Navy C.O. Application by Pablo Paredes

“I cannot take life or be a part of the taking of life, for any cause. I will not choose a paycheck or benefits or the fear of punishment over my guiding principles and what is undeniable in my mind and heart: that war is morally wrong and has no justification.”

Editor’s note: Some private information has been removed. More about Pablo Paredes. Note that his CO “request was denied by both the courts and the Navy.”


04 January 2005

Page 1 of 13

From: FC3 Pablo E. Paredes,

To: Navy Personnel Command (PERS-832)

Via: Commanding Officer, Navy Region SW Transient Personnel Unit, San Diego


Ref: MILPERSMAN 1900-020

1. I request discharge on the grounds of conscientious objection. The following required information is provided:


I did not make application to the Selective Service System for classification as a conscientious objector prior to entry into the Armed Forces.


A description of the nature of my belief

Humanity and my role within it, is the canvass on which my system of morals and ethics display their colors. My beliefs grew from values I learned as a child such as respect for others, the fundamental value of life and the importance of integrity. I was raised with a system of morals from my religious upbringing and I have developed it overtime, though away from the church, into a belief that now guides my life.

I find myself accountable to my fellow human being. Accountability means that I am directly responsible to humanity as an integrated member of her. This accountability stems from how I define myself. I define myself as a member of the human race. Just as my Mother believes in her Father Almighty and finds that she must always be true to him, I believe in humanity as my guiding light and powerful being. I believe in energy, or a kind of spiritual interconnectedness that binds all people whether each person is conscious of it or not. I believe that we as human beings all share the same essence. Albert Einstein said that energy never ceases to exist, it only transforms. This is my understanding of humanity, we are the current manifestation of energy. I understand that there is a link between all of humanity. It is a metaphysical link. It is an “energy” that when in harmony can be incredibly positive and productive but is in fact reliant on the actions of the individuals that comprise it. When parts of it are counterproductive it can lead to it’s own demise. Here lies my responsibility as a conscious member of humanity, to accept that my deeds have an impact in protecting or harming her. In my system of morals and understanding of the bond among human kind; I feel it to be self-destructive to hurt any portion of the entity that is humanity.

I learned as an alter-boy, a catholic school kid, the son of a very devout catholic, the nephew of a pastor and as a High School student who was in many ways mentored by a brother of a catholic organization, many fundamental values. I learned that I am not just an individual or a citizen, I am a member of a family of people, with a moral responsibility to care for each other. I learned the moral value of “being your brothers keeper”. I learned values that I can never abandon. As I was growing up however, I saw that there were people who claimed to be good Catholics and did not treat each other according to the basic values I had learned. Many of these self proclaimed devout Catholics were often dishonest, racist and over all behaved in ways contradictory to the religious persona they so adamantly insisted they were. I slowly separated myself from the church deciding that how I lived my own life depended more on me than on organized faith.

Throughout history organized religion has been manipulated to conquer land and people, to wage war, for acts of terrorism, for political power and often for economic gain via corruption. These misuses of a fundamentally positive medium have led me to question humanity’s need for organized religion. I realized after much questioning that, for me, religion is not necessary for morality. I choose to keep such bureaucracies and middle men out of my beliefs and my morality. I hold myself accountable for my actions. This is why I cannot allow myself to serve the cause of war. War in any shape at any time is itself the ultimate negation of the unity of humanity. As cliché as it may come across, two wrongs do not equate a right. After 2 ½ years in the Navy, I came to realize that, regardless of the reasons many will use to justify war, I do not agree that any reason is sufficient justification for purposefully taking life.

