- This questionnaire, filled out by Vincent LaVolpa, was posted to the Military Counseling Network website
Why I joined
Whenever some one asks me why I joined, I tell them I ask myself that everyday. The truth is that I joined for money. And on a deeper level, because it was easy money. Little did I know. I joined the Army in the winter of 2002 after my 20th birthday. I was going to school at a local community college and working as a waiter. College was getting hard to pay for and so I started looking for someone or something to help pay for school. This led me to ... the Air Force. Air Force was my first choice. I spent time learning about them as well as the Army. Having the recruiters argue over one another and point out all the bad sides of each other. But when it came time to decide, the Air Force was giving me a hard time, and the Army recruiter was there, arms wide open. He must have seen me from a mile away because he knew everything to say to me. I asked about school and he told me the Army has 100% paid tuiton assistance while I was in. Of course he neglected to mention that I would be in the field constantly with a rare chance to take classes, but then again why would he? His job was to get me in the Army and if that meant telling me what I wanted to hear or not tell me what I should hear then so be it. By any means necessary. I told him that I wanted to be a medic. Saving lives appealed to me. He said it wouldn't be a problem. He told me about the MGIBill. It pays up to $50,000 for college. That caught my attention.
My Recruiting Experience
We scheduled an appointement for MEPS and I took the ASVAB test. I tested well and went on to take a physical. On the day of the physical about 10 of us lined up in our underwear and went through a series of test. Hop on one leg. Turn your head and cough. After the physical we went and looked at the job availablity. The first thing I asked for was Medic. He said that we had it, but I couldn't get my college bonus money if I chose it, which was a lie. So then we started looking through other jobs, one of them being an engineer. He explained to me that I would be a member of a team whose job it would be to survey land and decide what kind of bridge I would need to fill a gap. I would be part of a bridgebuilder team. And occasionally we would tear the bridge down. I said that sounds good, but what if I don't like it? He explained I could always change jobs. He again neglected the details. To change jobs you have to be in two years, with the rank of Specialist attained, and it has to be a job that the Army is in need of, which tends to be a combat MOS. But the job sounded good, the bonus was $40,000 for college, and I got a guranteed duty assignment in Europe. Thats not too bad, so I signed. Turned out he lied.
My Basic Training Experience
When I got to basic in March I was excited. I felt I was doing something with my life and my family supported me. I found out quickly that 12B Combat Engineers don't build bridges, they tear them down. 12B Combat Engineers deal with explosives and landmines. Landmines! I didn't want to deal with landmines. I hate landmines! I talked to my Drill Sergeant to see if I could change jobs and he laughed. So I called my recruiter - turns out he left town. So here I was stuck in a job I hated but didn't want to disappoint my family. I finished Basic Training on June 20th and by August I touched down and my boots were on Baghdad soil.
My War Experience
Looking back I see the influence that basic training had on me. Iraq on the other hand had a whole new influence of its own. Right off the back, I questioned why we were there. I don't think I ever really felt right about it, but of course having the Army drill in to my head honor and duty, I continued my service. I felt a compassion for the people there. I mean, here was a culture living without fresh water, without electricity, beaten by the weather, under two different types of oppression, but they still found a way to smile. They were good people with values that were strong in family and God. I would question how these people were to be a threat to the United States. I spent 9 months in Baghdad and just shy of 3 months in Karbala. The time I spent in Karbala was a "hot combat zone." The things I saw there really helped shape what I believe now. In war, we as men are asked to do things to other men that should never be asked, things that people just should not do to other people. It was there in Karbala I witnessed the means to the end.
I redeployed back from Iraq in the summer of 2004. I had time now to recollect what I had witnessed, what I had been part of. I contemplated the cause and its value. Feeling that the means was not worth the sacrifice for the uncertain end, I felt that I had to make a decision. Am I for this or am I against it?
I decided I am against it.
Making this decision took alot of soul searching. I had to search for who I was, for what I have to take responsiblity for. I am war. I, the soldier, am the one who is responsible for it happening and on a personal level I take responsiblity for what has happened during my service.
Looking back I feel that I was pretty naive. The fact that I had to witness a combat zone to understand that killing humans in not a good thing still disturbs me. The hard fact is I was in it for the money from the beginning. And people died because of it. And I have to live with that
On a personal level I know what I did and I did it for all the wrong reasons. I take responsiblity for it. Thats what being a conscientious objector is to me. I don't know the reason you might read this, maybe you're for war, maybe you're against it. Maybe you straddle the fence. But what I do know is that if your going into war you need to consider why you're doing it. If you're going to do it for the money, you're going to find it's not worth it. If you're doing it because you signed and you feel there is no way out, there is. If you feel that you're against war but your Command won't understand, it's your life and the one who stands in front of your bullet.
If you are going to war, do it because you honestly feel deep within that all the men that die on both sides of the war, all the civilians that are killed on and off the battle field including woman and children, all the children that have to grow up without parents, all the cities that are destroyed, all the lives that are destroyed are worth the cause. Because it will be you who is responsible for it. Whether it's your finger on the trigger, your thumb on the bomb or your pen sending supplies, it is you that is responsible. If you don't believe deep inside you, that those cities, those lives, those men, women and children are worth destroying for your cause, then they will haunt you for the rest of your life. Good luck to you reader. I hope that you make the best decisions not only for you, but also those around you.