn't going to
happen. There were many experiences that I had in Iraq that made me
question my mission, and also made me change the way I viewed
spirituality, relationships, our government, and my life in general. It
was a complete life turn-around, which allowed me to come to the
conclusion that military service was no longer the correct path for me
to take. This revelation led me to apply as a Conscientious Objector,
or C.O., immediately upon return from Iraq in March 2004.
military states that a conscientious objector is a person who objects
to participation in all forms of war, and whose belief is based on a
religious, moral or ethical belief system. I felt I met those
requirements, though the military disagreed. I told myself I would
never return to Iraq, but that I would make sure I was discharged in
the right and legal way. I told myself I would never go AWOL. In July,
while my C.O. paper was still being processed, my unit was told we were
returning to Iraq in January 2005.
My C.O. claim was denied in
November, so I applied for a rebuttal, and was told it wouldn't be
considered until my return from Iraq, more than a year away. So I made
the difficult decision to go AWOL, for political, spiritual, and
personal reasons. I am not willing to kill, or be killed, or do
anything else I consider morally wrong, for reasons I don't believe in,
and now today, I am turning myself in to face the consequences of my
I read a USA Today article that said that there are
over 8,000 soldiers who have gone AWOL during the Iraq War. I think it
would be naÔve to assume that all 8,000 went AWOL in direct protest to
the Iraq War, but I'm sure that many of them did. So this message is
for those of who are AWOL right now: you are not alone. Donít let
anyone judge you for what you believe in.
As of August 27,there
have been 2,628 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, on top of the over 19,000
wounded there. I honor and respect every soldier who has made the
ultimate sacrifice for our country. I honor them and their families.
May the soldiers who have been killed remind each and every one of us
that life is short, and life is fragile, and life must be respected. I
also respect every soldier who makes the decision to enlist into the
military, and to go to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of
their personal opinions on war. Let me remind you all as well that
there are many other soldiers who should not be forgotten either, and
thatís the large number who return from war with Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder, or PTSD, which is very hard to diagnose. And without
treatment, many of these soldiers have a very difficult time adjusting
to their normal lives. Many soldiers affected with this disorder, this
injury, donít come forward to make a claim, for one reason or another.
Again, I say to them: you are not alone. If you have a family member
who is suffering, urge them to come forward and tell someone who can
help. And I say this to every member of our Congress and our senate,
and even our president: Donít leave any soldier behind. Give them the
help and support they need, because you sent them there.
like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me along this
journey of the past year and a half- Family, friends, fellow veterans.
When I left the army, I made what I felt was the right decision for me
to make. I joined the military with honorable intentions, and I still
feel honor in my heart. I love my country; I want no one to doubt that.
I am unsure of what actions and punishments will be placed on me for my
decision. I am scared, but I go with peace in my heart and hope for the
future- not only my future, but the country's future as well. This is a
difficult and scary time for our country, but hopefully in the end,
peace will rule this great land. John F. Kennedy once said that war
will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector
enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today. I
look forward to that day. There comes a time in a person's life when
they must do the right moral decision for themselves, doubtless of how
popular that decision is in other's eyes, or what others feel about it.
While I would not consider myself a very religious man, I do believe in
the teachings of Jesus Christ. I would like to share two passages from
the bible. The first - from Psalms Chapter 33, verse 5: Seek peace, and
pursue it. The second from Matthew chapter 5, verse 9 - Blessed are the
peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. I believe that
through my actions, I am doing my best to live by the values stated in
those quotes. Thank You