Good things come from struggle

April 23, 2009

Mathis Chiroux is a sergeant in the U.S. Army who served in Afghanistan, Japan, Europe and the Philippines as a photojournalist and was honorably discharged in summer 2007. In February 2008, he received orders to return to active duty and deploy to Iraq.

On May 15, 2008, Chiroux publicly announced his intention to refuse deployment, despite the fact that in doing so, he faced an “other-than-honorable” discharge, which would have stripped him of military benefits, including the GI Bill.

The follow statement describes Matthis’ appearance in front of an administrative separation board at the Army Human Resources Command on April 21, where he was granted an honorable discharge.

TODAY, I stood before the Army. I looked a board of officers in the eyes, and I told them I thought they were sending people off to participate in war crimes.

And what did they say? Get out of here, sergeant, and keep your damn G.I. Bill!

Indeed, folks! The Army awarded me a recommendation for a general discharge under honorable conditions from the Individual Ready Reserve for my refusal to deploy to Iraq last summer. This landmark decision means not only am I a free man, I’m free to continue school this fall with the “new” G.I. Bill that I earned while on active duty.

Though this discharge is identical to the one I refused in exchange for having this hearing, I can now rest easy knowing I never submitted, I never backed down, and the Army has heard my story.

And not just my story, but the stories of those brave veterans at Winter Soldier and those who’ve participated in IVAW’s Warrior Writers’ program. Full texts of both books were submitted to the Army this morning, and I can only imagine the fun they’re having transcribing them into the record.

Supporters gathered outside a hearing for Mathis Chiroux in St. Louis
Supporters gathered outside a hearing for Mathis Chiroux in St. Louis (Chris Tuck | SW)

I testified; Marjorie Conn, the president of the National Lawyers’ Guild, testified; and my mother Patricia testified as to why my refusal to deploy was quite legitimate and not deserving of attack by the military.

Though Major Laws, the prosecutor, did everything he could to keep my legal arguments from the ears of the board (he even prevented me from reading to them from my Constitution, calling the document irrelevant), our voices were heard loud and clear by a board of gentlemen who’ve given me a new respect and hope for our nation and service members worldwide.

The hearing, which lasted around four-and-a-half hours, cemented in my mind that not only is military resistance to our illegal occupations righteous, it is finding new breath among troops who are fed up with the status quo.

This all came after a provocative appearance this morning on the local Fox News Channel in which I wore a patriotic symbol of distress (an upside-down flag) on my uniform.

During the hearing, my girlfriend Alexandra, among others, were present in the board room to offer moral support. Having them there made all the difference as I squared off with the military over human slaughter that we’ve all been forced to bow down to.

So what does this mean for the military? RESIST! Now’s the time, ladies and gentleman. The floodgates are open. Your leaders are listening and, more and more, they are agreeing. Resisters are moving away from being the exception, and slowly becoming the norm.

If I can refuse to go to Iraq, climb monuments, march into presidential debates, lobby Congress, face the military, not go to jail and not even lose my G.I. Bill, we just don’t have any excuses anymore! Resistance is rising, and Iraq Veterans Against the War will stand firm underneath it. My story is now history, and I humbly pass the torch.

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