At the age of seventeen I enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the usual delusions of grandeur, service, and heroism. On March 10, 2003, I reported for boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego. Less than a year later I was on my first tour in Iraq as a weapons company mortar man attached to Third Battalion, Fourth Marines.
In April 2004 I took part in the first siege of Fallujah. It was a stressful, intense and lasting time for me. For the remainder of that tour I lived in the police station of Haditha and there befriended many of the local police. After weeks of very little sleep and constant guard duty, my battalion returned home only to learn that our mission at the station was for nothing. Apparently the Marine Corps had lost interest in Haditha as it planned for a second illegal siege of Fallujah. After we marines left, insurgents raided the Haditha police station and assassinated the men I had worked with and helped make targets of by occupying the police station.
My battalion returned to the states in August but deployed just four short months later in January 2005. Once again we deployed to Fallujah. Unlike during my first tour, there were few notable instances my second time around. For me it was seven months of reflection about the disaster we had created in Iraq, my government, and the price of service.
Upon completion of my second tour I became an urban combat instructor for a new training course that the Marine Corps had set up to prepare battalions for Iraq. I volunteered for this duty because I was disgusted by the stories I had heard and events I had seen–arbitrary shootings and irresponsible actions by other service members. I felt by teaching I could help to mitigate some of the effects of war, and I think I did though not enough. After a year of combat instruction I recycled to my unit where I was discharged honorably shortly after in March 2007.
In the fall of 2008 I received notification that I was being considered for activation. Upon my discharge I had vowed never to return to military bondage, and I do not intend to. I reported to the screening muster in October 2008 to show the Marine Corps that I am happy in my civilian life, healthy, fit to serve and now have the courage I didn’t have when I was younger. Since October I have been working diligently on behalf of GI resistance and peace activism.
Like many other resisters I could have simply ignored my Individual Ready Reserve recall orders to no personal consequence save an administrative discharge, but instead I am choosing to make a political point in an effort to educate the United States citizenry on the unjust and dehumanizing practices of their military.
The Marine Corps has issued me orders to report in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since the corps has announced that Afghanistan is now its primary mission, it is hard to know where I would be stationed if I were to show up.
But my deployment destination doesn’t matter. I will not participate in any despicable war waged on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan or any other nation that has a dollar value assigned to it.
My time as an instructor taught me that I must operate outside of the system if I hope to be truly helpful; otherwise my efforts will be limited by the very system I am trying to alter. Never again will I be duped into fighting battles for empire and economic colonialism. Because I am questioning the very legitimacy of our military, I no longer recognize the military’s sovereignty over my person.
My hope is that I can create enough public outrage and support for my resistance to protect me from military prosecution. However, because I did knowingly show up to the muster and am openly defying my orders in an attempt to change the behavior of the military, there is a likelihood that the Marine Corps may court martial me.
I am doing this within the paradigm of civil disobedience. It is my hope that my actions will help end the current occupations and amend our foreign policy sooner, rather than later. I am making this request for support with the hope that my actions will have meaning. I am expecting prosecution from the Marine Corps in the form of a court martial. It is my intention, however, to use this as an opportunity to spread the word of GI resistance and generate the conversation of military legitimacy. Please help me to do this with a financial contribution.
Tax-deductible donations for the Benji Lewis Defense Fund (closed)
P.S. Any funds that are collected but not required by my legal defense will be used to assist other military GI resisters through the efforts of Courage to Resist.