In late November, 2001, Anita Cole received her discharge from the U.S. Army as a conscientious objector (CO) to war.
Before I entered the military, I felt as many people do. Generally speaking, I felt murder was wrong, but at times I considered killing unavoidable and even justified, such as in war.
I am a person of intense conviction. My parents raised me believing that service to society - volunteering time and donating resources - is a moral imperative. Since I was a child, I have always been grateful that I am an American citizen and felt everyone should serve his or her country. The Armed Forces appealed to me as a meaningful, shared public effort. After graduating from college I decided to join the Army. I was not motivated to join the military for - nor did I receive - college loan repayment or any other monetary incentive. At the time of my enlistment, I felt full of pride and deeply fulfilled by my commitment to serve my country.
During Basic Training, bayonet training coupled with the mantra, "What makes the grass grow? Blood, blood, blood makes the grass grow," shocked me. But even at the time, I thought if I were called to war, then I would embrace the warrior spirit, too
In August 2000, I was sent to the range to qualify on my assigned weapon, the M-16A2. I was deeply tormented and traumatized as I fired a deadly weapon at human silhouettes. Perceiving my obvious distress, one sergeant tried to offer me encouragement saying, "Come on, you're a killer!" At the time, I was so distraught that I was not able to qualify.
I told myself that I would only be, "poking holes in paper." This act of willful self-deception enabled me to qualify; however, the range NCO's words, "Come on, you're a killer," have continually haunted me. This comment cemented in my mind my objection to my duty as a soldier.
My conscience, ensuing meditation and reading, and introspection have compelled me to honor the true nature of my self. I will not be able to live in any sort of peace if I kill, let others kill, or support any act of killing in my thinking or in my way of life...In other words, I am a conscientious objector in the literal sense.
This text has previously been published in The Broken Rifle No 70, May 2006. http://wri-irg.org/node/3010