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U.S. Marine Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz , Cowardice or Conviction?


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U.S. Marine Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz says he's willing to clear land mines and risk his life for his country.

He's just not willing to pick up a gun.

Because of his new-found religious faith, the Birch Run native spent his holidays behind bars as a conscientious objector, convicted by military superiors who see him as a disobedient soldier.

"I couldn't see Jesus Christ taking human life," said Klimkewicz in a phone interview from the Camp LeJeune military prison. "In my faith, what I believe is that we're all citizens of heaven. Citizens of heaven are of all nations, and I refuse to take a life of a fellow citizen of heaven."

This month, a Marine Corps court sentenced 24-year-old Klimkewicz -- a combat engineer who is a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church -- to seven months behind bars for refusing an order to pick up a weapon for training. He received a reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge."


I've heard a lot of different opinions on this, he's just trying to get out of combat, he knew what he was getting into. He disobeyed orders and deserved what he got..etc.

On the other hand, he converted to Adventism after signing up for his first tour and was convicted to not take up a weapon after he signed up for a second term.

2Ti 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

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  • 1 month later...

He says he is willing to do dangerous work (clear land mines) -- I think that speaks volumes about his willingness to give life or limb to serve his country. He just is not willing to disobey the direct command of God by taking another's life.

Personally I think he's courageous and a hero for taking this stand. He's a modern Desmond Doss. Praise God for his clear-minded testimony!!! thumbsup.gifthumbsup.gifthumbsup.gif

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Yes, it's a very interesting case. "Freedoms Ring" broadcast an update yesterday on the radio and I wish there was a transcript of it.

Joel is still in the brig, with no pay coming in. His case is on some General's desk, (who evidently has the power to throw the whole sentance out). I'd like to find out more, (like the Generals address) to write in support of Joel.

Evidently, the Marines are under the impression Joel was fully grounded theologically before he re-enlisted, therefore was fully aware of what God would require of him at any future date.

But we all know, as Christians, conviction by the Holy Spirit can hit us at any time, at any place, on any subject.

We'd better be prepared to obey or the opportunity may be lost forever.

Good for him.

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Whoa, I did a search on the net and found these adresses for anyone else interested:

Joel's address:

Joel Klimkewicz

Bldg 1042 PSC 20140

Camp Lejeuene NC 28542

Marine Generals:

Marine Commandant Michael W. Hagee

CMC PA HQMC

3000 Marine Corps

Pentagon 4B548

Washington DC 20350-3000

FAX: 703-697-5362

Second Marine Division Commander

Richard Huck

CPAO Bldg 67

Camp Lejeune NC 28542

FAX: 910-451-5882

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At the Spectrum magazine web site, attorney Mitchell Tyner relates the story of Joel Klimkewicz, “a U.S. Marine, a Seventh-day Adventist – and a convicted felon, currently serving his sentence in the brig at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.” In an unusually harsh sentence issued in December, the marine was sent to prison for following the noncombatant convictions formed through his experience in the Seventh-day Adventist community, which he joined more than two years ago (see also the Peace Messenger for December 19, 2004).

Tyner reports that Klimkewicz’s wife, Tomomi, thousands of miles from her home in Okinawa, possesses only limited English skills and no income to provide for herself and the couple’s three-year-old daughter.

The Jacksonville, North Carolina, Seventh-day Adventist Church has set up a fund to assist the family. Mail donations to:

Klimkewicz Fund

Jacksonville Seventh-day Adventist Church

c/o Karen Park

104 Ocean Spray Drive

Swansboro, NC 28584

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Gregory Matthews

I am a former US Army chaplain who has been involved in a number of relilgious cases, to include one that made the headlines, and a conviction.

I am troubled by some of the aspects of this. One aspect that troubles me is that I do not think he had the best legal representation. The SDA lawyer who defended him is good in his area. But, his area is not military law. I wish that the Church has done a better job in providing him with legal help.

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Well, if he didn't have a good lawyer to represent him, ouch ... but now what? Anything active we can do to help that will make any real difference, beyond prayer?

Not to discount Rosie's letter writing plan, but my understanding is that military generals, unlike politicians, are pretty well indifferent to public pressure.

Regards,

Norm

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Thought you might like to read this.

Quote:

Please support this conscientious objector.

I got yet another email today from my friend Chuck Fager, who runs Quaker House in that hotbed of the US military culture, Fayetteville, NC. He's asking for our help.
Mainly, but not only, letter-writing
.

*

Here's what he writes:

Dear Friends--

Once again, we ask for your help in supporting a military Conscientious Objector, who is in jail for sticking to his beliefs.

