Litkicks Message Board Archive

letter to a general

Posted to Poetry and Politics

: Major General Douglas Burnett The Adjutant General St. Francis Barracks 82 Marine Street St. Augustine, Florida 32084

Dear General Burnett, July 8, 2004

I am writing to you on behalf of the mother of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, a soldier with the Florida National Guard, who has served in the Army and then the Florida Guard for over eight years. He was sent to Iraq in March, 2003 and came back to the U.S. for a two-week R&R in October. At that time he decided he could not in good conscience return to Iraq. On March 15, Camilo Mejia reported back to the military at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, and submitted to them a 40-page application for Consciencious Objector status. He was sent to Ft. Stewart, Georgia and on March 25 he was charged with desertion. I understand that he is currently doing time in the brig at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.

I understand that he was AWOL beyond the specified time limit and that he was technically guilty of desertion. I also know that had he reported back to duty within the specified time limit, with his conscientious objector statement in hand, he would have been summarily dispatched back to Iraq with promptness and speed, not honoring his legal right to claim conscientious objector status and have that claim processed while being assigned to alternative duties or placed in a holding status. That is why he waited beyond the legal limit for AWOL before he reported back to the Florida National Guard.

As a former classmate of yours, class 70-08, Randolph AFB undergraduate pilot training, I know the honor, integrity and dedication it took to train for a military position. I volunteered for duty in Vietnam in a challenging assignment, after much research, to fly the C7A Caribou tactical airlift. I not only upgraded to aircraft commander after five months in-country; I also became a squadron flight instructor after eight months, got an outstanding officer evaluation rating and a recommendation for a regular commission.

On returning home, I joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and, in January, 1972, while in KC-135 tanker training, I declared conscientious objection. I did so because I had seen massive ecocide to the landscape of Vietnam and eastern Cambodia, from artillery shelling, air strikes, Agent Orange defoliation, and carpet bombing. I was subject to redeployment back to Southeast Asia and had determined that I was not going back there in any capacity, especially in direct support of the ongoing bombing, which had nothing to do with our national defense and was a continuation of the suffering imposed upon those people and the landscape.

I had letters of support from three pilots I served with in Vietnam as well as a letter from my training room mate, a B-52 pilot trainee, stating that they supported my sincerity, although they did not support my opinion. I also had support from a classmate of ours, (J.O'K), a pilot with the Massachusetts Air Guard.

I am asking for the same thing from you regarding Sgt. Mejia. I believe that his actions were based upon his highest ethical, moral, and spiritual standards. I am asking for you to support his conscientious objector application. My own stance was costly to me in terms of benefits, career, family disposition, years of alienation and struggle until I was welcomed back by my own Vietnam Veteran brothers and the larger peace community, an ongoing membership with the VVAW, Vets for Peace, and the now burgeoning Vets Against the Iraq War.

I am delighted that a former anti-war Vietnam Veteran, John Kerry, is quite possibly going to be the next president. It is my fervent hope that he will issue orders returning the National Guard to homeland duty, increase the scope of the Coast Guard, build up an attitude of international cooperation beyond the ballyhoo posturing of the current tragic president, and disengage us in measured steps from Iraq, with Godspeed.

My own duty in Vietnam involved flying into every artillery base in 2/3/and 4 Corps and picking up casualties. I personally picked them up, not being privy to some elite status, as I saw it, and loaded the guys myself along with the grunts. As it was, I resigned my commission in June, 1972. I was threatened with a court martial, ordered to fly, then I forced the military to comply with regulations. I would have done brig time before I’d have gone back to fly for a lie. I marched with the Vietnam Vets Against the War while in the Air Force, off duty, in several demonstrations, and was at the large “Last Patrol” demonstration in Miami Beach at the Republican National Convention in 1972; that was memorialized in Oliver Stone’s movie based on a book by Ron Kovics, Born on the Fourth of July.

I moved permanently to Florida in 1988.

Please give Camilo Mejia support for his conscientious objector status, and advocate for the return of the National Guard to homeland duty. I appreciate your consideration and time.

U.S.A.F. undergraduate pilot training class 70-08, Randolph A.F.B. Texas

ps for the litkicks folks, Camillo is no longer a sargeant. He be a private. first class in my opinion.
you can write to him (send me an email)