In 1968 at the height of the Vietnam War, an estimated 1,300 soldiers who had enlisted in the U.S. Army declared they were conscientious objectors and petitioned the Army for their release from the service. This powerful memoir shares the true story of one of those men – Jan Parkinson. Through his book, Parkinson shares a true act of courage to stand up for what was right.
Jan had grown up believing that we—the Americans —were always the good guys, resorting to violence only when necessary. But from the moment he got off the bus at Fort Dix, New Jersey, to begin basic combat training, he found the Army's focus on the use of violence to resolve conflicts between people or nations was deeply disturbing. "We are all here to learn to be killers," one of the drill instructors bragged as he was teaching the new soldiers how to make a bayonet wound more gruesome and painful for an adversary.
Although he recognized the need to serve his country, it did not override his Christian faith which he believed did not give someone the right to take another person's life regardless of who ordered it.
Courageously, he informed his company commander, Captain Douglas, that he was a conscientious objector, and he would not use a weapon even in training exercises. He also refused to accept his Army pay since it would indicate his acceptance of the Army' actions and motives. Douglas considered that an act of defiance and removed him from all training, had him housed in isolation and falsified his records so he would be transferred elsewhere and become someone else's problem to solve.
He ended up in Fairbanks, Alaska where his situation changed dramatically. Although he was still part of the "war business," he was not confined to an army base twenty-four hours a day, so he was sometimes able to reconnect with the civilian world.
Ironically his new commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Colonna, believed he was sincere and as a result, he was one of the very few conscientious objectors released from the military.