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Statement of Pvt. Wilfredo Torres
By Wilfredo Torres
November 11, 2002
I want you to know that I didn't join the Army so that I could become a political protester. I joined for two basic reasons. I wanted to serve my country and because I was promised a college scholarship and skill training as a cook.
The military seemed like a good choice for me to fulfill my dream of becoming a restaurant chef. When I told my friends in Rochester that I'd enlisted most of them said that I'd made a big mistake. They said that instead of learning to be a chef that I'd be marching through the desert with a rifle, and you know what? They were right!
I handled the physical side of Basic Training very well; it was the verbal harassment and threats by the drill instructors that got to me. I complained to my Army chaplain but their harassment actually grew worse. When I asked them for Celexa, a prescription drug which I'd taken before for emotional upset, they ignored me.
Like everyone else in my unit, September 11 shocked me. However, given my continuing difficulties with one of the DIs, I decided to leave for my own health and safety.
Since I left Ft. Benning, Georgia last November, I've thought about our country's foreign policies and my potential role as a soldier.
I've decided that it would be wrong for our country to attack Iraq on its own, without working as part of the United Nations. I'm no expert, but I think that such an attack would undermine the UN and affect America's standing in the world.
I mean no disrespect to military veterans by announcing my decision on Veterans Day. On the contrary I have the greatest respect for them. But from what I've read lately, our government has not done a good job of caring for Gulf and Vietnam veterans who are sick because they served.
I'm returning to the military today so that my case can be resolved. If I must be punished for my leaving, I am ready. I realize that the Security Council has voted for new weapons inspection, but it looks as though the USA may still decide to invade alone. If we do, I won't be going with them.
Private Torres surrendered at Fort Myers, Virginia and was sent to Fort Knox, Kentucky which has become a center for "processing" returning AWOLs. Torres reported that at least sixty other AWOL soldiers were in the unit upon his arrival, many having already spent several weeks awaiting the resolution of their cases. A phone call from a Rolling Stone reporter asking to interview Torres got the command's attention. The next morning he was quickly processed for discharge, seven days after he had arrived. He was given an Other than Honorable discharge administratively in lieu of court-martial and driven to the local bus depot.