War & Peacenik

Ever heard of a West Point graduate seeking a conscientious objector discharge? Meet Major Ann Marie Tate

"When I first went to Fort McCoy, I was thinking, 'I'll go to Iraq, but I won't fire,'" she says. "My attitude was, I didn't agree with the war, but I'd influence whatever I'm capable of influencing. The training at McCoy put it in my face. It was much more geared to overcoming our resistance to killing than before I went to Bosnia [in 1996]. I've never gotten the heebie-jeebies about firing a weapon, but I knew I wasn't prepared to kill anyone in Iraq."

Ann Marie says filing as a conscientious objector "hadn't even been in my mind" before the training at McCoy.

"I believe life is sacred, special and unique," she wrote in her 31-page petition. "Life is a precious treasure. I do not believe in the death penalty or abortion. Killing ends any potential a life might achieve. I have determined I am not willing or capable of killing."

Tate's training at this Wisconsin base in early 2004 disturbed her deeply.
courtesy of U.S. Army Public Affairs
Tate's training at this Wisconsin base in early 2004 disturbed her deeply.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio poses with three members of the Arizona Department of Peace group, including Ann Marie Tate (far left).
Sheriff Joe Arpaio poses with three members of the Arizona Department of Peace group, including Ann Marie Tate (far left).

Ann Marie submitted her paperwork even after the Army demobilized her in September 2004 from having to go to Iraq because of a chronically bad hip.

"I owe it to myself and to the military morally to be sincere and truthful," she says of her decision.

With her objector application in limbo (as it still is), Ann Marie did end up going to Iraq, but not as a soldier. In May 2005, she and five other Americans spent 12 days there with the Christian Peacekeeper Teams, an anti-war organization based in Toronto and Chicago.

Ann Marie officially remains a reservist as she continues to await the Army's decision, and has been reporting monthly for weekend drills, which usually has meant sitting at a desk.

Major Tate knows how few conscientious objector petitions are filed, much less granted, these days, what with an all-volunteer military.

If the Army eventually rejects Ann Marie's petition, she could face prison time if she refuses to report for duty.

What complicates matters is that she's weeks away from giving birth to her first child.

"We didn't expect to become pregnant," she says. "I don't want to go to jail with a little baby at home."

In 2005, according to U.S. Army Public Affairs, that branch of the military resolved the cases of 61 soldiers who had applied for conscientious objector status. Of that number, just 23 — 38 percent — won their cases.

"Before I attended that training at Fort McCoy, I already wanted to leave the military," she wrote in her application. "That decision was difficult. However, the thought of leaving the military through conscientious objection was much, much harder. A conscientious objector discharge, while not technically a dishonorable discharge, will not be seen as honorable by many people I know.

"All of my immediate family is connected to the military. My husband and my brother are in the Army Reserve and National Guard, respectively. My father is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and teaches Junior ROTC. My mother is a civil servant for the Air Force. My grandfather, several uncles, an aunt and a cousin were or are in the service. Most of my friends also are in the military, or were in the military."

Ann Marie's father, Terry Johnson, the Air Force lifer (and no squishy liberal), says he supports her decision.

"My daughter knows her capabilities, and is a very smart, loyal person," he says. "Some of the training she had at McCoy — shoot women and children first and ask questions later if you're in doubt — well, she couldn't do that. And I don't blame her. I don't agree with what we're doing over in Iraq, either.

"But it's not just about her trying to skip out on her service. It was about her being in charge of people and putting them in jeopardy because she wasn't willing to kill anyone. I'm very proud of her."

Until Ann Marie and her husband, Mitch, recently moved from Phoenix to Chicago (a job transfer for Mitch, who works for a pharmaceutical company), she had been involved with Arizona-based peace groups, especially the Arizona Department of Peace campaign.

The AZDOP is part of a national effort whose goals include trying to get Congress to create a cabinet-level position for a peace advocate.

Co-founder and Paradise Valley resident Terri Mansfield says "we're not necessarily supporting the [Iraq] war, but we do support the military. Hey, my husband is a retired Air Force colonel. Nobody wants peace any more than a peacemaker. We were a perfect fit for Ann Marie."

AZDOP has received the blessings of Governor Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and a third, unlikely supporter: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Last February, Ann Marie and two other AZDOP members posed for photos with Arpaio at his downtown Phoenix office. The sheriff also endorsed the group on his official letterhead.

Perhaps it's that Arpaio, the incurable publicity hound, just can't say no to a photo-op. Or maybe he misunderstood the anti-war aim of the group. At any rate, Arpaio wrote a few months ago to Ann Marie and AZDOP co-founder Terri Mansfield that he looked forward "to working with your group to stop the violence in our community."

Ann Marie claims to be "almost" 5-foot-4, which means she peered up at most of her fellow plebes after enrolling at West Point in 1989.

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My Voice Nation Help

She is a coward... she cried and moaned at the academy and then when she was trying to get out she learned she had to repay all that tuition money she then had to take her assignment.... Peace is designed as a means for all people to enjoy freedoms... but when one person uses it as a catalyst for being a coward then it doesnt sound as good as they make it out to be.....

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