Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia is a soldier with the Florida National Guard who has served in both the Army and National Guard for over eight years. He served in Iraq from March to October 2003. He returned to the U.S. for a two-week leave in October and decided he could not, in good conscience, return to the “illegal and immoral war in Iraq.” He went AWOL and decided to apply for conscientious objector status. Mejia is the first Iraq War veteran to refuse further military service.

On March 15 Mejia reported back to the military authorities at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts and submitted a 40-page application for conscientious objector status. The Army charged Mejia with desertion on March 25. He awaits trial in military custody at Fort Stewart in Georgia.

Mejia is Nicaraguan and moved to Miami with his mother 10 years ago. He joined the Army in 1995, partly to get help with college tuition.

Army officials have barred Mejia from conducting face-to-face interviews with the media. That order is being challenged by his attorney, Louis Font.

Mejia’s mother, Maritza Castillo, in a letter to supporters writes, “[M]y son’s rights to free speech are being abridged. [Yet] President Bush does not give any explanation about the weapons of mass destruction that have not been found and for which he invaded and bombarded the people of Iraq and sent our young soldiers to die in this illegal and immoral war. Instead he makes a mockery about the reasons he’s had to spend the money of the American people in this bellicose adventure.”

The Army has ignored Mejia’s conscientious objector (CO) application, choosing to charge him with desertion instead. Maritza Castillo urges calls and letters of support to demand the CO application be accepted.

“I’m addressing the people of the United States of America, the Hispanic community and the world,” she writes, urging people to demand the government’s acceptance of her son’s CO application. Letters of support to Mejia are also urged: SSgt. Mejia Camilo, A Company, USAG MED-HOLD, 865 Hase Road, Ft. Stewart, GA 31315.

Write to Major General William G. Webster Jr., Commanding General, Fort Stewart, 42 Wayne Place, Ft. Stewart, GA 31314, or call him at (912) 767-7667, and tell him you support the release of Camilo Mejia as a conscientious objector.

For more information contact The Peace Abbey (508-650-3659, www.peaceabbey.org) or Citizen Soldier (212-679-2250, www.citizen-soldier.org).

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