Thursday, December 30, 2010

From Germany: A former BVSer reflects on living up to your beliefs.

Former Brethren Volunteer Service worker Patrick Spahn--a member of BVS Unit 283--has returned to Germany after carrying out a term of service at the Center on Conscience and War (formerly NISBCO) in Washington, D.C. He wrote the following reflection about his work there:

"I am already back in Germany for two months, and it feels like far longer since I edited the last ‘Reporter for Conscience’ Sake’ or answered a phone call on the GI Rights Hotline. Working at the Center on Conscience and War was a very great time for me.

"I learned a lot about the issues, such as recruiter abuse, conscientious objection, and American military culture and religion. I am aware of many problems I hadn´t been aware of previously, such as the recruitment of poor people, and the glorification of soldiers and their duty.

"On an even more personal level, I loved working at the center. Working for a cause I am passionate about and truly believe in was very fulfilling and something I want to keep doing. Prior to working at the center, I had a hard time choosing between two different college programs, Social Work or International Policy Management. After my time at the center I decided to study the last mentioned. I don´t think I would have decided on that program, and that future, without volunteering at the center.

"Working together with the staff of CCW was a big part of this decision, and part of the reason why I had such a great time. All are in different ways role models, and just by working with them I learned a lot about dedication, passion, and how to keep doing this tough work for a long time.

"I will never forget stories of the people who called CCW. A woman in the Air Force who thought about getting pregnant just to get out of the service, which doesn´t work in that branch. Or the woman who was sexually harassed by men higher up in her chain of command while deployed on a ship. Or the conscientious objector who is still struggling to get out after years of trying.

"Then there are all the conscientious objectors who turned their entire lives around with that decision, and those who even lost friends and family because of their newly found beliefs that no longer allowed them to participate in the armed forces. I have deep respect for these courageous folks. All of them are an example for me of how important it is to live up to your own beliefs, convictions, and conscience.

"The German people used to have a very skeptical relationship toward soldiers and the military based on the two world wars. Now I see tendencies in Germany that scare me. The recruiters go into schools, the armed forces get smaller but get ready for more deployments, and folks start to be less skeptical about soldiers. Additionally a very popular young politician is the current Defense Secretary, and his popularity boosts public opinion of the military a lot.

"I am already in contact with the German War Resisters League, Mennonite Counseling Network (part of the GI Rights Hotline in Germany), and Iraq Veterans Against the War to become active here in Germany as well. In mid August I met with my congresswoman to talk about my service at the Center on Conscience and War as well as German politics in regards to the military, Afghanistan, and conscription.

"I thank you for your support. Without it I could not have had all these life-changing experiences, and I could not have helped all these people. Take care and from the bottom of my heart I say, Auf Wiedersehen!"

No comments: