The Call to Arms Has Sounded, but for Love of Peace, or Fear of War, Some Soldiers Are Just Saying No

Lanky and clean-cut, Glenn Mulholland could be the very prototype of the U.S. Marine. You might imagine him in dress blues, as one of the Corps’ elite security guards at the U.S. Embassy in Paris—which he was. You might envision him as a recruiter, impressing high school students with his military bearing; he was scheduled to do that too.

But you might find it hard to imagine S. Sgt. Glenn Mulholland, USMC, where he is today: in a safe house in a small town in Germany, AWOL from his unit, refusing to fight in Operation Desert Storm. He is one of a small number of soldiers in today’s all-volunteer military who, for reasons of conscience or hardship, philosophical choice or crippling fear, have refused orders to the gulf. “I did nine years in the Marine Corps,” says Mulholland, 31. “I was a good Marine. But personally I just can’t see going there and killing people and leading people to be killed. I just can’t see it.”

When America went to war, more than 470,000 of the nation’s military personnel were in the gulf, their lives subject to the vagaries of battle. But others who had sworn to defend their nation were missing; some took refuge in Europe, others in the U.S. A few have already been scheduled for court-martial. In the weeks before the bombs began to drop, some were more eager than American soldiers have ever been to talk publicly about why they were committing a grave military offense. And PEOPLE has learned that in some cases, soldiers who had applied for conscientious-objector status were forced onto transport planes headed for the gulf; a few were handcuffed and reportedly placed in leg irons.

André Stoner is an American who runs the Mennonite-sponsored Military Counseling Network, a pacifist organization with headquarters near Kastellaun, Germany. He says that U.S. preparations for war prompted an unprecedented number of inquiries from soldiers about filing for conscientious-objector status. Many of the reluctant warriors are serving with U.S. forces normally stationed in Germany. Others are scattered throughout Europe and the U.S. Stoner estimates that his group has counseled more than 400 service people troubled by the prospect of being called upon to kill and says he knows of about 40 who have filed CO applications in Germany. Meanwhile the New York City-based War Resisters League, another pacifist group, claims that thousands of service people have gone AWOL because of the desert war. The Army vehemently disagrees; while conceding that about two out of every thousand soldiers are absent without leave each year, officials say the figure is lower since the draft ended. “I have no idea how [the peace groups] derive their numbers. “says Lt. Col. Joseph Allred, an Army spokesman. “It’s just not happening. There are some cases, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

Sergeant Mulholland’s final break with the Marines began with a minor accident last fall that required him to wear a patch on his left eye. He was shocked to discover that his right eye was virtually useless because of an untreated childhood lazy-eye syndrome. “I wasn’t allowed to drive for six weeks,” he says. “I could walk around, but that was about it.” In his medical record, a Marine Corps physician has entered this description of Mulholland’s right eye: “Legally blind.” Doctors declared him unfit for combat.

Then came the gulf. The Corps reclassified Mulholland as eligible for deployment when his unit left Camp Lejeune for the Mideast. “I said, ‘This is crazy,’ ” he recalls. “They wanted me in a leadership position where I could get a bunch of people killed real quick just by not being able to see right.”

In fact Mulholland had other grievances against the Corps, some of long standing. Several years ago he had been refused leave to visit his dying father, and in 1987, shortly after getting married, he was upset when he was sent to Okinawa for six months without his wife, Annette. Earlier, embassy duty in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, left him with a profound distaste for the country he was called to defend. “I went down with a couple of my friends to the place where they do the beheadings in Jiddah,” he remembers. “They were cutting people’s hands off.”

When he married Annette, a German citizen, Mulholland respected her pacifist views—and he eventually began to share them. But he remained a Marine, making the distinction between defending his country and going to war. On Dec. 16, the day before he was to deploy to the gulf. Mulholland took Annette and their son, Christopher. 14 months, to New York’s Kennedy Airport for a trip to her parents’ home in Germany. The following day, he was to report for deployment to Saudi Arabia. Impulsively, Mulholland bought himself a ticket to Germany as well.

“I still consider myself a Marine,” he says. “I didn’t throw away my uniforms. Someday I want to go home and straighten this out.” The prospects are bleak: Going AWOL is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, and after 30 days’ absence, a missing service member may be classified a deserter. The maximum sentence for desertion is five years. Still, Mulholland says, “I know I’ve done the right thing.”

Pain and worry are inscribed on Karen Jones’s face as she sits in her tidy flat at the U.S. Army base in Wildflecken, Germany. She has no answer to the persistent plea of her 16-month-old daughter. Sadie. “She keeps saying. ‘Daddy, Daddy!’ ” says Jones.

