Third ID Soldier Faces Possible Court Martial - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

02/08/05

Third ID Soldier Faces Possible Court Martial

Right now, thousands of Fort Stewart soldiers are either in Iraq or on their way there. But one sergeant isn't with his troops. He's claiming conscientious objector status. WTOC spoke with him about his refusal to deploy and possible court martial.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman says he's received email from all over the world supporting him and his decision not to go back to Iraq. After fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he saw things that made him incapable of returning.

"I saw a girl in Iraq that had had her arm burned just black up to the shoulder," he told us.

He joined the Third Infantry late in 2003. He filed for conscientious objector status a year later, just weeks before his fellow members of First Brigade deployed.

Military prosecutors say it doesn't work that fast. "Just by filing for objector status does not prevent him from any other requirement of being a soldier," said Maj. Chet Bragg of the Judge Advocate's Office.

Benderman says few outsiders can judge his actions unless they've experienced what's he's been through. "Seeing how dehumanizing it is for our men and women in order to get along in that environment takes away all our humanity," he said. "You can talk about it in abstract terms before you see war yourself, it's easy to do."

With the world watching, he now awaits his fate. A military judge is considering the case and could decide in the next ten days whether or not they'll call for a court martial.

If they do, and convict him, he could get five years in prison, a reduction of rank and dishonorable discharge.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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