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What do ya'll think?

Newly found faith lands Marine in jail

Friday, December 31, 2004



CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- U.S. Marine Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz says he's willing to clear land mines and risk his life for his country.

He's just not willing to pick up a gun.

Because of his new-found religious faith, the Birch Run native is spending his holidays behind bars as a conscientious objector, convicted by military superiors who see him as a disobedient soldier.

"I couldn't see Jesus Christ taking human life," said Klimkewicz in a phone interview from the Camp LeJeune military prison. "In my faith, what I believe is that we're all citizens of heaven. Citizens of heaven are of all nations, and I refuse to take a life of a fellow citizen of heaven."

This month, a Marine Corps court sentenced 24-year-old Klimkewicz -- a combat engineer who is a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church -- to seven months behind bars for refusing an order to pick up a weapon for training. He received a reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge.

Since joining the church a year ago and becoming a conscientious objector to combat, he has taken some criticism from friends who have questioned his patriotism.

Seventh-day Adventists support non-combatancy for its members who serve in the military, but leave such decisions to a member's individual conscience, said church spokesman Mark A. Kellner.

"There are a lot of people who would view it as unpatriotic," Klimkewicz said of refusing to pick up a gun. "At first, some of (my friends) were stand-offish, but later on, some of them saw my sincerity and saw definitely that this was a choice of my conscience.

"And that I was willing to do everything I could do without disobeying my conscience."

He said his primary skeptic has remained the military itself.

"It's unusual that a Marine would claim conscientious objector status after being in the Marine Corps and knowing that there's a war going on," said Marine Corps spokeswoman 1st Lt. Kate VandenBossche. "That's what took everyone off guard at first."

Klimkewicz, a 1999 Birch Run High School graduate, signed a two-year re-enlistment in 2002. After participating in on-ship Bible studies with a Seventh-day Adventist chaplain, Klimkewicz started converting to his new faith, said Seventh-day Adventist attorney, Mitchell A. Tyner.

Klimkewicz formally joined the church in the fall of 2003 and attended services in Jacksonville, N.C. Klimkewicz, however, did not learn until after he applied for re-enlistment about the Seventh-day Adventist belief that one should not become involved in combat, Tyner said.

Klimkewicz told Marine officials that he was willing to serve, but not carry a weapon or take a life. Marine regulations provide that a Marine whose beliefs crystallize after enlistment can receive conscientious objector status, Tyner said.

Tyner is based in denominational headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.

The Marines decided that Klimkewicz was not sincere and that he really just wanted to avoid serving in Iraq, Tyner said. Klimkewicz initially admitted he was less than a productive Marine, Tyner said, and was reprimanded twice for insubordination.

Klimkewicz wasn't jailed because he requested conscientious objector status, VandenBossche said.

"He was charged with ... disobeying a lawful order from a superior commissioned officer," she said.

Klimkewicz refused an order to pick up his weapon at an armory and begin training with it, VandenBossche said. He was charged because he refused the order twice before stating religious reasons for his objection to it.

To rebut that charge, Klimkewicz volunteered to clear mines in Iraq, because those who do so do not carry a weapon. Twice, officials rejected his offer, Tyner said.

"The Marine Corps, in its zeal to prevent others from avoiding combat, has totally misread this soldier and the result is a serious miscarriage of justice," Tyner said. "We hope the corps will reconsider the total disproportional nature of the sentence and reduce it immediately."

Tyner said efforts from his office and congressional offices are now in motion to appeal the situation.

Klimkewicz's wife, Tomomi Higa, a Japanese citizen, has a temporary residence permit to live in the United States. They have a 3-year-old daughter. Members of the Jacksonville Seventh-day Adventists have indicated they will help Klimkewicz's wife and daughter as needed, Kellner said.

Klimkewicz said he is adjusting to life behind bars, and spends much of his time reading the Bible. He conducts an informal Bible study for a few fellow inmates.

He said he is willing to sacrifice his freedom for his beliefs, if needed.

"All I can say is that the Bible says people who suffer in the name of the Lord is a blessing to them," he said. "I take God's laws over men's laws."

Once he is released from prison, he said, he plans to pursue either a career in the ministry or in the health care field, possibly as a nurse practitioner.Klimkewicz's stepmother, Rose Klimkewicz of St. Charles, said her family supports him.

"He's a good person," she said. "He's a good son, stepson and brother. He believes what he's doing is right, and we are behind him."

Klimkewicz joined the Marine s to earn money for college and to travel, said Rose Klimkewicz, adding that she and her family pray for all the troops.

"No one likes the war and no one likes all this killing," she said. "We are for Joe with whatever decision he's making. He went in as a young man, and now he's a little bit older. We hope that everything turns out well for him."


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I think that it is not unusual for the military to take a jaundiced view of someone's newly formed claims of being a conscientious objector. I would also think that there have been men tried and jailed for the same thing in almost all wars.

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The military ( and US Marines in perticular ) have 2 jobs.

1. Kill people

2. Break things

For any Marine to 'suddenly' have a change of heart during the midst of war is highly suspect.

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I agree with both of you, but if they gave me a choice between holding a rifle and clearing mines, I'd take the rifle.

I suspect the larger issue is not whether he is willing to risk his life, but rather would he kill to defend a fellow marine, which is a real possibility in guerilla warfare regardlless of your assignment.

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