Case Studies & Personal Stories
Examples of the Cases & Issues We Deal With
These situations are real, though most names and other identifying information have been changed to protect privacy.
Jeremy: refuses Iraq orders | Joel: Marine CO in the brig | Letter from Parents | Freddy: AWOL | Questions about Desertion | Chris: AWOL for the second time | Juan: concerned for the safety of his wife | Mary: deceptive enlistment | Rocky: money problems breaking his family | Ralph: in need of therapy | John: at the end of his rope | Theresa: husband killed in military accident | Jason: wants out of nuclear program | Chris: concerned about health effects of mandatory vaccination | Rita: getting out of DEP
Ft. Bragg GI refuses Iraq orders, seeks refuge in Canada
Toronto, February 7, 2004- Globe & Mail, a major Canadian newspaper, reported today that Jeremy Hinzman, an army private from Ft. Bragg, has arrived there and applied for refugee status. Jeremy's attorney is asserting that the invasion of Iraq violated international law, and that Jeremy will be persecuted for his beliefs in nonviolence if he returns to the US.
Jeremy and his family were regular attenders at Fayetteville Friends Meeting, and Quaker House assisted him in preparing a CO claim, which he filed in 2002. Despite his claim, he was sent to Afghanistan later in 2002, and his unit was deployed to Iraq in January 2004, a few days after he left for Canada.
Canadian legal experts say Jeremy's chances of being granted refugee status are slim. What will happen then is impossible to predict. In the US, Jeremy would face charges of desertion, a serious felony.
Check out the full Globe & Mail article here.
Appeal Planned for GI Exile Seeking Refuge in Canada
On March 24, 2005 the temperature in Toronto was in the mid-30s, and the wind got brisk by mid-afternoon. More than chilly-it was downright cold; but typical for late winter in Canada.
No matter. Jeremy Hinzman spent the day outside, pedaling around the frigid city, working as a bicycle messenger. He insists he loves it. Just as he loved jumping out of airplanes as a paratrooper in the 82d Airborne. And running marathons. He's something of a fitness fanatic.
That same day, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was at a ranch in Crawford, Texas, conferring with the presidents of Mexico and the US. According to news reports, there are numerous points of tension in Canada-US relations, including army deserters.
So it's fair to wonder: was it just coincidental that the rejection of Jeremy's application for refugee status was announced while this visit was underway? Not likely.
This bit of political background is inescapable: the fates of Jeremy, his wife Nga and son Liem could depend as much on high-level international machinations as the arcane technicalities of Canadian immigration laws.
Supporters held a vigil in Toronto that evening, and Jeremy arrived on his bike. He told them an appeal would be filed. Jeremy has also told us that they had been expecting an unfavorable ruling, and that his appeals could take years to be completed.
In his appeal, Jeremy's attorney Jeffry House plans to challenge the immigration official's earlier refusal to consider the issue of the legality of the Iraq war itself.
Meantime, Jeremy will continue to ride his bicycle through the streets of Toronto, working, raising his son, and waiting.
More info on Jeremy and his case at: JeremyHinzman.nettop
Visiting Camp Lejeune is always a sobering experience. The fences outside the gates are hung with many banners put up by family members to greet troops returning from Iraq. Marines from Lejeune have seen heavy and costly service there. I don't know what's done for those who don't return.
In early April, the Quaker House calendar included plans for another visit to Camp Lejeune, where a Marine Conscientious Objector, Joel Klimkewicz, was in the brig, serving seven months.
Joel's was a case that really stuck in the throat. His CO request was for non-combatant status; he didn't ask for a discharge; he said he was ready to serve in Iraq, even offered to take on dangerous duty like clearing mines - provided only that he could do it unarmed.
Joel is a Seventh Day Adventist, and that was his understanding of the Gospel.
But instead, he was behind bars. That's because the Marines turned down his CO application, then ordered him to report for weapons training. He refused, and was court-martialed. We asked Friends to write to Joel, and to Marine higher-ups, to protest the unusually severe sentence. Many of you did, and I visited him several times, sharing the time with his wife and young daughter, Cameron.
