Punishing Her for Opposing War, Speaking Out, And Being a Woman
By William Boardman
PFC Kimberly Rivera, war resister by (wrl)
What Do You Call a Woman Who Goes to Prison for Her Beliefs?
A Texan married to a Texan, Private First Class Kimberly Rivera, 30, is a poor, pregnant mother of four who was sentenced to 10 months in jail on April 29 by the United States Army.
Her crime, after serving a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006, was seeking help from her military chaplain about her growing conscientious objection to the American war in Iraq, getting dishonest advice from her superiors, and thinking as a result that she had no realistic options other than returning to Iraq or emigrating to Canada. She and her husband and two children went to Canada in 2007.
Her story illustrates some of the chronic injustices of American life, not least the extra vengeance the society likes to visit on those who resist, and make that resistance public.
Economic Coercion Boosts Enlistment Rate
By 2005, Kimberly and Mario Rivera had two children and financial pressure, even though they both had jobs at the local Walmart, where they'd met. Kimberly, then 22, had her first child when she was 19 and the second two years later. They were living in Mesquite, Texas, a city of about 140,000 within the greater Dallas-Forth Worth metro area.
Surveying their limited prospects, Kimberly and Mario decided that one of them should join the military. Both of them needed to lose weight to qualify. Kimberly lost weight faster and enlisted in January 2006. Her incentives included an $8,000 signing bonus and family health insurance.
The enlistment process led Kimberly to expect to spend her time loading and unloading equipment at Fort Carson Colorado, where she was a wheeled-vehicle driver in the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. But in the fall of 2006, her unit was ordered to Iraq, where she was a "gate guard," as she put it in an interview with Courage to Resist in 2007:
" I was a gate guard. This was looked down on by infantry soldiers who go out in the streets, but gate guards are the highest security of the Foward Operation Base. We searched vehicles, civilian personnel, and military convoys that left and came back every hour. I had a huge awakening seeing the war as it truly is: people losing their lives for greed of a nation and the effects on the soldiers who come back with new problems such as nightmares, anxieties, depression, anger alcohol abuse, missing limbs and scars from burns. Some don't come back at all.
"On December 21, 2006 I was going to my room and something in my heart told me to go call my husband. And when I did 24 rounds of mortars hit the FOB in a matter of minutes after I got on the phone . . . the mortars were 10-15 feet from where I was. I found a hole from the shrapnel in my room in the plywood window. That night I found the shrapnel on my bed in the same place where my head would have been if I hadn't changed my plans and gone to the phone."
What Happens When Your Country's Leaders Betray You?
Kimberly hadn't thought that much about the war in Iraq during 2002-2003, when she was preoccupied with being a new mother and the Bush administration was preoccupied with lying the country into an illegal war. In Iraq, in 2006, her disillusionment grew quickly. She wrote somewhat telegraphically about her feelings later: