Anti-War Teach-In

Vartanoosh Kiourktzian

Helen Aguayo just wants one thing, to get her husband out of prison. Aguayo is the wife of Conscientious Objector Augustine Aguayo who is currently serving and eight month sentence in prison in Germany for desertion.

On Tuesday at the Anti-War Teach-In sponsored by the Justice Coalition, Helen Aguayo spoke about her husband hoping to garner more support.

According to his wife, Aguayo enlisted in the Army as a medic in 2003 because he wanted to do great things for his country and to further his education. Aguayo, however, was not a Conscientious Objector when he first enlisted. He realized he could not kill right before he was to be deployed, said his wife.

Jim Lafferty, of the National Lawyer’s Guild and the Bill Smith Military Resistance Project said that according to the Geneva Convention, medics are not allowed to carry weapons or fight but Aguayo was issued a weapon regardless.
However, Aguayo refused to load his gun while he was serving in Iraq for a year.
After being deployed in February of 2004, Aguayo applied for discharge as a Conscientious Objector, however, six months into his detour he was denied without reason. Recently though, the Army has stated that his Believing his case was mishandled, Aguayo decided to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus with the federal court for the Army’s wrongful denial of his CO discharge. Prompted by Aguayos filing of Habeas Corpus, the Army came up with a supplemental memorandum stating reasons for Aguayo’s denial of CO. The memorandum stated that because Agauyo was not religious and had not explained his claimed beliefs prior to or during his enlistment, his CO was denied. Aguayo’s wife believes this reason is invalid.

“Just because you’re not religious, doesn’t mean you don’t have a conscience,” she said.

On August 24, 2006, the habeas corpus was denied and a week later, Aguayo’s unit was ready for deployment again. On September 1, 2006 Aguayo went AWOL, missing his unit’s deployment. The next day Aguayo turned himself in to the Military Police station. However, he was told by Army personnel he would be going to Iraq even if they had to forcefully handcuff him in the plane, instead of facing a court-martial.

In September of 2006, Aguayo again went AWOL in Germany. Believing he had no other option other than to go back to Iraq, Aguayo decided to flee his home base in Schweinfurt and go into hiding in California. On September 26, he held a press conference from Los Angeles, California expressing his beliefs against the war. That same day he drove up to Barstow, California and turned himself in at Fort Irwin.

According to his wife, Aguayo was convicted of desertion before the 30 days were up. According to military protocol, once a member of the Army has been AWOL for 30 days or more then can be charged with desertion, however Aguayo’s wife says he was only gone for 25 days.

Aguayo appealed his case and maintains the fact that his fits the description of a CO. His case is currently at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

Despite this anti-war teach-in being peaceful, it did not go unopposed. Many member’s of the Conservative Coalition were present at the teach-in. One member was Thomas Armistead, who was standing outside the door handing out flyers that stated “Augustine Aguayo is NO Hero”. Armistead who was a medic for 14 months in the army said that “[Agauyo] is claiming to speak for the soldiers. He was perfectly fine with serving in the military but days before he was being deployed he claimed to be a CO.” Another member who declined to state his name said, “He is responsible for what he signed up for and that filing for a CO is just a way to get out of the war.”

Both of these members claimed to be there own free will and not because they are supporting their coalition, however an email was sent out by Melissa Cassara of the Conservative Coalition asking members to support them to combat the anti-American and anti-military speakers. The email also had questions listed that members should think about asking Agauyo’s wife.

Although she faced some opposition from an angry coalition member, Agauyo’s wife went on trying to gain assistance. When asked about how the family is facing her husband’s jail time, she said “It’s difficult for our children, especially in school, it’s hard for them to focus. They just want their father back.”