President Bush, Members of Congress, and the American People
November 6, 2006
Dear President Bush,
I grew up in Arlington, Virginia. Joining the military was something I always wanted to do. Throughout my life I've heard of all the wonderful things the U.S. has achieved. They have always been there to fight for what is right. I was willing to join the military and risk my life for my country and to fight for what is right just like others have done. When I was 17 years old I enlisted in the Marine Corps. Since I was still in high school I had to complete my senior year.
When the U.S. was going to war with Iraq, I was confident that my country must be doing the right thing. I couldn't see a reason why they would lie to us. One week after I graduated high school I was sent off to Marine Corps boot camp. Near the end of boot camp the only thing that was told to us about Iraq was that we were going to be sent to Iraq to die (that's how the Drill Instructor's joke).
After boot camp I was sent to infantry training, and after I finished that I was sent to my unit in Camp Lejeune, N.C. All we did was train for Iraq. I didn't have cable T.V. so I had little exposure to the world around me; I knew that Iraq was getting worse and that there were people who didn't agree with the war.
I left for Iraq in March of 2004. It wasn't until I got there that I found out what was really happening. I didn't need the news or to hear speeches to tell me that what was happening there was wrong. It was all as clear as day. The city I went to was called Mahmudiyah, and had around 200,000 people. There was just a constant disrespect for the people, like pointing guns at the people just to get them to stop. There was also harsh treatment of detainees.
I remember one night I had come back to base after a nighttime raid, and was clearing my rifle in a clearing barrel. I turned around, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something get thrown out of the back of a truck called a 7 ton (the bed of the truck is about 6 to 7ft high). It looked like a person, but I thought I was mistaken, that since it was dark outside my eyes were probably playing tricks on me.
When a lot of Marines started gathering around and quietly talking I went to see what they were looking at. It was an Iraqi detainee with his hands behind his back and a sandbag over is head. The detainee's body was convulsing and his breathing sounded like he was snoring. When the sand bag was taken off his head and a light was shined in his face I could see that his eyes were swollen shut and his nose was clogged with blood.
Checkpoints are where innocent civilians die. When manning a checkpoint, about 50 meters away is something called the TRP (target reference point). The TRP is usually marked by a cone or some sort of debris. If someone passes that line you have to open fire on the vehicle and the person inside.
We all knew that if a suicide bomber were to attack that it would just be him in the car and that there would not be any innocent women or children in the car. We were never told to use our own good judgment and to not fire if there were women and children in the car. We had to fire no matter what. I've had a couple friends who have opened fire on a car that crossed the TRP and it turned out that they just killed a kid, or someone's brother or wife.
I just remember my corporal saying something like "Oh, Lcpl is a little down today because he accidentally shot a kid in the head today". During my 7 months in Iraq I have never shot an innocent person and I am glad I don't have that burden to deal with.
I came back from Iraq in October of 2004. I was willing to stay in the military and put the events that happened in Iraq behind me, but when I heard rumors of us returning to Iraq the stress and anxiety of what happened there started coming back to me. I was not willing to go back and fight a war that I did not believe was right, and I didn't want to put myself in a situation were I would possibly kill an innocent civilian. So, I went AWOL and hid out at a friend's house until I figured out what to do. While I was AWOL my mom took me to a therapist who diagnosed me with PTSD.
Since I was not willing to return to Iraq, the only option I saw was to go to Canada. I have spent nearly two years there living, working, and married to my wife (who is six months pregnant).
Now I feel that I am ready to return to the US and face the consequences of refusing to participate in a war that I do not believe is right. When I return on Election Day, I face a court martial and a charge of Missing Movement with punishment of up to one year in jail.
Please, President Bush: do what is right. And do everything you can to bring our troops home from Iraq.