Today, I do not have a fear of a higher being who will judge me or guides my life, for my beliefs are not religious, but I fear the consequences of humanity not respecting itself. I fear for my life’s reason and meaning if I go against the grain of all that I believe in. My realization that I am a member of humanity which is intertwined and interdependent, much like a family, has urged me to work to preserve it. If I were to act against this understanding and against humanity I know I would not be able to come to terms with such an action. I must maintain this consciousness both in large scale decisions such as my participation in War as well as the day to day interactions between myself and the people I encounter. I do not see how I could rest my head to sleep at night without peace of mind and a clear conscience. My uncle was in the military and his service led him to act against his conscience and his heart as a young man. Today my uncle is a drug addict and an alcoholic. He has never come to terms with what he did and since then has existed in limbo, with no inner peace. My uncle is a living example who illustrates to me the consequences of loosing your humanity. I fear my uncle’s reality more than anything in this world. I now know who I am and what I stand for and refuse to betray it. My uncle is a much stronger man than I and seeing where he is tells me that I would be further out of touch with sanity if I betray my code of morality as he did his.

I also fear the reactions of people when we bring them harm. Violence evokes more violence and no good can come of that cycle. More importantly, I feel that every person no matter their religion, way of life or set of beliefs has certain principles they are predisposed to follow. Different people draw this line at different places, but we all have a line. I discovered that my line is drawn well before the moment when we cause physical harm to another.

I cannot, within this, my reality, which I have tried as best I can to explain, take part, whether hands on or indirectly, in the self destructive activities of portions of humanity. I cannot take life or be a part of the taking of life, for any cause. I will not choose a paycheck or benefits or the fear of punishment over my guiding principles and what is undeniable in my mind and heart: that war is morally wrong and has no justification.

h. Explanation of how my belief changed/developed

Amidst the gang violence, bookies, dealers, and over all dog eat dog environment that was my neighborhood in The Bronx, New York, I developed a survival based kind of personality. I found at an early age that I had strong feelings about the fair treatment of my fellow man, yet the power of mainstream attitudes and my peers and environment filled me with a seemingly necessary malice. I was, in the American tradition, ambitious. Stepping on others to get ahead was so widely accepted that I felt I had to adjust to doing it. I felt those who let themselves be duped deserved it. I felt you could either be a taker in this world or the taken.

Within this reality I formed a separate peace, I was very active as a member of the Catholic Church. I went to a Catholic school, and became an active member of the youth group as well as a volunteer teacher for classes that facilitate children undergoing the sacraments of communion and confession. I later became an alter boy and furthered my understanding of the catholic teachings. I went on to a Catholic high school and further involvement in Church sponsored events such as advent processions and my continued involvement in the youth group.

My Catholic training taught me some fundamental values. I learned to respect others and value life. I learned integrity and it’s value in the face of adversity. I adopted all of these values and they have shaped my life and continued to develop. Later I became disillusioned with the church itself and organized religion but the morals and ethics I learned remained invaluable to me.

From an early age I was pulled between my survival based reality and the ideals of my Catholic beginnings. As I grew up, I integrated both aspects of these conflicting ways of understanding my world and how I fit into it. At that time I resolved the conflict in the most practical way I could. The need to survive in that environment was paramount. I never felt it was right to cheat a person, but if I didn’t directly cause harm to someone I could live with doing what ever it took to survive. I saw this as a survival-based need. This is the type of person I had become within that specific environment. This environment was the only reality I knew until age 18 and so I held these very beliefs.

In my early experience in the military I felt the same, as the environment was similar. Two years in I found myself pulled out of this environment. I was stationed in Japan. Quickly I realized I was in a very different environment. I realized that people in Japan were fundamentally optimistic about each other. There was an honor system in place in Japan, an expectation that people would be fair, honest and honorable. From the people who serve you a meal to the gentleman that cuts your hair, everyone is deeply committed to doing a good job. No one seems to expect the worst of each other. In fact cheating, and dog eat dog tactics are unheard of and socially taboo.