The GI in question is a Marine, Joel Klimkewicz. He's been in the brig at Camp Lejeune, NC since mid-December. He's serving seven months for refusing an order to pick up a weapon. He's also being given a Bad Conduct Discharge, one of the military's worst punishments, usually reserved for serious felonies.

More background about Joel's case is below. I visited Joel in the brig on January 8, and found him in good spirits, and with visitors from his local Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church. He's not alone. The national leadership of the SDA church is also working to have Joel's sentence cut short and get him out of jail. There has been press interest in Joel's case, and there may be more.

But Joel still needs help. His military paychecks have stopped, and he has a wife and daughter to support. The SDA church efforts to free him need public support.

*

After you've looked over the articles below, here's what you're asked to do:

*

Write TWO letters. One to Joel, at the brig. Address the other one to two Marine Generals: the Commandant, Michael W. Hagee; or the Commander of the Second Marine Division, Richard Huck. The addresses are below.

*

Thanks for your support -- and if this case speaks to you, please pass it on.

*

Peace,

Chuck Fager, Director

Quaker House, Fayetteville NC

910-323-3912

[]chuckfager@aol.com[/]

*

DETAILS

FAX numbers are included for the generals. In the letter to the generals, here are some points to mention about Joel Klimkewicz's case:

*

* Joel did not try to get out of the Marines. He only requested noncombatant status based on clear religious beliefs, which are supported by his church.

* Joel volunteered to go to Iraq and help clear mines, a very dangerous assignment.

* The Bad Conduct Discharge is excessive overkill -- it unfairly puts Joel in a category with robbers and rapists, when all he did was peacefully follow his religious beliefs.

* Such mistreatment of a sincere, loyal soldier is un-American, anti-religious, and brings discredit on the Marine Corps.

* Ask them to release Joel immediately AND upgrade his discharge to Honorable.

*

To increase the impact of your letter, send a copy to your member of Congress and/or US Senators with a cover note.

*

And to repeat: if this case speaks to you, pass this information on to others.

*

Friends and others have done a great job of showing support for military COs facing official persecution. As the apparently endless 'war on terror' goes on, here's a chance to do so again.

*

Joel's address:

Joel Klimkewicz

Bldg 1042 PSC 20140

Camp Lejeuene NC 28542

*

Marine Generals:

Marine Commandant Michael W. Hagee

CMC PA HQMC

3000 Marine Corps

Pentagon 4B548

Washington DC 20350-3000

FAX: 703-697-5362

*

Second Marine Division Commander

Richard Huck

CPAO Bldg 67

Camp Lejeune NC 28542

FAX: 910-451-5882


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Tom:

Again, I have been through the system, and understand it throughly.

Thee is ALWAYS a military lawyer involved in a court martial at the level given him. To people who know, that goes without saying.

I have no doubt that there were others invovled.

But, military law is a specialized area. He needed the efforts of specialists in both military law and probably First Ammendment issues. No one has made any statements that would lead me to beleive that he had a lawyer who had the needed expertese in military law.

I will point out to you that the fact that he had a military lawyer does not indicate that he had the needed expertese.

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Norm, surprisingly, military generals are responsive to public pressure. Often, very responsive.

Daryl, the Desmond Doss story is irrelevant to the U. S. Marine Corps. There is not position in the U. S. Marine Coprs that allows one to be a non-combatant. The Marine Corps is 100% combatant.

Notes:

a) Marine Corps chaplains are actually Navy officers.

B) Medical personnel serving in the Marine corps are actually Navy personnel.

c) Yes, during the draft, some Consicentious Objectors were drafted into the Marine Corps. They had terriable times.

Desomond Doss is meningless to the Marine Corps.

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Tom:

I am quite willing to stay tunned.

But, I want to look further at your statement that he had a military lawyer, and the implication that such was an expert.

O. J. Simpson, if bankrupt, would have been given a "public defender". But, that person would not likely have had either the litigation experience, expertise in the law, or the ability to challenge the prosecution that his purchased lawyers had. You will tell me that in this case there was little to no need to employ experts to examine evidence, as was needed in the OJ case. Of course, you are correct on that small point. But, my major point remains.

As one who has been through the system let me mention some specific points which you can comment on if you chose.

a) One of his rights under military law as to request the assignment of his own choice for a military lawyer.

I was once assigned to Ft. Bragg, NC, which with Ft. Hood is one of the premier Army installations in the U.S. As such, it has one of the best resourced. While assigned to a Military Police unit, one of our soldiers was charged with a crime. He exercised his right to request a specific military lawyer, stationed on another part of the U. S. to defend him. That request was granted, and that lawyer was given temp. duty at Ft. Bragg to conduct the defense. The soldier, made that request after consulting with a civilian attorney who studied the legal qualifications, litigation experience, and other qualifications of Army defense counsels and recommended this senior Army lawyer.

