War & Peacenik

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

Kind of a modern Sergeant York in reverse, referring to the conscientious objector turned war hero made famous in the 1941 Gary Cooper flick.

After Ann Marie returned home, she read works by non-violence advocates such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Their thinking, she says, profoundly moved her.

Phung Huynh
Major Ann Marie Tate
Major Ann Marie Tate

In her conscientious objector packet, Ann Marie wrote, "I see how their methods are feasible options to creating peace and not just an absence of hostilities."

Says her Army Reserve pal Kelly Donham, "I think she thought she was going to jail and was preparing herself to write about her feelings against the war from the jail cell. I think she had hoped to change the military thinking from within the organization, but became resigned to think it was impossible."

Ann Marie says she later explained her position to a police officer from Wisconsin — an Army Reserve officer replacing her as head of a four-person unit.

"He said he totally understood how I felt," she says, "and that not everyone has the makeup to kill another person. But he told me he couldn't see how if I had some filthy, nasty, foaming-at-the-mouth guy trying to rape me and I had the ability to kill him, why I wouldn't. That's something I wonder about myself.

"I guess if that happened and I wasn't prepared and I didn't think about it, I probably would kill the person. But I'd still have to live with myself afterward."

Last May, Ann Marie journeyed from Phoenix to Iraq as a member of the Christian Peacekeeper Teams, not as Major Tate. It was a dangerous trip, as she and her team moved around the country without military escort.

"You never knew who was around the corner," says Roger Sanders, an attorney from Sherman, Texas, who was one of Ann Marie's fellow team members.

"But we were very vigilant as we went about our business, and it helped having a cool head like Ann Marie with us. She's had to deal with the paradox of being in the military and being very engaged in the process of peacemaking. But she has this wonderful way of honoring the lives of those who've elected to serve in the Armed Forces as well as those who live in Iraq."

A veteran of the Air National Guard, Sanders says he and Ann Marie had similar reactions on the trip to a colleague who said something derogatory about the U.S. troops.

"We were astonished, really," he recalls. "We asked how in the name of peace anyone could automatically be negative about people who happen to be wearing a uniform. I mean, I'm against the war in Iraq, but no one there went out of their way to get rid of Hussein before the U.S. got there."

Sanders says his fondest memories of Major Tate came on Memorial Day, 2005, visiting U.S. troops at Camp Lima, near Baghdad.

"She seemed at home there, comfortable, even though she doesn't believe in fighting or killing," he says. "There was singing and praying and remembrances. She was like a comrade not in arms there. It was obvious to me that she loves her country and the troops. I think of her as a peaceful patriot."

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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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