Maybe the letters helped: the eMail excerpted below brought good news at last!
I'm free in a literal sense but it appears the fight goes on! I want to thank you for all of your support and that of other Quakers. I was released by order of the [Marine Corps] Commandant . . . . It's a bit funny when I think about just two weeks earlier I was told my [court martial] Authority acted and all punishment was approved and forwarded to Navy Marine Court of Appeals, but a miracle took place when I heard April 5th I was going to be released.
There was a new line added to my [court nartial] Authority action that states all confinement time after April 6th be suspended for a period of 12 months. How they changed something they had previously acted on is in keeping with the highest standards of military tradition. God has truly blessed me through this entire thing and my freedom at least from the brig could not have come any sooner, I was starting to get a seriously negative attitude.
Let me tell you my fellow prisoners were just as happy to watch me go, everyone behind bars has a deep love for our first amendment. I have some books to send you so let me know if the address you sent me a letter from is a good one to send them. . . . Keep in touch and again I cannot thank you enough! Cameron's going to miss coloring with you.
Your Brother in Christ, Home
Joel David Klimkewicz
Until late last year, Joel had been thinking of a (non-combatant) military career. Now he's planning to become a Seventh Day Adventist minister, maybe a prison chaplain. When I last saw Joel and his family, they were at a church service together. It was a surprise to see him dressed in something other than prisoner orange!top
Letter from Parents: February 2005
I have just found news about your organization.
My son was in the Army and he went to Albania first and then to Iraq, where he stayed 14 months from May 2003 to July 2004. He came back for s short visit to us in Miami where we noticed that he was unhappy with the army and the government, we saw him distant from us and we assumed it was normal for somebody coming from war to be that way, we prayed with him, he went to church with us, and then he left, he would call us from time to time and he was so distant, but we were expecting him to come back to Miami and then we thought he would be fine with us.
On January we learned that he was so depressed after having come back that he could not sleep well, and even though he asked for help, the army did not provided to him, and for some horrible thing "a so called friend" he was offered drugs to help him easy his pain and suffering, that he accepted and became addicted to it, this happened while he was in Iraq and the army did not offered him rehab, neither expel him to be sent back to Miami (as it was supposed to) he was at war and he needed to finish his task.
When he went back to Germany he asked for help with his problem and he was offered therapy but his superiors told him that his job was first so he could not do the therapy. On December he was caught doing drugs again and he escaped and went AWOL. Then finally the Army called us at home to tell us what has happened to him, they added that when he was caught he had some 20 pills on him so they assumed that they were to be sold, so he is charged with drug dealing also.
Our son called us and explained the whole ordeal that he went through while in Iraq and Germany when he was back. He had not told us anything because he thought that since we were Christian we would condemn him and not help him. We assured him that we are here to help. Since he has deserted he is in Germany and he is trying to seek a permission to stay there.
For us he is a victim of the situation, he did not leave Miami a drug addict, neither a bad boy, he was just a boy who was recently married and wanted more for his family, he thought it would be easy to get help this way, 5 years later (he signed for 6 years) he is in the middle of a divorce, a deserter, thank God not using drugs anymore because we help him find the help he needed, not thanks to the Army. Having experienced war for him was more than he bargain for, and for a war that is senseless and without any moral in it is more than he can bear.
The reason why we are contacting you is to know whether somebody can help us.
I will appreciate if you can direct us if we could find a solution to his problem. The Army has told me that he will face jail time for being a deserter and also for the drug charges. Do you have any person there who can help us find a solution in this?
H & A
A Follow-up, August 2005:
I am answering you so you know what has happened in my son's life. I sent him the website and while he was trying to get some information he was caught on March 5th., and we got him a private lawyer to take his case; he declared himself guilty of some of the charges, he has been given 15 months, and a discharge for bad conduct, we flew over there for the trial and we are assured that the Lord has confronted him to the reality of his life, he has re-committed himself to the Lord and we have seen that little by little the peace that only the Lord can provide has come to him. He is taken his new role so seriously that recently he was appointed chaplain assistant and he is in charge of Bible studies and prayer meetings in the detention center.