Now, my questions to you on this point: 1) Did the Marine Corps member understand his right to request a specific lawyer to defend him. 2) Did SDA lawyers who helped him advise him of that right. 3) Did the SDA they study the experience and expertise of his assigned military lawyer, as well as that of others, and recommend a reall expert in the case.

B) Martindale is one source, which used with other sources, is very helpful in investigating the competence and ethics of lawyers. I have sometimes used it myself to advise other people as to who they might consider retaining for legal services.

Was the Cpl's military lawyer given the top Martindale rating in both catagories? [NOTE: I have not asked about the SDA lawyers.] You will probably respond that many lawyers are not rated by Martindale. I throughly understand that point. Mine is simply that it would have been well for him to have had militray lawyers defending him in court who were given the top ratings by the "gold standard" for rating lawyers. Perhaps this was done. But, we do not know, and cannot check on it, as we do now know the names of other lawyers invoved in the case.

A general comment to all of you: Here is why my comments to the effect that he needed an EXPERT in military law are so important. Military justice in grounded in a specific provision of the U. S. Constitution. [i am not looking at it as I write and cannot cite the specific provision.] That provision gives to Congress the authority to regulate the Armed Forces. The courts have gnerally held that provision takes military justice out of the relm of legal provisions that apply to civilians. [NOTE: They have not held that Constitutional rights do not apply to military personnel. They have simply held that there are differences in applications.] In a case of this nature, the defendent needed lawyers who were experts in the First Ammendement, and in military law, with recognized experience in trial experience in this venue. At this point I an unconvinced that he had that.

On one other point: If you understand the Marine Corps culture, you will understand that it was impossible for them to accomodate his request. The Marine Corps simply does not have Marines who are non-combatants. The one exception was during the limited time that they were forced to take draftees who were. Those people all paid a price for beign drafted into the Corps. The proper approch was NOT to ask that he be a non-compatant who cleared mine fields. That was impossible to grant. It was to seek to have him discharged under "honorable" conditions. It was to examine the process by which he was considered for a "conscientious objector" discharge, and work that route. I suspect that it might have been helpful to have examined that process in court.

Of course, who am I. I am not a lawyer. And I suspect that your position will be that you cannot comment on my comments! <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

Oh, well, the best to you, and have a good day. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crazyjacky_seilchensmiley1.gif" alt="" />

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Greg,

I am not in a position, quite literally at this point actually, to really comment further on this case. I was not directly involved in the matter myself, so I do not know all the details of who was involved in his defense. I say "literally" since I am not in my office where I could walk two doors down and speak to Mitch Tyner who was directly involved. He is very well qualified and experienced on the Constitutional side of things. I won't be back in my office until next week after I return from the far side of the globe. At that point if Mitch is back I will ask him about it.

Quite frankly, I don't think the case turned out as it did for lack of qualified representation or some shorfall in necessary evidence and testimony on his behalf. That was not the problem. But I will leave it at that for now as I don't think my "public" commentary on the case here is in the best interests of his case at this time.

Tom

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Tom, your public comment may not be in the best interests of his case. I understand that. It is a hard case. There are no easy answers. I suspect that outside counsil would have cost somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $50,000, depending on a number of factors. That, of course, is not considering an OJ type of defense, which would have been much more.

I am personally quite interested in the process, and findings, used in his Conscientious Objector application. I know that you probably are not informed in that area, and would likely not feel free to share. But, this is an area where I once had significant experience, and I am quite interested in that. Properly done, the chapalin interview is critical. It can determine [NOTE: I am fully aware that the chaplain interview does NOT recommend one way or the other.] the decision of the hearing officer, and the final outcome of the application. My suspicion is that either:

a) The chaplain interview was poorly done.

B) Or the hearing officer ignored the findings of the chaplain.

c) or the approving authority ignored the recommendation of the hearing officer.

While I am neither a lawyer, nor an expert in the law, I wonder if failure on any of the above can be used as a basis of an appeal. I realize that the law may likely be stacked against such. But, I simply ask, knowing that you can not answer.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Gregory Matthews

I am delighted that he is out of bail (brig).

However, he is a convicted felon. That will follow him for the rest of his life. As such, he is barred from some of the professions.

He has a Bad Conduct Discharge. That also carries penalties.

All in all, jail was only part of the price he has paid. So, free, he is not.

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Greg,

Did you read the report? The appeal of his conviction is ongoing and will take far more time than his sentence. THe immediate crisis had been that he was in jail and that has now been taken care of.

Tom

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Gregory Matthews

CoAspen:

Sorry, you do not seem to understand the rights granted to us under the law, and Supreme Court rulings.

1) ". . .he did join knowing what was expected."

