By Bob Meola, Courage to Resist. March 17, 2014

“I could see that it disturbed some of them [who had been deployed].  Some showed emotions when they told their stories. Some didn’t show any emotion…”

Army Conscientious Objector Chris Munoz told me that after high school, he, “worked full time at a group home for mentally disabled kids” and that after a short time in the Army, “I realized that my conscience wouldn’t let me participate in war.  My CO claim was not based on any particular religion.”

Chris’ dad was in the marines.  Chris had a friend who was on HRAP [Home Recruiting Activity Program].  That friend told Chris that the pay in the Army was “very good” and that he could “go to college for free.”

 

Chris’ friend took him to the recruiting station in 2012. He was there for about an hour and a half.  Chris enlisted because he wanted to make more money to support his wife and his daughter and take advantage of the free education the Army promised.  He, “did it for the schooling and the pay.”

The recruiter talked about different jobs Chris could do. He signed Chris up to take an aptitude test.  Chris qualified for infantry, communications, truck driver, and cook.  Chris went into Communications.

“I was a multi-transmission systems operator. I was the radio guy who worked in the STT—the big old box with radios in it on the back of a Humvee.  We communicated with satellites and connected people and set up direct lines for people to communicate with people in other places.  I only did that in my AIT [Advanced Individual Training]. Once I got to my actual duty station at Fort Hood, I never touched it [communications] again.

“I got to Fort Hood in April, 2013.  I was attached to the 1rst cavalry division.  We did vehicle maintenance.  My unit was getting ready to leave to JRTC [Joint Readiness Training Center]. I didn’t go because I had permissive TDY [Temporary Duty] to get my daughter and move her to Texas.  My wife was already with me. I was moving my family to Fort Hood.

“When I got back to Fort Hood, they [the Army] decided I didn’t have to go to Fort Polk.  I stayed back with Rear Detachment with everyone who wasn’t deploying.  My unit came back in June, after JRTC at Fort Polk and then left for Afghanistan on the 4th of July.  I stayed at Fort Hood. 

“I mowed lawns, cleaned the battalion offices and meeting buildings and delivered things. We were on call if the unit down range in Afghanistan needed anything.  It was our job to get it to them. I was at Fort Hood from April to November, 2013.

“Once I was put on flight detail.  Some people had family emergencies and had to come back from Afghanistan.  We’d have to go to the airstrip and unload bags and welcome them.  We were also moving our battalion down the street to another building.  We packed up and moved everything.

“I was in basic training, at Fort Benning, Georgia, from May 28th to some time in July, 2012. When I was there, it was clear that the Army wasn’t for me when the drill sergeants started telling me stories from down range, from where they had deployed, and one of them said he had to take a child’s life.  I had worked with kids and realized I could never take a child’s life.  I hadn’t thought about that when I enlisted.  I enlisted to provide for my family.

“I could see that it disturbed some of them [who had been deployed].  Some showed emotions when they told their stories. Some didn’t show any emotion.

“I spoke with my drill sergeant about it—that this career wasn’t for me.  He talked to me and then dropped the subject. He said it’s not that bad a career and that I might not get deployed because of my job and that I’d never be put in that situation [having to kill a kid].

“Then I saw that some of the guys with me would fail their PT [physical training] tests and they would start the paperwork process of getting them out of the military.  Some left within a month.  So I thought I should fail my PT to get out.  They saw me failing the PT test over and over and told me I just needed to pass it to get to get to AIT and then if I failed it there, they’d send me home a lot faster.  So I passed it and graduated from basic training and went to AIT at Fort Gordon, also in Georgia.  I had taken the PT test five times. 

“When I got to AIT, I did my job schooling. I had to take the PT test again. I failed it there and they had me take it seven times.  I failed all of those times. I went to my platoon sergeant and explained that this wasn’t for me [because Chris couldn’t kill anyone].  He said he’d talk to another platoon sergeant.  I talked to him again. He said to just pass it and then go to my ‘regular duty station and fail it there and they won’t keep you if you don’t pass your PT.’  I trusted him.

“I passed it and got to Fort Hood. I failed my PT test there. I had to talk to my first sergeant. I explained it all to him too—that I couldn’t be a soldier and kill.  He had me tell my life story and why I joined. I told him what I could and couldn’t do and that I was ready to go home.  He was strict. He told me I wasn’t going home and that I would deploy and that he would control my life when we deployed. That was in April, 2013.  

