Kimberly Rivera followed a path that is very similar to that
of others who have been lured into the military with the hope of improving
their lives. She held patriotism in high regard. What she got in return,
however, was the rude awakening that the military and war can be brutal, and
the effects of being part of an occupying force in a foreign land can be
Of the 50 known war resisters in Canada seeking sanctuary
from war, Kimberly is the only woman.
Initially, an Army Reservist from Texas, trained as a
mechanic, Kimberly left the military in 2001, and went back home, and had a
child. She left the Army with no benefits that would help her raise her family.
She returned to a job at Wal-Mart, and found that she could not adequately
support her family from the money she earned there. �I still felt like a 24-year-old
loser because our jobs were not paying the bills for the apartment, food, car,
car insurance and health insurance and credit card bills.� (Courage to Resist, December 18, 2007).
The stress this living arrangement caused forced Kimberly to decide to move
back to her parents� home, a choice she admits was not ideal.
Seeing no hope to improve her life, Kimberly joined the Army
once again in an attempt to get benefits. She became an active duty soldier. �The
Army offered job security, sign-on bonuses, a food and clothing allowance,
medical benefits, housing allowance. �Everything I needed, they had.�� (Courage to Resist, December 18, 2007)
Kimberly was deployed to Iraq where she saw the effects of
war on both her fellow soldiers and civilians while performing duty as a gate
guard at a military base. She experienced two episodes where mortars and
shrapnel hit the area of the base where she worked. An Iraqi friend was
severely wounded by shrapnel in a separate incident. Kimberly began questioning
everything about the war and her role in it while on a two-week leave from Iraq
and decided that she had seen enough of war and its effects on her, other
soldiers, and the civilian population. She headed for Canada and sought
sanctuary in early 2007 after settling in Toronto.
In keeping with the record of Prime Minister Stephen
Harper�s government, and as in similar cases, �Canadian authorities have
ordered that she be deported this month along with her husband and their
children.� (�U.S. soldier in Canada ordered back,� The Palm Beach Post, January 8, 2009) Unless the order of
the Canadian government is reversed, the Rivera family will be deported on
January 27. Kimberly faces up to five years in prison if court-martialed by the
Army and imprisoned. The military usually punishes those more severely, who
like Kimberly, have spoken out about their plight.
Kimberly�s case is not different from many soldiers seeking
a better life in the military and who possess strong feelings of patriotism for
their country. She had few skills, and like many others, sought out military
service as a way to improve her life. What she got, however, was a rude
awakening about the brutality of war.
Howard Lisnoff teaches writing and is a
freelance writer. He was a war resister during the Vietnam War. He can be
reached at email@example.com. An audio interview with Kimberly Rivera
can be found at Courage to Resist.