One might argue that he knew what was expected when he joined. But, this may not be true. When he joined, did he really know what God was ask him to do six months later? Do you and I typically know today what God will want of us six months down the line? I don't think so. I can not say that he knew when he joined what he was facing.

I faced a very simular situation, in the Army. The difference was that the soldier was a Jehovah's Witness. The Commanding General took the same position that you have taken--i.e. that he knew what he was getting into when he re-enlisted, and was as combat veteran at the time he re-enlisted.

I wrote the document that rebutted the position of the Commanding General--a two star. When the package reached the Pentagon, my document became the deciding factor. The soldier was given an Honorable Discharge.

2) "Changeing his mind later did not change what was expected of him by the Marines."

Again, you are wrong. The law (to include rulings of the Supreme Court) give the military person the right to change his/her mind.

I am very experienced in this process. My work with the JW listed above, brought recognition to me from a Major General in the Pentagon.

3) "I do not fault the Marines in any way, their hands are tied."

I do fault them. The law, in general terms applies to all military services, and not just the U. S. Army. There is a process set up. Once the military person meets the standard, that military person is supposed to be given an Honorable Discharge.

I think that the process failed him, as the Marine Corps applied it to him.

4) "Say okay to this person and how many more get 'religion' when combat time comes?"

This is a statement that can only come from one who does not understand the system. One does not get that relief simply based upon a claim of religion. One only gets it based upon a sincere belief.

Chaplains make the finding of sincerity, of lack of sincerity. In my extensive experience I found it easy to make a finding that the person was either sincere, or not sincere. Then I found it easy to write the document that would convince the Hearing Office, and ultimately either provide or deny the request.

In my above mentioned case with the JW, my document convinced both the Hearing Officer, and the review board in the Pentagon, which is where that one went.

By the way, while I found some soldiers to be sincere, I found others to not be sincere. In some cases, I had the soldier tell me that I was correct, and he was going to withdraw his request. In others, the case went forward, to an ultimate ruling in accord with what I thought.

4) "Only hope that 'groups' do not make this person a 'hero' for change of heart."

He is not a hero for a change of heart. He is a hero for following what he believed God wanted him to do, regardless of the consequences.

On another point: Tom has asked if I have read the report. Yes, I have. I understand that an appeal is going forward. But, let us look realisticly at where he is now.

As a convicted felon (His court martial is a conviction in a Federal court.) he has the same civil status as a convicted murderer.

With a Bad Conduct Discharge, he has potentially lost real benefits that he otherwise could have had as a Marine Corps veteran.

Yes, I am glad that he is out of jail. No, I do not think that we should have a high level of celebration for his status.

Tom, as a GC lawyer, can probably not comment on his case. But, I can. I can tell you that strictly from the legal standpoint, the possibilities that exist to overturn his conviction are less that the possibilities that once existed prior to and at the time of his trial. Don't kid yourself folks on this point.

Well, I probably should not say anymore. So, I will quit, for now.

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Gregory Matthews

CoAspen:

My point was that one can not know what God might ask of them in the future. Of course, he knew when he re-enlisted what would be asked of him. He simply did not know what God would later ask of him.

My second point was that the law placed certain requirements on the Marine Corps that I do not beleive were fulfilled.

I also was trained, when I was an enlisted person, at Ft. Sam, and I knew Chaplain Kepplinger. I do not challenge your basic memory of the event that you share with us. But, in the 39 years that have transpired since it occured, I do think that the details may have become fuzzy.

a) I suggest that the training probably was with the M-1941 pistol, rather than the rifle. U. S. Army training policy for combat medics fits that idea better than that of a rifle, as well as useage on the battlefield.

B) I know Kepplinger well. I personally experienced him in detail. I am informed of his relationships with others who went through the training at Ft. Sam. Growing out of that experience I find it impossible to believe that he would ever have advocated that SDA combat medics take the training that you hav described. You see, he constantly presented people who did such as being apostates.

Let me be clear: I do not challenge your integrity, or anything of the sort. I simply say that something is wrong with the picture.

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Gregory Matthews

I was at Ft. Sam in that latter part of 1963, going through Basic and AIT.

Following God's will: I did not state a personal position on that point. I considered my wording, and I wanted to state it in a manner that did not indicate what I thought, either agree or disagree with his position.

As a U.S. Army chaplian, my determination of sincerity could not be based upon my personal convictions, but must have been based upon the convictions of the other person. So, my wording was intended to communicate my acceptance of the idea that he believed he was following God's will, and I was not challenging it.

On individual convictions: Yes, chruch members, and also lower levels of the chruch MAY communicate that there is only one accepted way. However, the official position of the Church in North America, as much as there is an official position which can be argued, is that these factors are a matter of individual conscience, and regardless of the position taken, and that pastoral care should be provided to all regardless of the position taken.

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