conscientious objector Stephen Funk
STATEMENT FROM STEPHEN FUNK
My name is Stephen Funk. I am a Marine Corps reservist who spoke out against the invasion of Iraq. Now I am being charged with desertion, even though I returned to my unit after completing an application for discharge as a conscientious objector. My military court date is scheduled for August 11 here in New Orleans and I am facing two years in the brig. Challenging the war from my position was extremely difficult and I am very proud of my public stance, but now I need your help.
I was born and raised in Seattle where I joined protests against globalization at the WTO. I moved to Los Angeles for college where I protested for socioeconomic justice at the Democratic National Convention. I have always considered myself an activist and stand with the oppressed peoples of the world. Since high school I have worked with several campaigns for the disadvantaged, political prisoners, and for peace and justice in our communities. I left Los Angeles because I felt the school I attended was too politically apathetic and moved to the Bay Area in hopes of attending UC Berkeley. Despite all this, I was persuaded to join the Marines. Out of school for the first time with depression from the lack of direction and confusion in my life, a recruiter was able to sell me on what I might learn in basic training. Leadership, teamwork, discipline and most importantly a sense of direction and of belonging are what convinced me. It was a decision I made when I was 19 and in a clouded state of mind.
The boot camp experience quickly snapped me back into reality, but by that time it seemed too late to do anything. The purpose of military training is to churn out non-thinking killing machines. All humans have a natural aversion to killing, and being forced to shout out "Kill, Kill, Kill" everyday is a major stress on the mind, body, and soul. One must go through a transformation in order to accommodate the unnatural way of life that the military teaches. I, however, resisted and as a result my moral convictions against violence grew stronger. A marksmanship coach told me that I had a "bad attitude", that in a real situation I wouldn't score as well as I did. Without thinking I replied that he was right, because killing people is wrong. It was as if I had taken a deep breath after holding it for two months, and there was no way I could ever go back and "go along with the program".
I had figured out that war itself was immoral and could not be justified. Yet everyone told me it was futile to try to get out. We were trained to be subordinate in our thoughts, words, and actions. It's hard to go up against all that, even when you know you are right. In February my San Jose-based unit was called up to support the attack on Iraq. I could no longer just obey.
For the next six weeks I kept in contact with my command, explaining why I had not yet reported. I completed my conscientious objector paperwork that I had started earlier, and I attended anti-war protests with hundreds of thousands of others.
In the face of this unjust war based on deception by our leaders, I could not remain silent. In my mind that would have been true cowardice, having a chance to do some good, but playing it safe instead. On April 1, after a press conference in front of my base, I turned myself in. I spoke out so that others in the military would realize that they also have a choice and a duty to resist immoral and illegitimate orders. You don't have to be a cog in the machinery of war. Everyone has the unconquerable power of free will. I wanted those who may be thinking about enlisting to hear and learn from my experiences.
Under media attention, the military initially claimed my application for discharge would be handled quickly and fairly, and that I would likely receive only non-judicial punishment for my unauthorized absence. Now that public scrutiny has died down the military says that I deserve to be convicted. I feel I am being punished simply for practicing my First Amendment rights, and they are seeking an unfit punishment to dissuade others from becoming conscientious objectors.
On base I've been harassed a few times. Some people have told me I'm a traitor, a coward, and unpatriotic. I have also had a few death threats. However, I have also received tremendous positive feedback, even from some of the enlisted people. As my commanding officer explained to the press, "The Marine Corps understands there are service members opposed to the war." I am certainly not alone.
In writing my application for discharge, I was completely honest about who I am. Part of that meant acknowledging that I am gay. I believe that homosexuals should be able to serve if they choose, and that Don't Ask Don't Tell is an awful policy that only helps the military perpetuate anti-gay sentiment among it's ranks. However, I am not an advocate for gay inclusion in the military because I personally do not support military action.
I have a great defender in San Francisco-based National Lawyers Guild attorney Stephen Collier. He hasn't demanded a bunch of money. However, I need to quickly raise enough for travel, lodging, and research. This will cost $10,000 at least. My family and I cannot afford that.
Thank you for your support and please forward this to others who may be able to help.
Stephen FunkJune 26, 2003