By Howard Lisnoff Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jan 14, 2009, 00:15
Kimberly Rivera followed a path that is very similar to that of others who have been lured into the military with the hope of improving their lives. She held patriotism in high regard. What she got in return, however, was the rude awakening that the military and war can be brutal, and the effects of being part of an occupying force in a foreign land can be traumatizing.
Of the 50 known war resisters in Canada seeking sanctuary from war, Kimberly is the only woman.
Initially, an Army Reservist from Texas, trained as a mechanic, Kimberly left the military in 2001, and went back home, and had a child. She left the Army with no benefits that would help her raise her family. She returned to a job at Wal-Mart, and found that she could not adequately support her family from the money she earned there. “I still felt like a 24-year-old loser because our jobs were not paying the bills for the apartment, food, car, car insurance and health insurance and credit card bills.” (Courage to Resist, December 18, 2007). The stress this living arrangement caused forced Kimberly to decide to move back to her parents’ home, a choice she admits was not ideal.
Seeing no hope to improve her life, Kimberly joined the Army once again in an attempt to get benefits. She became an active duty soldier. “The Army offered job security, sign-on bonuses, a food and clothing allowance, medical benefits, housing allowance. ‘Everything I needed, they had.’” (Courage to Resist, December 18, 2007)
Kimberly was deployed to Iraq where she saw the effects of war on both her fellow soldiers and civilians while performing duty as a gate guard at a military base. She experienced two episodes where mortars and shrapnel hit the area of the base where she worked. An Iraqi friend was severely wounded by shrapnel in a separate incident. Kimberly began questioning everything about the war and her role in it while on a two-week leave from Iraq and decided that she had seen enough of war and its effects on her, other soldiers, and the civilian population. She headed for Canada and sought sanctuary in early 2007 after settling in Toronto.
In keeping with the record of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, and as in similar cases, “Canadian authorities have ordered that she be deported this month along with her husband and their children.” (“U.S. soldier in Canada ordered back,” The Palm Beach Post, January 8, 2009) Unless the order of the Canadian government is reversed, the Rivera family will be deported on January 27. Kimberly faces up to five years in prison if court-martialed by the Army and imprisoned. The military usually punishes those more severely, who like Kimberly, have spoken out about their plight.
Kimberly’s case is not different from many soldiers seeking a better life in the military and who possess strong feelings of patriotism for their country. She had few skills, and like many others, sought out military service as a way to improve her life. What she got, however, was a rude awakening about the brutality of war.
Howard Lisnoff teaches writing and is a freelance writer. He was a war resister during the Vietnam War. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An audio interview with Kimberly Rivera can be found at Courage to Resist.