In Japan society is expected to behave with respect for itself and its rules, there is not an initial distrust. Train fare is based on distance traveled and each individual is trusted to be honest and admit the length of their trip. Police officers are unarmed. The military is in fact a defense force and never to be used for attack. Things like social security are left up to individuals to pay, as apposed to automatically deducting it from a paycheck. In this environment I found myself initially questioning my survival based philosophy of life. How could I cheat on my train fare when no one does so and the country trusts its citizenry to be that way? How could I violate that trust as an individual? Japan made me realize people are individuals in these actions, whether the whole city I lived in took part in the same immoral activities or not I would be wrong as an individual if I took part in immoral actions. I was an individual and individually responsible for my actions. My time in Japan also made me realize that while it may not seem tangible such actions do harm to society as well as to me. I realized I didn’t have to physically hurt someone to be guilty of doing harm to a person. I realized that by not acting with respect for the society I was a part of, I was just as guilty as if I caused one individual direct harm. By leaving an environment that expected the worst from me and living 2 years of my life in an environment that expected the best from me, I learned two very important things. I learned to what extent I am an individual and accountable for my actions. I also learned to what extent I am an integrated part of humanity and there by accountable to it. I met some very moral people in Japan. Many were not religious but very principled and adhering to a moral code. I spent a lot of time trying to understand there point of views and came to agree on many terms. I spent countless hours on my ship reflecting on some of these widely accepted Japanese ideas, I meditated on the way I lived my life and the way I should be living it.

Japan let me see back to back what can happen when humanity works together for it’s own good and what happens when humanity acts out of sink with it’s energy as individuals and how self destructive that is. I attained a greater awareness from this contrast I was able to draw. I understood and internalized the need for acknowledging the link that people share.

I also reaped the benefits of having a society expect the best of me. I in turn found the best in me and began to live it. I believed in myself and my ability to shape the world. I felt so fulfilled by all the actions that my new awareness and accountability drove me to execute. It was almost like a cleansing. My mother always describes a feeling of absolution when she confesses her sins through the Holy Sacrament of confession. Her entire demeanor is affected by her confession, she looks as if she has been relieved of something and is clear of conscience. I never quite understood how she could get that feeling from talking to someone, or how it felt to be cleansed of an action that troubled you and weighed on your conscience. Now that I was finally acting in sink with humanity and truly following a developed code of morals and ethics I felt what my mom often described and I understood for the first time what made her a Catholic.

Returning to my military work environment, my profession by it’s nature and scrutinizing my past this awareness grew and shamed me. I realized the error of my ways as a young man in the South Bronx. It grew further and made me very interested in humanity as a whole. I began to read extensively on world affairs, famine, War and the reasons for these things. I was able to apply this new awareness to the larger scheme of things. Eventually I realized that, as part of the military, I was a part of an organization whose sole purpose was war and all the violence, and the destruction of human life that it entails. I feared never being cleansed of my participation in such an entity. I realized like in the case of the train fare, that while my direct actions didn’t seem to harm one specific person, my participation in an entity whose objective is to effectively destroy life was just as wrong as the act of directly taking a life, and knowing this was deeply affecting me.

Japan made me a man of very strong principles with an even stronger connection to humanity. It also put me at odds with my very profession and a very huge conflict began within me. I became ashamed of my profession. I tried by doing positive things for humanity from within my position, to find some separate peace within my occupation. I volunteered to act as an ambassador of good will in many Japanese American friendship days. I also took part in off-base volunteer programs with the Japanese community. I continued to question my involvement however indirect in the military, in war, and in the taking of life. These were questions that I was unsuccessful in answering.

While all of this conflict continued, my career in the military continued at a faster pace than I could cope with. I continued to search for answers to these questions in a way that corresponded with my developing beliefs about humanity and my role as part of it.

