On June 22, 2007, Camilo Mejia, the first Conscientious Objector to walk off the front lines in Iraq, spoke at the First Unitarian Church in Portland Oregon.
On May 21, 2004, a U.S. military court sentenced Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia Castillo of the Florida National Guard to the maximum penalty of one year's imprisonment for desertion. He had refused to return to his unit in Iraq, citing moral reasons, the legality of the war and the conduct of US troops towards Iraqi civilians and prisoners.
Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for his conscientious opposition to participating in war.
After a few brief introductory comments, Camilo Mejia read excerpts from his new book, "Road From Ar Ramadi".
Camilo joined the service at age 19, served as an infantryman for 8 years, was a staff sergeant and squad leader. "I had done the training and had the knowledge and the expertise to do my job in Iraq." Though trained to kill and ignore the collateral damage of civilian casualties, he says that "there's no training to prepare one for that type of experience." He states further that "at 19 years of age we are not allowed to buy alcohol, yet when a young person decides not to participate in war they say that you knew what you were doing when you signed that contract."
He recounts numerous experiences in Ar Ramadi, witnessing abuse, and worse, of civilians.
Websites Camilo recommended during his presentation:
Courage To Resist
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Veterans for Peace
Military Families Speak Out
Gold Star Families for Peace
Agustin Aguayo Website