Mark Wilkerson: "My Conscience Is Clear"
Mark Wilkerson speaks out on his reasons for opposing the Iraq war
I am now a twenty three year old man. When I made the decision to join the Army, I was a boy. When I made the decision to go AWOL I was still in many ways a boy.
I realize in retrospect that going AWOL may not have been the right decision for me to make, but given the circumstances I found myself in at that time, I felt it was the only logical decision for me. I felt as though I wasn't being taken seriously by my chain-of-command. I was crushed when my conscientious objector application was denied. I had failed somehow in conveying in words just what I felt in my head and heart, and that was that I could not, in good conscience, serve as a soldier in the United States Army. I could not deploy to a foreign land with a weapon in my hand, representing my government. I am not willing to kill, or be killed for my government. When I enlisted in the Army, I thought I would be able to, but after Iraq, my beliefs became such that I could no longer participate.
This was what I told my chain-of-command. I felt they didn't care what I said or believed. So I fled. I quit my job. No other occupation in the United States punishes you as badly as what the military does for quitting your job. But that's ok. I'm willing to face whatever punishment the government deems appropriate.
In my Battalion's Retention Office, there is a quote by Retired Army General Bernard Rogers, and it states, "This is a volunteer force. Soldiers volunteer to meet our standards. If they don't meet them, we should thank them for trying and send them home." Well, I enlisted into the Army with the best intentions. I had other options. But I wanted to serve my country. And when I felt my country was doing the very thing we pretend to condemn, I took a stand. And to me that is the core of democracy. If the Army feels as though I didn't meet the standards, they should thank me for trying and send me home. There's no lesson prison can teach me. Prison is established for criminals who committed crimes that the majority of our society can say in morally wrong. And with this crime, I don't know if that can be said. Even though I committed a crime, I'm no criminal. And even if I do go to prison, I'm no longer a prisoner. My conscience is clear. I'm no menace to society. I have stayed true to myself and my moral code throughout my life, and that will never change. Just let me live my life, and I know I will live it well.