Friday, August 26, 2005

Sgt Kevin Benderman and "Freedom to Make a Choice"

Sgt Kevin Benderman is doing 15 months in a military prison because he made the choice to not be a willing participant in an illegal “war against the peace” in Iraq. Kevin is a declared Conscientious Objector and that just pissed off the Army, a lot.

See: Kevin Benderman Defense Committee for full news, information and updates on Kevin here:
http://www.topia.net/kevinbenderman.html

A couple of days ago I received a phone call from Kevin and we had to the chance to speak for 20 minutes. That the people where he is incarcerated have allowed him to make these types of calls caught me by surprise—but I do like these types of surprises.

Kevin sounded really good. He sounded like a man who is comfortable in his own skin and at peace not only with himself, but at peace with the decision he made to refuse a second deployment to Iraq as a CO.

In this one act of his, Kevin has shown us what moral leadership is and what it is all about. Something our “esteemed” congress members could learn from.

Here is the latest from Monica Benderman:

Freedom to make a choice.
By: Monica Benderman

Sgt. Kevin Benderman sits in confinement at Ft. Lewis, Washington. His crime? Making a choice. He chose Peace.

It’s not about one side winning and the other side losing. Not to Sgt. Benderman. It’s about having knowledge. We all have the right to know the truth about our options, and to be educated in our choices. We deserve to know the truth, and in truth shall come the freedom we all want, the freedom we claim to be fighting for.

Freedom is a personal choice, it is personal responsibility. This comes when every person uses the knowledge he has been given to do what his conscience tells him he must. It is not the reward for dying. It is not the reward for one side winning.

No one can decide for another that war is right or wrong. Each person will have to come to that on their own.

No one can tell another that their sons and daughters died for nothing or for a noble cause. All we can do is tell the truth about the cause, the good and the bad. It is up to each family to know which choice their son or daughter made.

America is at war with itself these days, more than any other enemy we have faced. There are two sides, and no side is winning. As each battle ensues, the divisions become greater, and the goal, PEACE, becomes further from reach.

Every soldier made his choice. Every soldier continues to make his choice, now. The families who love these men and women make their choice as well. The question – did we have the knowledge to make the choice?

Soldiers died. Did they die for what they believed in? Did they believe in an honest cause? Were they given all the knowledge they needed to make the choice for themselves that came from truth? Were their hearts and their consciences betrayed?

Soldiers return from war. Some return with a sense of honor. Many return with a heart that is unable to rest. Why do so many soldiers suffer from PTSD? Why are so many military families at risk of broken relationships, veterans homeless, mental health facilities established all over this country and the world, for our veterans? There is no peace.

What makes peace? Knowing that the freedom of choice led someone to act on their beliefs – beliefs nested firmly in a conviction based on truth. Can we have peace? Only if we are given everything we need to know the truth.

Firsthand experience gives us the best opportunity to know the truth, to know whether the choices we make are honest assessments – convicted beliefs. Firsthand experience told Sgt. Kevin Benderman that he could no longer participate in war. He saw his truth. He made his choice. He is free – even confined at Ft. Lewis, he is FREE, and mostly he is at Peace.

Freedom also comes from acceptance. When we accept each other’s differences, by understanding their right to believe as they choose, we move closer to living free. When we realize that we are all part of the same humanity, and that living matters more than dying, perhaps it will be easier to accept each other’s differences and allow ourselves the right to choose.

Freedom is not free. Freedom is earned, but no one can earn it for us. The price cannot be another’s death in our name. The price is the sacrifice we make for ourselves, to have the knowledge to make our choices based on truth, to do the work we need to do to make the best choice for us, the one that gives us Peace.

What is the truth? In fairness to all, the truth is something that many of us have not yet seen. For our soldiers, for their families, for the lives that have been given – the truth is in the firsthand experiences we have all lived through that those who cannot understand us have not seen.

What is our noble cause? It is asking to be given the knowledge we need to make conscious choices that give our hearts peace. We are not at peace. So perhaps more information is needed.

War – Anti-War. Somewhere in the middle there is Peace.

Monica Benderman may be contacted at:
mdawnb@coastalnow.net


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