“These are the chronological events that led me to conclude that I had no other choice than to refuse the deployment order to Iraq.” by Sgt. Kevin Benderman
I was deployed to Iraq in March 2003 and returned in September 2003; while I was there I was with the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. We staged our vehicles in Kuwait and then proceeded to move out into Iraq. We were carried on the back of heavy equipment transporters to about fifty miles south of Baghdad and then we downloaded the vehicles. We were in the vehicles while they were on the trucks, which I thought was a little odd considering that in the garrison environment those types of actions are considered unsafe and are therefore not allowed.
During the road march north through the country I saw the effects of what war does to people, those effect are such; homes were bombed, people were living in mud huts, people were obtaining their drinking water from mud puddles along the side of the road and were catching rain in buckets when it did rain, they begged us for food and water and we had enough, we would share it with the people that were there, the kids looked especially hungry and thirsty. The commander told us to stop giving the people food because they would get food from other sources after the trucks started bringing in relief supplies.
Somewhere along the route there was this one woman standing along side the road with a young girl of about 8 or 9 years old and the little girl’s arm was burned all the way up her shoulder and I don’t mean just a little blistered, I mean she had 3rd degree burns the entire length of her arm and she crying in pain because of the burns. I asked the troop executive officer if we could stop and help the family and I was told that the medical supplies that we had were limited and that we may need them, I informed him that I would donate my share to that girl but we did not stop to help her.
When we were there, the command elements ordered the unit to perform all types of actions that are considered unsafe to soldiers, such as, having military vehicle maintenance personnel retrieve missiles that were present in our area of operations using a M88 recovery vehicle and transport them to sites to be destroyed by the explosive ordnance personnel. They also ordered mortar personnel to enter into a compound that held various types of munitions that the Iraqi army had left behind and to load these munitions onto trucks. When these personnel were not working fast enough for the 1SG he ordered them to throw the mortar rounds onto the trucks whereupon one of rounds exploded and inflicted shrapnel wounds on two soldiers.
We were using an old custom building that was located in the middle of the town that we were in for the troop HQ and naturally that attracted the attention of the local populace. Small children would come up to the wall that surrounded the place before we had a chance to apply concertina wire along the top of the wall and they would toss small pebbles at us inside the walls. We would tell the children to get down from the wall and leave the area, one day the troop commander saw us telling the children top get down from the wall and he told everyone there that if the children came back at any time after that to shoot them if they were to climb back onto the wall.
I was in charge of a group of soldiers that were in their late teens through their early twenties and I had to constantly tell them to keep their heads down because they thought that the war was like the video games that they played back at the barracks. War is not like that at all and until you have the misfortune to engage in it for yourself you cannot begin to understand how insane it all is. There are no restart buttons on reality and that is why I cannot figure out why now we are pursuing such a policy in this day and age. War should be relegated to the shelves of history, as was human sacrifice. If you stop to think about it you become aware that war is just human sacrifice. There is no honor in killing as many as you can as quickly as you can.
We, in America refer to ourselves as civilized and people from other countries still living the simple life are backwards and un-civilized, but what is civil about the capability to create atomic weapons? What is civil about being able to kill over 100,000 people with just one bomb? We may be more technologically advanced but are we more civilized? I think the answer is no. War has to be considered the absolute enemy of mankind. Where we would be without it? I would presume that we as a nation would be out of debt if we were to apply as much energy to pursuing sound economics as we do pursuing war, we would never get sick if we spent as much on preventive medicine as we do on war, the elderly would get affordable prescription medication if we were to use the resources that are spent on war to work for that purpose, there would not be un educated children if we were to buy new classrooms and books for schools instead of new weapons systems, social security would be a lot more secure with some of the money that war costs.
