I hope he survives the ordeal. Some might call him a coward, but I think he is very brave in facing up to his choices. I know a lot of people who don’t have the moral fortitude or personal integrity to say “I’ve made a mistake.”
April 1, 2003 03:49 PM EST
SAN JOSE, Calif. – With his sister carrying his duffel bag and his mother holding his hand, a 20-year-old Marine reservist surrendered to the military Tuesday and declared himself a conscientious objector.
Wearing camouflage fatigues, Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk turned himself in at the locked gates of the Marine Corps reserve center where he was assigned, weeks after refusing to report when called up to active duty.
“Ultimately, it’s my fault for joining in the first place,” said Funk, who didn’t show up when his unit was deployed to Camp Pendleton. “It wasn’t as well thought out as it should’ve been. It was about me being depressed and wanting direction in life.”
Funk said he’s attended every major San Francisco Bay area anti-war rally since finishing his military training last fall. He insisted his decision had nothing to do with the war in Iraq.
Those applying for a conscientious discharge must submit a detailed letter explaining how their feelings have changed since joining the military. Then there are interviews with a military chaplain, a psychiatrist and an investigating officer. The final decision is made by top military commanders.
Applications for conscientious discharges always increase during wartime. There were 111 granted during the 1991 Gulf War. Only 28 were granted last year, military officials said.
“The Marine Corps understands there are service members opposed to the war,” said Capt. Patrick O’Rourke, spokesman for Funk’s unit, adding that he hadn’t received Funk’s application yet. “He’ll be treated fairly.”
Funk, who grew up in Washington state, enlisted when he was 19 and living on his own for the first time. He said he caved in to pressure from a recruiter who capitalized on his vulnerability.
“They don’t really advertise that they kill people,” Funk said. “I didn’t really realize the full implications of what I was doing and what it really meant to be in the service as a reservist.”
Funk said he began doubting his fitness for military service during basic training last spring when he felt uncomfortable singing cadence calls that described violence and screaming “Kill, kill, kill.”
Funk’s father, Robert Funk, enlisted in the Navy reserves and was called up to active duty in 1970 to serve in Vietnam. He said he wishes his son hadn’t joined in the first place.
“I don’t think he realized how close we were to getting involved in this conflict,” Robert Funk said from his home in Everson, Wash. “I thought his views didn’t line up with military service and he should wait and really look at it.”