Vietnam Stories: One hippie’s path to conscientious objector

For the Monitor
Saturday, September 30, 2017

Where have all the hippies gone? I was totally against any war but found myself in jail for possession of drug paraphernalia. My older brother was in the Army and happened to be home on leave as he advised me to consider enlisting, as this would go over well with the judge. “And the Army isn’t that bad,” he said. He was a helicopter pilot.

So considering my options, I went before the judge and said I would enlist if my case was dismissed. Next thing I knew they were stripping me of any and all “identity” by cutting off all my hair and verbally degrading me as a nothing. They were going to fix that and make me into something.

Throughout basic training I was competent and obedient. But one evening, as I was on guard duty I dummied up my bunk, notified the next person on guard duty and slipped out the back to what I called freedom. Making my way through the woods all night I got to a highway and started hitchhiking and was picked up by an off-duty sergeant. I was promptly returned to base and 15 days in the brig.

After basic training, I was given leave and returned to my home in Denver and promptly went to hippie friends in the mountains. Yes, I was later found and ushered back to Fort Leonard Wood.

I would not cooperate and declared I was a conscientious objector.

It was a struggle. I was beat by superior officers to “see if I would fight back.” When I did not, that started the wheels for my undesirable discharge. Yea!

To this day I object to the wars the government has gotten us into to “protect us.” Have we learned nothing? I thank God I have never pointed a gun at another human and pulled the trigger.

All you need is love.

(Andy Hampton lives in Chichester.)