My conflict grew even more and once I was back in my home environment. I was very afraid of ignoring my growth overseas. I found I was losing my peace of mind. These events came to a climax when my orders were such that would undeniably be a part of this war. My conflict could not continue, I could not go against my principle and ever again be at peace with my conscience. I discovered what I had been slowly becoming in the last two and a half years, a conscientious objector. My beliefs had become incompatible with military service.

i. Explanation of when and why these beliefs became incompatible with military service

A two step process caused my beliefs to become incompatible with military service. The first step was a degree of soul searching or quest for understanding of humanity and my function with in it. The second step was an understanding that things occur due to a number of circumstances that allow for them, and each individual lays claim to some degree of accountability. The second step was understanding how my role as a part of humanity affected or should affect my everyday life, especially my job as a member of the military.

The first step was one that largely took place in Japan. My reaction, as someone constantly analyzing myself, when I came into contact with this new society, was overwhelming. I became increasingly aware of the nature of our interconnectedness as a human race. I saw in Japan a society with great respect for itself, and I was inspired. I quickly began understanding the depth of the values I had only scratched the surface of in my youth. I now saw first hand the fruits of living with integrity and respect for others.

I was in a society that worked much like my own in terms of economy and government and yet there were very tangible differences. I did not see the homelessness, drug addictions and poverty that was common place in the society I knew and grew from. New York City is probably the best counterpart to Tokyo in a comparison between the United States and Japan, yet the two cities could not be more different. NYC is a very competitive dog eat dog city. Tokyo is also fast paced but you will not get trampled if you’re in someone’s way. There are social safety nets in place for elders and those with special needs in Tokyo. In two years I never encountered a single homeless person, I never feared my safety walking alone at night. The differences between my place of birth and my current duty station led me to some conclusions about how people should treat each other. It’s in many ways ironic that in order to feel connected to people I had to leave my country and my family, but that is what it took. In Japan I was witness to an entire society rushing to the aid of someone in need, this made me wake up. I realized this was the way that conscientious people, civilized people must live. We must hold ourselves responsible for the well being of one another. We as human beings share the same essence; we are sewn together by a common thread that links our psyche and makes us one. We must therefore act as one, and take care of each other. When we walk past a homeless person we are walking by a part of ourselves; our human family. I can never again walk on by.

Understanding what accountability meant when applied to myself and my role in the military was the second major step. This is something I was slowly understanding but had not fully grasped. In November of 2004 I was explaining to my wife my current orders. My wife was worried about my safety and my sanity as I had just received orders to the USS Bon Homme Richard, which was deploying to the gulf. She was worried I would be killed or return from the gulf like my uncle returned from Vietnam. She had the notion many outside the military have, that we are all infantry men. I began to explain to my wife that I was not in any danger and that I would not be pulling any triggers and that I would not have to live with killing anyone. When I found myself making those statements, I had a serious realization. I realized I was not just easing my wife’s fears I was easing my own. I was trying to talk myself into a reality that I could handle. I was trying to shake the accountability for what was going to happen in this war. This was a very fast paced time in my life and many things happened without me getting a chance to ponder on their meaning. But in that moment which seemed an eternity I thought long and hard and came to a very definite conclusion. I was a part of this war. Whether I was working on electronics, swabbing a deck or face to face with an insurgent pulling a trigger, I was just as guilty. This is the moment when my beliefs became incompatible with my military service, the moment that I acknowledged that I was accountable for the lives lost in this war because I was a part of taking them.

j. Explanation of the circumstances under which I believe in the use of force, under any foreseeable circumstances

Force is a very general word. Force can mean pressure in the physical sense as well as the intangible sense. I believe in the use of force to move objects as necessary. I have not yet encountered a situation in which I could justify using physical force against a fellow human being with the intent to cause injury or death. I have used physical force against my fellow man in more than one occasion and in retrospect I was wrong for doing so. I cannot speak for my feelings on situations that have not occurred to me because that is speculation. I wish I knew exactly how I would react to every situation but I do not. I know that my beliefs dictate that it’s wrong to intentionally harm or kill another human being. I hope that, even under extreme stress, I can act consistently with my beliefs at all times.

What I know and can attest to is that in every occasion I can imagine in which military force was used other options existed. Options will always exist. I cannot foresee any circumstances under which war is justifiable.