He has given 5 years of his life for something that it was not even worth it and I as a mother, still cry at nights thinking that he should not have gone through that horrible experience. The private Psychologist that we hired has diagnosed him with post traumatic stress, but the
Army did not accept it; they said he was only depressed for being confined.
His unit has behaved very bad with his situation; he has not had his glasses since March 5th of this year. I talked to him 10 days ago and he told me that he was promised to be sent for an eye examination, but it never happened, I am waiting for another call from him so he can tell me whether it happened or not. He is also supposed to have shoes that are suitable, but he has an old pair of snickers and he has not been provided more than that. But why should I complain at least he is not facing war at this moment and he is detained and kept safe for the time being.
We are looking forward to the first of next year to see him again here in Miami and to enroll him in therapy so he can again be a productive citizen.
Thanks again for answering my e-mail and now we have to look for a place that will treat him since the Army did not accept that he has post traumatic stress he is not eligible for medical care under the veteran administration, at least that is what they told him.
Blessing from the Lords
H and A
An eMail Exchange with an AWOL GI June 2005
Comments in bold by Chuck Fager, Director of Quaker House
Thanks for getting back in touch; I've been wondering and worrying about you.
Chuck, thank you for the info on my situation. It was really encouraging to talk with you as well. I know that I'm not alone and some crazy person with these feelings and ideas.>>
Definitely not, on either score: you're not crazy, and you're not alone.
It's been a while since we talked, I spoke with my command about options on getting out and they presented me with one: being a CO. But after looking at the regulations that cover that option and looking over the criteria I felt that it wasn't for me.
I'm not surprised, or dismayed by this. There are plenty of people who are don't have CO convictions who nonetheless are deeply opposed to the Iraq war and all that goes with it. No matter what the regs say, their consciences (and yours) are as authentic and worthy of respect as anyone else's.
I know this is different than what you believe, and I respect your stance and especially the support you offer soldiers coming back and dealing with these things, but I felt that I didn't fall into that category. In my heart, after praying and getting in the Word, I felt that God justifies the taking of life in certain situations. Even in certain conflicts (ie. WWI/WWII etc.), but definately not this one.
Maybe sometime when this is over with we can talk about all this. meantime, just stay safe and know there's no judgment on this end.
I do, however, feel that my feelings and stance is completely valid and legitimate.
A few sundays ago, during worship, I was praying about things and felt a real peace about leaving. So, last week I packed my stuff up and left leaving a note that explained my feelings and that I wouldn't manipulate my emotions to categorize myself into qualifying for CO.
Okay. I'll certainly stand behind your choice.
I have contacted GI Rights Hotline and they are helping me, but please pray for guidance and protection if you would. Only time will tell what will happen, but I wanted to thank you and let you know your help is definately appreciated. God bless and stay real.
I'll do my best.
If you haven't already, let me recommend you google the piece "AWOL in America" which was recently published in Harpers. Here's a link: AWOL in America. It tells of several GIs who have been through inner conflicts much like yours. It would be valuable reading.
If you need to talk, give me a call anytime (tho I'll be away a lot in July). Just be careful about where you're calling from, as we assume that somebody else (other than God) could be listening.
Let me know how your situation resolves itself.top
Questions about Desertion
Thanks for being willing to listen. Im about to call a couple of number, including the GI rights hotline for some more guidance. Im starting to suspect that it would be a better idea to wait to become a deserter then turn myself in at Ft. Sill. What do you think? Im going to call my battalions chaplain and talk to him, then the GI rights line and then another contact who's in the army. Plain and simple I just want out. I cant stand anything about the army or any of the people in it any more. I pretended to get along with people and pretended to like what we were doing but I just cant do it anymore. Do you have any advice as to what I should do? Okay, thanks for listening and thanks for being willing to help out, there are few enough people out there willing to do so. I honestly think Im going to have to go with the deserting then turning myself in option because Im in the Infantry, which makes it even harder to get out, especially considering the fact that my unit is deploying in mid August. Im stationed up in Ft. W ... just in case that info will help any. Thanks again.
