Lawyer Says Discharged Reservist Only Beginning
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ An Illinois Army reservist was discharged Saturday and excused from duty in the Persian Gulf after saying she was a conscientious objector, officials said.
Spc. Stephanie Atkinson ″is the first reservist that’s been placed on active duty who has refused to report,″ said her attorney Tod Ensign, director of New York-based Citizen Soldier.
Atkinson, who had been interned since Nov. 2, was released from house arrest at Fort Knox on Saturday, said Master Sgt. Ken Distler, a base spokesman. Atkinson’s mother picked up her daughter and they left, he said.
Military authorities on Friday approved Atkinson’s discharge under ″other than honorable conditions,″ the most adverse of the three possible discharges in such circumstances, said Fort Knox spokeswoman Laurie Viggiano.
The Army, however, does not recognize Atkinson as a conscientous objector. Instead, they allowed her to be discharged in order to avoid a lengthy and costly court martial, the spokeswoman said.
The 23-year-old Murphysboro, Ill., resident was a postal clerk with the 300th Adjutant General Postal Company. The unit got notice Oct. 15 that it was to go on active duty, but Atkinson was not with the group when it left for the Persian Gulf on Oct. 30.
She said she thought the U.S. military was in the Persian Gulf solely for economic reasons.
The Army formally charged Atkinson earlier Friday with desertion and missing movement to an overseas assignment, Viggiano said. In order to avoid a lengthy proceeding, Atkinson requested a ″discharge for the good of the service.″
If she had been convicted at a court martial, Atkinson could have faced a dishonorable discharge, a five-year prison sentence or demotion to the Army’s lowest rank.
Other groups are rallying behind the resistance. Last week, the National Conference of Vietnam Veterans Ministers met in Washington, D.C., to denounce the military buildup in the gulf.
The Rev. R. Michael Stuart, with the Presbyterian Church USA Global Mission Unit, was in Louisville to support Atkinson. He handed out a statement from the ministers group that read: ″War does cruel violence to humanity. War dehumanizes both ourselves and our enemies. War thrusts upon us the low morality of mere survival.″
Atkinson’s case is similar to one in Hawaii in which a Marine is awaiting court-martial for refusing to go to Saudi Arabia.
Cpl. Jeffery Paterson is seeking conscientious objector status and has been charged with unauthorized absence and disobeying orders. He has been restricted to the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station since a federal judge ordered him released from the brig on Sept. 21.