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Confessions of a Military Industrial Complex Conscientious Objector

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Richard Wilson

I was raised in the military industrial complex. My father was a participant in the Manhattan Project while serving in the Army Corps of Engineers. He was employed by The Dow Chemical Company while Dow was the administrator of the Atomic Energy Commission's Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado. Dad had retired from G.E. in Pinellas, Florida while under the contract of the Atomic Energy Commission. I also worked for Dow at Rocky Flats. Additionally I spent 11 years in the United States Air Force and nearly three years in Vietnam and Thailand.

After graduating from high school in 1962 and facing a draft with no possibility of additional education, I chose the Air Force. The military offered some of the best technical schools and vocational training of the time and many of us who had no real financial means depended on that opportunity to prepare us for life.

The choice to join the military was not a difficult one. I had no reason in my life's experience at that point to doubt the honor of such a decision. The opportunities available were limited with the draft looming over my head.

After serving for six years, I was married, became the faher of a wonderful daughter, and had spent 22 months in Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines. I was discharged "honorably" at McChord Air Force Base and returned to Arvada, Colorado where I attempted to survive civilian life.

My son was born and fortunately I found employment in the general aviation industry. Income was critical as usual for a family so I applied for an instrument technician position at the Rocky Flats Atomic Energy Commission facility managed by The Dow Chemical Company. The Rocky Flats Plant site was responsible for the manufacture of "pits" or the plutonium triggers used in nuclear weapons.

Afterbeing unableto adapt to the corporate "cog in the machine" imprisonment I found in the everyday life at that time, I found it necessary to return to the Air Force two years later.

Four more years in the Air Force found me back in Southeast Asia and struggling with marriage and separation from my family. I was again discharged from the Air Force "honorably" and worked several jobs while trying to piece a living together.

Unfortunately during this return experience, my marriage collapsed in divorce. After several years, I found an opportunity to be employed by Lockheed Aircraft Service Company, a defense contractor operating out of Ontario, California.

At that time, my idea of successful employment included wages, benefits, a title and retirement, so this seemed like the American Dream! I made it! I was even flying as a crew member training Air Force personnel. Flying was a lifelong dream. What more could I ask?

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After accepting a position to serve as a Technical Representative for Lockheed, training Air Force and supporting their flight operations in Europe, my new friend and wife and I moved to Germany.

Pamela and I had just married in 1983 and through that blessed experience I chose to become a follower of Christ. We chose together to take that journey through her church. My record of follow-through and commitment was not very good and, therefore, I wanted to live up to that challenge and to be clear about what my new commitment entailed.

Through my study I started questioning my participation in the military industrial complex. The more I questioned, the more I studied. I do not know if I was looking to justify what I had been doing or if I was looking for an escape. I did ask several priests about the dilemma and received no consolation or pastoral counsel with regard to a direction either positive or

I found that I had to ignore my spiritual enlightenment to continue my career. After all, I was being "successful" and I had to make a living! All reasons were solid and easily justifiable, especially if I turned my back on the God of nonviolence. While struggling with these two opposing forces -- the manufacture and deployment of weapons systems versus living a life of peace and nonviolence -- I finally erupted with the pain and guilt that I felt.

When the build-up to the first Gulf War began I knew I could not participate. No more weak excuses or compromising my own integrity for money, title, status and ego. During the preparation and build-up of personnel and equipment for the invasion of Iraq, technical representatives at our location were asked if we would participate in the Air Force's missions and deployments. This would be on a voluntary basis. It was like blowing the top off of a capped oil well. I not only told my management that I would not take part in this war but stated that it was the most immoral act we could be involved in!

I suddenly realized I could not support any war anywhere. It was wrong and obsolete. The fraud of war would never produce true peace. All of those involved and many generations following have historically lived and died in anxiety with the shadows of war looming in their past.

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Living in the Northwestern part of Washington I find time to write between work and other activities. I especially enjoy being an active participant in our local peace and justice organization as well as our local Veterans For Peace chapter. (more...)
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