Thanks for your note. I need to emphasize that we don't tell people what they should do; you need to make your own decisions, in light of what you feel is right and best for you.
Concerning AWOL and desertion status, our experience is that if someone goes AWOL and stays out for more than 30 days, the army policy is to Drop them From the Rolls of their unit (or "DFR" them for short). That's when the AWOL GI becomes a potential deserter. I say "potential" because it only means the GI is "eligible" to be charged with desertion, not that he definitely is.
Once an AWOL GI is DFR'd, then he can call the Deserter Information Point # (for the Army it's: 502-626-3722 or 3724) or NCIC (24 hours a day at 502-626-3711/3712 or 3713). There si also information at an Army deserter information website.
At this website, the army advises AWOL/deserters to turn themselves in at the nearests army post. We would recommend that such a person go directly to either Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, or Ft. Knox Kentucky and report there, where there are specialized units dealing with returned AWOLs. Why? Because an AWOL may be taken into custody and then shipped as a prisoner to Ft. Sill or Ft. Knox, which is not fun.
Our experience is that many returned AWOL GIs at Ft. Sill or Ft. Knox are processeed out of the army (that is, discharged) in a week or two. They usually receive a Genral Discharge, characterized as Other Than Honorable. The experience of several AWOL GIs is further described in an article published by Harpers Magazine. This article is online at: AWOL in America.
I hope this is helpful, and good luck.
Chuck Fager, Director Quaker House
Chris had left a message on the answering machine. When QH called 45 minutes later, his mother answered. Chris was stationed at a base in Texas and had gone AWOL [absent without leave] for the second time. The Sheriff was coming to the house with a warrant. The family was anxious and Chris was afraid to return to his base. QH explained the possible scenarios that Chris might face. Over the next five days, QH took calls from Chris's sister, father and mother, all of whom remained anxious. Chris was held for four days in the city jail and taken by military police back to his base, and has been told he will be discharged.top
Juan called from a base in the South. He had just returned from two weeks of home leave and was very concerned for the safety of his wife. His brother was involved with drugs, and Juan's wife and children had been threatened as a way to put pressure on Juan's brother. He didn't know what to do, and was thinking of going AWOL. He said he could not speak to the police, believing that that would ensure the threats were carried through. He felt he couldn't get help to bring his wife to the USA as he couldn't raise the matter with his Congressman. With QH encouragement, Juan approached his commander requesting a further compassionate leave in order to settle matters at home, and also consideration for a compassionate reassignment [he would not inform his commander of the reasons for his anxiety]. His commander refused his request, and told him that he would not support bringing his wife and family to the USA. The next call from Juan came from a bar [going by the noise in the background]. He had managed a few days emergency home leave, and spoke of not going back. QH informed him of the consequences of such an action. After one more call the next day, QH has heard nothing since and presumes Juan is AWOL.top
Mary was extremely frustrated. Despite having three college and university degrees, the military had her working as a supply clerk. Mary joined after being told that the military would pay off her university loans. And, while she had to sign up in a particular field the military said they'd shift her quickly because of her skills, and also that after 18 months she could go to officer school. After basic training and her advanced training, she got to her permanent station to find out the hospital wasn't going to use her nursing skills and she would remain a supply clerk. She also found out the money the military paid for her student loan was taxable, which she was never told before going in. And, she found out that if she went to officer school, the three year loan re-payment package would end, defeating the main purpose of her entering the military. She raised the matter with her new commander who told her that nothing could be done. He also advised her not to raise any questions during the orientation and welcome that the base commander gives new personnel. Mary was now working part-time to raise the funds needed to pay her extra taxes. QH discussed with her developing a case of deceptive enlistment, a very difficult case to win because it means documenting the fact that the recruiter made false or misleading statements pivotal to Mary's having entered the military. QH referred Mary to a competent lawyer. Due to a sudden medical problem, Mary's situation has changed and she now expects a medical discharge.top