“When my unit went to JRTC, I hadn’t yet taken my PT test again. I failed the PT Test the first week I was there. I never took a PT test again until September, 2013.  From July to September, I was with Rear Detachment—all the people who couldn’t deploy. None of them needed to take the PT test.  In September, it was decided that everyone needed to take a PT test. 

“I first called attorney James Branum in early June. I had seen a story that talked about Courage to Resist in the Fort Hood newspaper.  I called Courage to Resist to get help getting out of the Army as a Conscientious Objector. I spoke to Mike. [Chris spoke with Courage to Resist Organizing Collective member, Michael Thurman, who himself had received help from Courage to Resist when he applied for and was granted a discharge as a Conscientious Objector from the Air Force.] He got me in touch with James Branum.  I emailed him.  He said that I qualified as a Conscientious Objector. James came to Texas and helped me start the process to apply to get out as a CO.

“I turned in the paperwork in June. My commander gave it to the first sergeant. He said I was still going to deploy regardless.  He said I could go through the process while I was down range [in Afghanistan].

“I told my lawyer, James Branum, what my commander had said.  James asked me if I was OK to go to the press and pressure them.  I spoke with my wife about it. We agreed that it wouldn’t be easy but that it would be the best thing for me.

“I didn’t do an interview.  My wife spoke to a reporter from a CBS station. They did a story on me. James had a petition for them not to send me.  It got thousands of signatures.  There was another petition that was against me.  We got through it.

“On the day of deployment, the 4th of July, I told James that I was going to stand my ground. And not go.  He explained to me that it could happen that they could incarcerate me at Fort Leavenworth or just leave me behind on Rear Detachment at Fort Hood. 

“On the 4th of July, we were supposed to show up with all of our gear packed. I had decided not to go. I showed up without any of my gear.  I went up to my platoon sergeant and let him know that I wasn’t going. He said, ‘Who said you aren’t going?’ I said, ‘I did.’  I told him I understood the consequences of my decision but that I was not going to go.  He said, ‘Okay’ and he told me to wait and he got a hold of my commander. 

“When she got there, she took me to battalion and I had to talk to Command Sgt. Major.  He asked me what was going on. I explained everything. He said he hadn’t heard anything about it until ‘last night’ when he saw it on the news. He said if someone had told him about it, it would have been handled differently, instead of it having to go to the news. He told me that I wasn’t deploying and that they would leave me behind with the rear detachment.  I was allowed to go home. I went through each step to get my C.O. packet approved.

“There was a little dislike for me amongst two or three sergeants that seemed to have something against me because of my C.O. packet.  No one was supposed to know about it. But after a month, even privates started asking me about it.  They asked me why and why I joined.

“When the packet got approved, one sergeant said I’d get a General Under Honorable Discharge.  He said that was the best I could get. He said he’d ask about getting me an Honorable. He came back and said all I could get was a General Under Honorable Conditions.  But later that day, a three star general recommended that I get an Honorable Discharge. I could see it in his face [the sergeant’s] that he didn’t like that at all. I did get an Honorable Discharge. He was the only one who seemed to be against me.

“I will start school at a community college later this month.  I want to study medicine to be a pediatrician.

“I decided on the CO packet based on being against war in general. While at basic, when I heard all the stories of killing and just the horror behind the stories, I knew, at that point, that war wasn’t for me. Who was I to join the military and fight for a cause that is said to be a good cause? Maybe we are not fighting the bad guys. Maybe we are the bad guys. I thought long and hard about that statement during my time in basic and it made me realize that being in the military and fighting in a war that I had no idea whether it was right or not was the turning point. I couldn’t be a part of something that I felt in my heart wasn’t morally right. Whether it be this war or any other war. The killing of children, fathers, brothers, mothers etc. It was all wrong. I just couldn’t see myself ever doing that to someone’s family member. Taking a life wasn’t for me. Fighting a war that I had seen, in my eyes, as ‘morally wrong’ wasn’t for me. That’s how I came about being a CO applicant. It wasn’t based on religious beliefs. It was something deeper than that. It was my conscience telling me that there was no way, in this lifetime, that I would ever be able to look someone in the face and take their life. There was no way I could ever fight for something I didn’t support.

“In the beginning of November, I had been in touch with HQDA [Headquarters, Department of the Army]. I called them and checked the status of my application. They said the packet had been sent back and the decision had been made. Three hours later, my squad leader told me I’d start out-processing  because it was approved and I’d be home by November 26th. 

“My family and I reached home in California on Thanksgiving Day.”