Why do we want to train the young people in the world that the only way we can settle our differences is to kill one another? Why shouldn’t we train them to become surgeons or homebuilders? Why shouldn’t we train to become anything but killers? I think that the world would be better off if we were to do that instead. I have talked to veterans from every war from WWII on and their opinion is that the wars they fought were to be the last war ever fought. How many more are we going to fight before we realize that the act of war is for small minded people that are intent in only satisfying their own needs and not the needs of the people in general? I do not want to be killed because I am living in a place that has a ruler that wants to go to war with any one.
The only way to bring peace to the world is to let the people of the world decide for themselves what they want to spend their efforts on. I feel that in this day and age governments start wars, and not people, and since the governments want the wars then why don’t we let the government fight the war? All of the politicians that want to fight a war are free to trade places with me at any time. I will gladly go and learn war no more.
There are activities that I have been involved in that have led me to these new and developed beliefs, and they are numerous but I can tell you some of them. When you walk in the woods and you see a deer stand and look at you, or you are on the river in the morning and the mist rises off the water while you hear the morning calls of the river birds, and the otters just lie there as you glide past in your boat and don’t even move, you know that there is a better way. When you can find solitude in the woods that are so filled with peace and the wildlife that is all around you, you feel the better way all around. A person must acknowledge the fact the we are a part of the universe and the universe does not want to be out of sorts with itself, so why do we spend so much effort on trying to be out of sorts with others of the human race?
I have been to the war zone and I have seen the devastation it causes. Why can’t everyone agree that war is the most repugnant of all human endeavors? Why is it considered noble to be able to look through the sights of a rifle and kill another human being from 300 meters away? Why are you a hero if you can throw a hand grenade farther than the next guy in the foxhole? Shouldn’t these young men and women that are in the army be throwing footballs or baseballs or softballs instead? It would impress me a lot more to see someone make the winning free throw at the basketball game or kick the winning extra point at the football game, or knock in the winning run at the World Series than to see them be able to shoot more humans from 300 hundred meters. I would rather they spend their time at the golf course or the tennis courts or in college, any where but in the war zone trying to survive and having to kill to do it. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
A Brief History of Sgt Kevin Benderman’s Military Service
I first entered the army on 27 Jan 1987 and received basic training at Ft. Bliss, TX. I received advanced individual training at Ft. Sam Houston, TX. My military occupational specialty was designated as 91R10 Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist which is basically the equivalent to a U.S.D.A Food Inspector.
My first duty assignment was Ft. Leavenworth, Ks. Where I worked in the commissary and my duties included; inspecting poultry and dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, canned goods, and the general sanitation of the facility. My mission was to ensure the health of the soldiers. Was a part if the United States Army Medical Dept. Activity or USA MEDDAC.
I received an Army Achievement Medal while serving on the unit fund counsel, which utilized funds, raised through various activities to help provide for soldiers that were not able to get home during Christmas. I received another AAM for assisting during an increased workload due to personnel shortages during the Persian Gulf War. I also received my first Good Conduct Medal during this enlistment.
I received an honorable discharge from the Army after the Persian Gulf War on 24 Apr 1991. I re-entered the Army 26 Jun 2000 and was awarded the MOS of 63M10, which is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle mechanic. Re-took basic training at Ft. Knox, KY and went the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY
Received AAM for being honor graduate from the Class.
First duty assignment after completion of training was Ft. Hood, TX. Unit was 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division. Also known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Went to Iraq with the 4th I.D. in March 2003 returned to Ft. Hood Sep 2003. Re-enlisted with choice of duty station of Ft. Stewart, GA.
ARMY AWARDS RECEIVED INCLUDE TWO ARMY COMMENDATION MEDALS, 4 ARMY ACHIEVEMENT MEDALS, 3 GOOD CONDUCT MEDALS, 2 NATIONAL DEFENSE SERVICE MEDALS, And ONE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM SERVICE MEDAL. RECEIVED NUMEROUS LETTERS OF COMMENDATION. RECEIVED COMBAT LIFESAVER CERTIFICATION, WAS CHOSEN TO BE THE STUDENT 1ST SGT OF THE PRIMARY LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT COURSE OUT OF FOUR HUNDRED STUDENTS.