Rocky entered the military with debts, and then the military messed up his pay and he started getting late on payments. With a wife and two kids, he has been forced to get two army emergency loans. He says his wife could work, but the money would simply go to pay for day care. With the help of army economic counselors, Rocky developed a new budget. The budget leaves his family with $36 per month of flexible funds. Rocky phoned QH for help as his wife was now so fed up with the army that she gave him two months before she would leave and take the kids. Rocky had spoken to his commander who told Rocky he's not interested in Rocky's family, and that Rocky would not be given a hardship discharge [Rocky has a guaranteed well-paying job he can go to, which would settle all his current problems]. Rocky was seriously considering AWOL, but didn't want a bad discharge. QH suggested he write to his Congressman. QH also suggested that he develop a written application for a hardship discharge since everything from his commander is verbal, and that he also send a copy to his Congressman. The commander would then need to formally address Rocky's needs rather than brushing him [and his family] off.top
Ralph was in 15 months when he called. He said he had seen a therapist before going into the army but didn't tell anyone. Now he was very down and depressed and had no friends. He got a counseling statement [a reprimand] from his sergeant for 'not participating'. He spoke of wanting to take an Uzzi machine gun and kill. QH encouraged Ralph to seek professional support on base and sent him an information packet.top
Letter from John
This letter is not unusual: "Hi my name is John and I am a soldier at Ft. Bragg and I want out. I was wondering if you could help me out … I have been in for one year and a couple of months. And I have become increasingly depressed to the point where I can't hold it in anymore. I don't really care for an honorable discharge, I just don't want to go to jail or something for leaving and I want out fast. I feel as though I am at the end of my rope here….please help." QH sent John a package of discharge information and encouraged him to seek some professional support.top
Theresa's mother called QH because Theresa's husband had very recently been killed in a military accident. Theresa went to her commander to request a hardship discharge and had been getting negative responses, perhaps because she was a linguist in the intelligence field and they wanted to keep her for her skills. The chaplain told her he'd support her request and then changed his mind. They wondered what they could do. QH suggested that Theresa apply formally for a hardship discharge and also contact her Congressman for assistance.top
Jason is an officer with a history of depression, but who has never seen a psychiatrist. Jason also told QH that he tried to commit suicide once. None of this is on his military record. He now wants out from the nuclear program, and told them he's willing to pay back the money the military paid for his university, but is receiving no response and wonders what he can do. Since he has no formal history of depression, QH suggested he could either start to develop one within the military, perhaps eventually leading to a discharge, or he could flunk his tests and get out of the nuclear program [which seemed to be his major concern].top
Chris is married with one child and he and his wife want more. He has been ordered to take the anthrax shot and they are both concerned about its possible long-term effects. He phoned QH to find out about his options. QH gave Chris the latest information on the military's attitude and actions taken against those who refused to take the shot.top
Rita joined the DEP about 10 months prior to calling QH [DEP = Delayed Entry Program, also known as 'sign now, join later']. She told QH that she wanted out of the program as her grandmother was seriously sick and her father wasn't working. She was the only one working and she wanted to take care of her grandmother who lived with her and her father. She had been trying to tell this to her recruiters for months. Not only were they not listening, they were telling her she had sworn to God, trying to make her feel guilt. They told her, "You're a woman and act like one." The day before her call, Rita had met one of the senior recruiters who told her she had no choice but to join, and that they would make up her mind for her. They told her that her reasons are not good enough to get out of the DEP, and even asked her if she now had a boyfriend, probing into her personal life. Rita was very anxious when she called, not knowing what to do. QH explained how to approach her commander, and Rita is now out of the DEP.top