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The Freedom of Choice
by Monica Benderman
January 26, 2005

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In a democracy, we are supposed to have choices. Our constitution gives us those choices. Our constitution is founded on the premise of morality and the values represented by the highest order of morality. As a soldier, my husband, Sgt. Kevin Benderman, has a sworn duty to defend his country and its constitution. As a soldier, my husband has a sworn duty therefore, to defend morality.

“Thou shall not kill.”  After seeing the immorality of war firsthand, my husband has laid down his weapons to kill no more. What greater defense of our constitution is there? 

This morning, Kevin and I sat down together, away from every electronic communication device we have. We shared coffee, and thoughts about the past three weeks of our lives.  We are baffled that a decision, a choice that makes such simple sense to us, is causing such uproar. Thousands of questions, discussions, comments and inquiries into the thought process we must have gone through, but never really remember seeing as significant enough to document for future reference.

“Thou shall not kill.”  We have heard it since childhood, but, life, society, religious instruction all find a way to wrap a simple statement into myriad parables until the simple truth is unrecognizable, hidden in justifications, alternative situations, addendums and codicils.  Reality, the act of living it, not dramatizing it, not fantasizing it, not presuming its nature, just living it, gave us all we needed to unwrap the package and face the simple truth.

My work has been taking care of people who are sick or aged so that when it is their time to die, it is with dignity. I saw the true nobility of a life well lived, and a death that was proud; a declaration of peace, and respect for life.

My husband's work showed him the alternative, dying young, for a cause far less noble than life, which will continue unless we learn to lay down our weapons in respect for all the soldiers who have given their lives for peace.  He saw the worst; unnatural death brought about by the arrogance of people who dared to try to control life. 

We are asked how someone who accepted his duty to train for war five years ago, then served a combat tour, could now say he is against all war?

We respond with more questions of our own:

How is it that a responsible adult can have pre-marital sex with a “social” partner, knowing what sex brings, and claim their “constitutional right” to terminate the life of the unborn child that is the result of this “responsible” sex?  How can the country that allows this, question my husband's right to decide that he will no longer be party to the killing of another human being?

How is it that a person can commit to a marriage, bring children into the world, profess family values, then leave them in daycare centers, with people who are strangers, so that both parents can work to support a lifestyle that will never replace the parenting those children need or want?  How can the country that prides itself on this, question my husband's decision to lay down his weapons to prevent any more innocent families from being destroyed?

How is it that someone can profess to honor the veterans who have served in past wars, then leave their father or mother stranded in a nursing home with little regard for their care or emotional well being? How can the country that allows this question my husband for wanting to honor the service of our veterans by fighting for peace in a war without weapons?  

How is it that a pastor who professes an understanding of true faith, says he speaks in God's name, teaches others to walk the path of the “Prince of Peace”, and yet claims the Bible, God's word, says that war is a necessity; the evil we must face before we can see peace?

How can a country that dares to profess faith, question my husband's defense of God's teachings for laying down his weapons and choosing that same path of peace? 

Some say the Bible is a prophecy, one of the only choices.  We say the Bible is a prophecy of what could happen if we make the wrong choice.  The Bible says war will happen, not because it must, but because man will not walk the path of peace.  Democracy gives us all a choice.  We have made ours.  We have made the only choice that maintains our integrity, and brings us peace.  We respect the choices of others, even when we do not understand them; Democracy requires that according to our constitution.  My husband is a soldier, sworn to defend our country's constitution, and I have sworn to support him in that defense. 

“Thou shall not kill,” simple words now. My husband has laid down his gun to raise a far more powerful weapon -- he has made his choice and raises his hand in peace.  

Sgt. Kevin Benderman and his wife Monica may be contacted at:

Other Articles by Kevin and Monica Benderman

* One Man Has Stopped Killing: Hope for More to Do the Same
* A Matter of Conscience

An Open Letter to Our Leaders From a Concerned Iraq War Soldier

Related Websites

* Military Families Speak Out
* Bring Them Home Now