Mark Rosenbury with his wife Janet.
I was 5 years old when the USA entered the war in Afghanistan. I subsequently learned in school about the military draft that took place in WWII and during the Vietnam War. I was confused and thought that the draft process was still active and I remember rushing home starting to cry because I was afraid my father would be drafted. He explained to me that the draft was no longer in place and that I had nothing to worry about, which was such a relief to me. Ever since that day, I have thought about how horrible it must be to have one of your loved ones in war. After turning eighteen, a few of my friends joined the military. A pit in my stomach formed because I was afraid to lose them. Even though I was not raised in the Church of the Brethren or another peaceful church tradition, I have never supported war.
The author of the article, Maria Garcia.
A conscientious objector (CO) is “someone who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles.” I admire COs for standing up for what they believe in a time when the whole rhetoric of a country was to go to war. Last week, I got the amazing opportunity to have a phone call with Mr. Mark Rosenbury, who was a CO during the Vietnam War. The experiences that he shared allowed me to see another part of history that is not often talked about and deserves recognition.
Rosenbury became a CO after marrying his wife during college. His wife was a member of the Church of the Brethren which he joined. His pastor in South Bend, IN encouraged him to register as a CO. Fortunately, his application was approved with the only condition that he do his alternative service outside Indiana.
Rosenbury’s alternative service lasted two years. He served at the Starr Commonwealth for Boys in Albion, Michigan, which at that time was for troubled boys aged 11 to 17, with the majority being wards of the court. Before Rosenbury’s alternative service, he was a CPA (certified public accountant), and for the first year of his alternative service, he focused on billing the courts for the boys' stay from their jurisdiction at the residential treatment home. In the second year of his service, he was able to get more involved with the boys, such as fishing with the boys and accompanying them to Detroit for Pistons basketball games. He was able to bring his family with him during his alternative service. Toward the end of our call, I asked what he thought about current military recruitment practices that lead to minorities and poor youth signing up for the military who are looking for a way out of poverty and to improve their lives, to which Rosenbury responded, “...People say, oh, we now have a volunteer army. I said, No, we don't have a volunteer army. We have a recruited army. And they do pick on minorities, poor people, etc…. the army used to be the melting pot because, with the draft, everybody had to go. And now that's not so…” he added that during the Vietnam War, “Everybody had a piece of it,” which is no longer the case.
Furthermore, Rosenbury mentioned the song “Fixin' to Die Rag” by Country Joe And The Fish as an example of the nation’s reality during the Vietnam War, when young men were sent to war for their country. Still, everyone knew and couldn’t forget the possibility of being killed. This song became the de facto anthem for Americans opposed to the military with the lyrics below.
Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late.
And you can be the first ones in your block
To have your boy come home in a box.
We are fortunate that another draft has not been initiated in response to recent wars, but it is crucial to stay informed about conscientious objection. Resources will be listed below if you would like to learn about this topic.