On The Front Lines Of Resistance | Sojourners

On The Front Lines Of Resistance

Bryan Centa never expected to be taken by today's "volunteer army" in chains.

He enlisted as a medic in the Army Reserves in March 1990 to help pay his way through college and to gain some concrete experience toward his goal of becoming a nurse. As a medic in the peacetime reserves, he didn't think much about going to war or even carrying a gun. All that changed August 2 with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Bryan began to have questions about the morality of his involvement with the military. He was realizing, according to his wife, Stacie, that he couldn't fight in a war and needed time to sort out his beliefs. So the couple went in to talk with his recruiter, to ask for a delay in his going on active duty. The recruiter told them that it was impossible to delay activation -- which they discovered later was untrue -- but promised them that Bryan's active duty stint would be served in Germany, and that he would not be sent to Saudi Arabia.

When it became clear that his unit would be sent to the Gulf, Centa filed an application for discharge from the military, on the grounds that he was in conscience opposed to participation in war. In mid-December, when Centa's unit began weapons training for medics, he declined to participate.

Centa's commanding officer in Germany refused to receive his application for a "conscientious objection," or CO, discharge, and tried to dissuade him from making his claim. He first told Centa that medics couldn't file for CO. When Bryan found out that was untrue, the officer told him that if he filed, he would "go to jail for 14 years." In the meantime, his superior told him, if he persisted in seeking a CO release, "We'll put you on the front line without a weapon and see how long you last."

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