|The Story of Agustín Aguayo
Agustín Aguayo is a US soldier that the Munich American Peace Committee met almost two years ago. We have got to know him well and we respect him greatly.
Army Specialist Aguayo is a Mexican-born naturalized US citizen from Los Angeles and a veteran of the Iraq War. Right now he is sitting in a cell in the US Military Prison in Mannheim. He has been there for more than three months. He is awaiting a court martial and a possible jail sentence of up to seven years for refusing to go back to Iraq for a second one-year tour of duty.
A combat medic, Aguayo was decorated for his service under combat conditions during his first tour in Iraq. At the beginning of that tour in February 2004, he filed an application for recognition as a conscientious objector. While in Iraq, he refused to load his gun as required when on guard duty or patrol.
Although the officers and experts who interviewed him found him to be sincere and recommended granting his CO application, it was later denied by higher officers in August, 2004. No reasons were given.With the assistance of the Mennonite based Military Counselling Network, the American Voices Abroad, a network of American peace groups in Europe, to which our Munich group belongs, and the Center on Conscience and War in the US, 12,000 dollars were raised to retain lawyers to file a civil case, that is, non-military court. In August of 2006, his appeal was denied. Meanwhile, in Schweinfurt he had received orders to deploy to Iraq for another year. His active duty contract, due to expire in January, was extended against his will by the Army until at least September, 2007. On August 25th he filed the present appeal which was denied.
On September 1, Aguayo did not appear when his unit went to Iraq again. The next day he turned himself in to the US military police, expecting to serve a jail sentence. But his commander ordered him brought to Iraq by force if necessary. Aguayo escaped through a rear window of his military living quarters in Schweinfurt. As a fugitive, he made his way via Munich and Mexico to his family, who were now back in California. He drove with family and supporters to Fort Irwin Army base and turned himself in.
Very soon afterwards, he was put in handcuffs and taken back to Germany by plane. He was put in the US military prison in Mannheim, where he may now be charged with desertion to avoid dangerous duty, which may mean up to seven years in prison.
Aguayo's contact with his family, consisting of his wife Helga and his twin eleven-year-old daughters, has now been reduced to brief phone calls.
You might also be interested to hear part of Agustin's testimony in his own words:
I have been to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and I know what to expect. I know what will be expected of me. And
because of this first-hand knowledge, I simply cannot take part in this deployment¦ By helping countless soldiers for sick-call as well as driving soldiers around on patrols I helped them get physically better and be able to go out and do the very thing I am against: Kill!
As a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, I have seen many veterans whose lives have been shattered. Many men came back with missing parts, and countless physical and emotional scars, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have personally seen my comrades come back to commit suicide, drink themselves to death, and develop a strong addiction to drugs. It is obvious to me that these men's lives were destroyed by war. What participation in war does to our own soldiers is another reason why war is fundamentally immoral and wrong¦
In my last deployment, I witnessed how soldiers dehumanize the Iraqi people with words and actions. I saw countless innocent lives which were shortened due to the war. I still struggle with the senselessness of it all, Iraqi civilians losing their lives because they drove too close to a convoy or a check point, soldiers being shot by mistake by their own buddies, misunderstandings (due to the language barrier) leading to death. This is not acceptable to me. It makes no sense that to better the lives of these civilians they must first endure great human loss¦
I would much rather suffer the consequences of missing a movement „ prosecution by court-martial" than be part of any war activity. To participate in this deployment I would have to ignore my deep sense of responsibility to uphold my moral values. No human has the moral authority to decide when it's acceptable to end another's life in this way.
I have made my choice for peace, for humanity, and for a better tomorrow. Even though I understand that one of the consequences of refusing to deploy may possibly be a trial by court- martial and even my imprisonment, I cannot and will not deploy.
Helga is struggling to raise funds for his large legal fees and is seeking for a job to support their children. Aguayo receives no pay and his family no support from the Army. Although through the efforts of the Mennonite Military Counselling Network, the American Voices Abroad and fundraising efforts of friends and supporters 12,000 Dollars were raised, that has all been used up and he now needs more money to pay a civilian lawyer to defend him at his court martial. The lawyer needs a guarantee of 2000 dollars before he begins the case.You can help by donating through Connection e.V.( http://www.connection-ev.de/ ) Donations are tax deductible.
Account # 7085704, Connection e.V., Bank für Sozialwirtschaft, BLZ 37020500 or
through the Web-site http://www.AguayoDefense.org.
Another way you can help him is to write letters in English. Letters are pouring in and this lifts Aguayo's spirits a lot. The address is
SPC Agustín Aguayo, Unit 29723, Box LL, APO, AE 09028-3810 USA
This man is one of the finest people I have ever met. For me he is a hero. MAPC members and my family and I have tried to help him in every way, but we can't win over the US Army alone. We need your help!