In the end, his benefits as a veteran totaled around $1,000 a month, not even enough to pay for his apartment in Brooklyn. If Chiroux had not served in the military, he said he would have been eligible for Pell Grants that might have helped him pay the $7,500 he laid out in January for school. A Veterans Administration representative at his college told him that his struggle to pay tuition was a typical story for young veterans.
"Then, three weeks after school started, I got hit with my forced-reactivation orders, just three days after I took out my loans for school. I was told to withdraw from classes and report to Fort Jackson on March 8," he said. When he first read the order, Chiroux -- thinking he might be able to do some good in Iraq by getting the word out about stateside anti-war veterans groups to those on the front lines — fully intended to fulfill his duty.
"But then I realized that what I was thinking about was extraordinarily dangerous," he said. "Deploying for peace is almost suicidal. If Iraq is an illegal war -- which a lot of veterans I've met, and people in the military, think it is -- then by keeping my oath of enlistment I would do no good by going there, and I'd only be adding to the problem despite noble intentions." Chiroux called the military to explain his loan situation and said he was told that while the Army could not get his loans nullified, they could delay his redeployment until June 15. By the end of April, he felt he couldn't go to Iraq and began hatching a plan to flee the country and hide out in Spain.
As he put his studies on hold to spend several months speaking to members of Congress in Washington about his plight, Chiroux's second deployment date came and went. Technically, he said, he's not AWOL because he feels he's essentially a civilian, and he's heard nothing from the Army since he failed to report.
The Army sees it differently, though. "The way he's going about it by not showing up puts him as a deserter and someone who is AWOL," Army spokesperson Major Nathan Banks said. "We won't go after him, but if he applies for a federal grant or school loans, certain jobs or gets a traffic ticket, he will be arrested and processed for being a deserter, and he will probably get a dishonorable discharge. He's digging his own hole." Banks said Chiroux's best bet is to file as a conscientious objector and explain his reasons for not wanting to serve. Quon added that if a soldier wishes to claim conscientious objector status, they must first report to their mobilization site and submit an application, which is then reviewed by a General Court Martial.
Matthis Chiroux is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and they note:.
IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith have been pounding the pavement in Washington DC, with the help of IVAW's DC chapter, to get members of Congress to support Matthis in his refusal to deploy to Iraq. Matthis was honorably discharged from the Army in 2007 after five years of service, but he received orders in February 2008 to return to active duty from the IRR for deployment to Iraq.
On Sunday, June 15th, the day he was due to report for active duty, Matthis stood with his father and supporters in DC and reaffirmed that he is refusing his orders on the grounds that the Iraq war is illegal and unconstitutional.
How you can help:
- Contact your congressional representatives and ask them to publicly support Matthis.
- Contribute to IVAW's legal defense fund to help Matthis and other resisters.
- Send a message of support to Sgt Matthis Chiroux at email@example.com.
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As you enjoy your Fourth of July weekend with friends and family, keep an eye on Nader/Gonzalez:
- Ralph Nader will appear on CNN and C-Span this weekend.
- Steve Scully's interview of Ralph will run on C-Span twice on Sunday night at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. EST. You can also watch on line now here.
- CNN's Rick Sanchez interview with Ralph will run on Saturday night.
- Ralph is a huge sports fan. Check out Dave Zirin's recent interview with Nader on sports here.
And Dan Patrick's Sports Illustrated interview here.
- When Ralph Nader was growing up in Winsted, Connecticut, his hero was Yankee slugger Lou Gehrig. Gehrig was known as the Iron Horse for his stamina and persistence. (Now you know where Ralph gets it.)
- Ralph is campaigning in Hawaii this weekend. See story here.
- Nader/Gonzalez will be on the ballot in Nevada. See story here.
We here at the Nader/Gonzalez campaign are pumped about the possibilities this summer.
Ralph is polling at 6 percent.
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Have a safe and happy holiday weekend.
The Nader Team
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