Sadie’s father, Derrick Jones, is an Army medic and former Bible school student who concluded last year that he could not kill in battle. He filed for conscientious-objector status before his unit was deployed to Saudi Arabia a month ago. “He was sent to the chaplain to be interviewed, which is the procedure.” Karen says. “He told the chaplain that he couldn’t kill another member of the body of Christ. The chaplain told him not to worry, that these Iraqis weren’t Christians.” Under a new Army directive. Jones was told that he would have to go to Saudi Arabia with his unit to pursue his CO claim.

Instead he went AWOL late in December. While he was underground, he wrote his wife a letter that said, in part, “I just can’t go patch up a bunch of kids and send them back to war, knowing that they’re probably going to die.” A native of Jamestown, N.Dak., Jones was brought up to respect authority, and he wanted to straighten things out with the Army. So his American civilian lawyer arranged for Jones to surrender and be taken into custody for a court-martial in Germany. Instead, when Jones and the lawyer arrived at Wildflecken, the soldier was handcuffed and immediately shipped to the Middle East. Says Karen Jones: “The captain called me later and said, ‘I have good news and bad news. The good news is that your husband has turned himself in; the bad news is that he’s in Saudi Arabia. And he looked like he was in shock.’ ”

The lawyer, and a pastor who witnessed the scene, describe Jones holding his head in his hands, rocking back and forth and saying he would never see his wife and child again. In his first letter home, he told Karen to insist on an autopsy if he were reported dead.

Capt. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, U.S. Army Reserve, is nobody’s idea of a typical soldier. The 5’2″ mother of three is a physician in Kansas City, a Mexican-born naturalized American who picketed with Cesar Chavez in the ’60s and protested the Vietnam War. Huet-Vaughn joined the Reserves as a way of paying for medical school. “All I did for six years was give physicals,” she told PEO-PLE during a New York City interview. “I felt that service to our country was something all of us should provide. But, as a noncombatant, I wasn’t quite as aware of things as I am now. This is immoral.”

Huet-Vaughn told her superiors at Fort Riley, Kans., that she would not deploy. “I just walked out the door,” she recalls. Since then, she has toured the East Coast speaking at antiwar rallies. She knows that her husband. David, a social worker, and their two children will suffer if she goes to prison. “I realize that there are consequences,” she says. “But this goes against my principles as a physician and a human being. We’re talking about leading people to slaughter.”

He has come from an undisclosed location to a safe house in a remote village in Germany. Tim Silvey, 21, fidgets and looks to his German wife, Pia, for support as he tells his story. When he left Portsmouth, Ohio, to see the world, he had no idea that Army service could lead to this.

Tim’s story begins back in school, when he injured his knee jumping a hurdle. Surgery and therapy followed, but his cruciate ligament healed well enough for him to join the Army and learn to drive a state-of-the-art M1-A1 tank. Last year, while jumping off one of the tanks in Germany, Silvey injured his knee once again. Army doctors scheduled him for surgery, but the waiting list was long. Meanwhile he was not allowed to run, jump or carry equipment weighing more than 40 pounds. When Operation Desert Shield began. Army doctors who evaluated Silvey wrote in his record. “Probably should not be deployed to Saudi Arabia.”

Then, two days before his unit was to go to the gulf, a superior officer assigned Silvey to a combat unit as a tank driver. “I could fall flat on my face, and an artillery shell could hit me in the back of the head,” says Silvey, who insists that his knee gives out frequently. “I could end up getting the whole tank or the whole platoon killed.”

Silvey went AWOL in December. He put himself in the hands of an underground network of German Lutheran activists and members of Germany’s left-leaning minority Green Party. In hiding, Silvey has spent hours exploring his feelings about the gulf conflict. He paraphrases the military’s own rules in his defense: ‘Article One of the Code of Conduct says, ‘I will give my life to defend my way of life,’ ” he says. “How is [this conflict] threatening my way of life? What does that have to do with me?” Like many other AWOLs, Silvey has, for the moment, not planned his future. “I just want to get out of the Army and stay here in Germany,” he says. He hopes someday to learn the language and find a job.

Because Operation Desert Storm is sanctioned by the United Nations, AWOL soldiers cannot apply for political asylum in Europe. Glenn Mulholland’s German lawyer does say that his client, the spouse of a German citizen, cannot be extradited. But other AWOL soldiers abroad have no such protection, and AWOL soldiers in the States, of course, are even more likely to be apprehended and prosecuted. Still, a handful of GIs have taken that risk, convinced that it is morally better, or simply safer, to be a fugitive than a soldier. In some future, quieter moment, the nation must decide how to deal with these men and women—one more troubling burden of war.

Michael Ryan in Germany

—Additional reporting by J.D. Podolsky in New York City

Related Articles