Army doesn't believe soldier is a conscientious objector
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Agustin Aguayo’s misgivings began before he signed on the dotted line nearly four years ago.
His wife, Helga, recalls conversations her husband had with an Army recruiter in Palmdale, Calif., chats about guns and the possibility of seeing combat. Over time, the recruiter convinced Augayo that becoming a health-care specialist was the benign way to go.
“You’ll be saving lives,” the recruiter reportedly told him.
Now it is Aguayo’s life that is imperiled.
Military officials in Schweinfurt are looking for the 34-year-old specialist after he went absent without leave this month while his unit was deploying to Iraq.
Aguayo, a veteran of Iraq, has claimed for well over two years that he is a conscientious objector, and thus cannot for religious and moral reasons participate in an armed conflict.
The Army disagrees.
His “convictions do not appear to be sincerely held,” according to a memorandum prepared by an Army attorney who reviewed Aguayo’s application for conscientious objector status.
“Pfc. Aguayo did not identify any specific ways he has altered his behavior to accommodate his beliefs,” the memo went on to state.
Some soldiers, upon hearing of his case, have invariably pointed out that Aguayo volunteered for the Army. And they express dismay at someone who could join without realizing that in this post-9/11 world they may have to go into harm’s way.
“He joined the Army because he wanted to do something for our country, and he wanted to better our lives,” Helga Aguayo said of her husband. “He went in with the best of intentions.”
But from boot camp on, she explained, her husband began to develop feelings and apprehensions that are diametrically at odds with military service. Those feelings only intensified during his yearlong tour in Iraq, which ended in February 2005.
“Like a lot of people, he thought he could adapt,” said Jim Feldman, a Pennsylvania attorney who is representing Aguayo in federal court. “He wasn’t a conscientious objector when he enlisted.”
But, Feldman said, Aguayo became one in the months leading up to his 2004 deployment to Iraq. While in Iraq, he pulled guard duty and sometimes went on patrols, though he didn’t carry a loaded weapon.
In the end, Aguayo’s application was rejected. Another medic in his unit who applied for conscientious objector status failed to win support, too. While Aguayo continued to press his case through proper channels, the other medic took drugs, got busted and was later given an other than honorable discharge, according to Michael Sharp, director of the Military Counseling Network, an independent advocacy group for U.S. soldiers based in Europe.
“Really, Agustin Aguayo should have taken drugs and pissed hot,” Sharp said. “That is the way to go nowadays.”