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Sergeant Benderman: Serving Time for Having a Conscience

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Message R. J. Kovic
The following e-mails are presented in their original form with the permission of the author, Monica Benderman- wife of Sergeant Kevin Benderman.

The decision to publish them was made because no attempt at a narrative was able to capture the matter-of-fact anger of the first e-mail, nor the frustrated anger of the second.


Briefly, Kevin Benderman had served as an army mechanic for 10 years when he developed moral and religious objections to the war in Iraq and, after serving there in 2003, he refused to deploy there again. He filed an application for conscientious objector status on 28 December 2004.

His application was denied and he continued to refuse to serve. Subsequently he was tried and was acquitted of desertion but was convicted of the lesser charge of missing movement, meaning he skipped his Jan. 8 deployment flight. He was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment, a loss of pay, and dishonorable discharge at the court martial. He is still in prison.

It should be pointed out that the wheels had fallen off the WMD argument by the time of his trial and that Sec. Rumsfeld said in a little covered DOD Press Conference that but for WMD's, there would have been no war, much to the astonishment of a reporter who asked about "all the other reasons" for the war.

To find out more about Sgt. Benderman, His military record, his writing expressing his reasons for not going back to Iraq after serving there, Sec. Rumsfeld's statement, and/or if the reader wishes to help (with even a simple note of support), sites, links, and an e-mail address are provided below.

One should note the discrepancies for violations (note 45 days for a Captain selling body armor on E-Bay vs. 15 months for Sgt. Benderman, etc.) and the conditions of the prisons.

The first e-mail was in response to a query as to the status of some submitted questions for Sgt. Benderman and when the answers could be anticipated. The second e-mail was in response to a query as to the first e-mail being published. Subsequent e-mails clarified the second as an affirmative response.

Monica Benderman's e-mail on status of Kevin Benderman's responses to submitted questions:

To give you some background into the last 2 weeks - because I don't remember if I have already -

Kevin still has not been in contact with any attorneys. He requested contact with the Trial Defense Services here at Ft. Stewart, as they are still responsible for his post trial procedures, but the prison said that he could not contact them, that he would have to wait for someone from their office to contact Kevin. He has been at Ft. Lewis for 2 months, now, and still nothing, and put the initial request in during the first week he was there.

I was to have received official info from Ft. Lewis during his first week there as well. We waited and waited.. I finally complained about that through Amnesty, and appeals were sent to the installation from Sept. 9 - 12th. Interestingly enough - I received a letter 2 days ago, from the Lt. Col. in charge of the correct. facility. The letter was postdated to Aug. 29th, one month after Kevin arrived there, and it said that the letter was to notify me that Kevin was had "safely arrived at Ft. Lewis." Stupid people, they postmarked the letter Sept. 15th, so clearly, the only reason they even sent it was because of the Amnesty appeals. Many of the inmates were amazed to hear that I had gotten a letter. Some of them have been there for 10 months or more, and still their families have received no official notification.

We also had to use Amnesty to appeal for Kevin's right to a civilian chaplain. The warden at the facility called Kevin into his office and told Kevin that he felt that I was pushing for a civilian chaplain, but that he wanted to see if Kevin really wanted one. He told Kevin that he would prefer that Kevin use the prison chaplain. Kevin said he would not. He has been trying since he first got there, to get the prison chaplain to address his concerns over his first CO application and the manner in which it was handled. The prison chaplain told him that he would not help because he didn't agree with Kevin's beliefs -- he said that he believed in war.

The prison is an all male facility, but they use female guards. This is a great concern to the inmates. The block guard desk is positioned right in front of the showers. There are no partitions, no shower curtains.. and the toilets are there in the open as well. The female guards watch the inmates taking showers. Big problem, and against Army regs.

There is no heat at the facility. There are only 2 crisis counselors for 225 inmates. There are exposed water and sewer pipes, and the raw sewage leaks from the pipes onto the hallway floors in the living areas of the inmates.

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