I am in complete agreement with the force a firefighter uses to pull someone out of a burning building or stop someone from going back in. I agree with the non-lethal force an officer of the law must use to protect a citizen in most cases. I agree with the non-lethal force required to protect an individual victim from an aggressor.

Any time force is used it should be a moral decision and requires careful consideration. Sometimes the situation does not allow for much thought and I’d like to believe that people will act on the fundamental good natured instincts that exist within us.

k. Explanation of how my current life style has changed as a result of my belief, and the future actions I plan to continue my support of these beliefs

My conscience has taken center stage in my daily life. I now realize I affect the world around me in very substantial ways. I find myself caring about things like the conditions in which my clothes are made and the age and salary of those who take part in the production. I find myself understanding and considering points of view that I previously chastised. For example, my reaction to violence as a form of entertainment is quite different than it once was. I found it thrilling and quite entertaining, to watch two sportsmen box it out for 12 rounds, at some point in my youth. Today I fail to see the fascination; it scares me to see people enjoying violence. I feel a connection much stronger to all of humanity as well. I know as a teenager I laughed at Asian stereotypes exploited for comedy. Today I take offense when people make fun of Asians. I make a conscious effort to identify with any human being no matter how far from my perspective his/hers may be. In short I see the cruelty of many situations that I was once naïve to.

The way I interact with people has changed. I feel so connected that I feel a need to engage people I would not normally. In the past I was very combative and aggressive when I disagreed with someone. Now I find myself trying to advocate apposing views and it’s amazing how this action is met. People often are more willing to accept the reasoning behind my point of view when I engage them as I now do. It is the energy we share as individuals that makes us work better together than when we oppose each other.

On a larger scale my morality is a part of major decisions in my life. I voted for Ralph Nader because he was the only candidate that did not advocate War or continuing military actions anywhere, and I saw such value for life as a necessary trait for the candidate I would vote for. I withdrew all of my investments from over three years after researching and realizing I was profiting from corporations that seriously violate the civil rights of many in third world nations.

Considering this heightened awareness as a starting point to navigate my future actions, I plan to let my conscience be my guide. I plan to be very active in Peace movements. I hope to become an educator and spend some of my free time on counseling youths on the reality of military service. I feel very strongly that recruiters often mislead young people and I hope to do what I can to prevent that from happening. I have already begun some Peace activist work, but I am only scratching the surface of the things I hope to accomplish.

l. Explanation of what, in my opinion, most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of beliefs which gave rise to this application

The event that most conspicuously demonstrates the consistency and depth of my beliefs was my decision to refuse participation in the mission of the USS Bon Homme Richard and my execution of that decision. The mission at hand was to deliver Marines to the Persian Gulf, where they would both find themselves in harms way, and by nature of their mission, be predisposed to cause harm to insurgents and unavoidably innocent Iraqi citizens as well. My role in the mission would not have exposed me to any special danger of killing or being killed. Nonetheless, I could not violate my conscience and knowingly support such a mission or any variation of it. I made my decision to stand up for my beliefs, and I stuck by that decision. Two Chief Petty Officers whom I respect came to my residence and attempted to talk me out of my decision shortly before the actual day. I received phone calls and e-mails urging me to compromise my beliefs and principles and avoid the severe punishment that I was sure to receive if I followed through with my protest.

The morning of the event, Dec 6th, I again was urged by some of my peers to go a different route and avoid the heavy hand of the military. I was encouraged to try using drugs and in that way face lesser punishment. Once at the pier my Chain of Command again encouraged me to change my views and avoid the punishment. I was threatened with words like “felony” and ideas like two years in prison, Leavenworth, etc. I was asked again by my Command Duty Officer to board the ship and not ruin my life. I knew in my practical mind that had I boarded the ship and not been true to myself, I would have saved a significant amount of money and I’d be in a good position upon return from the gulf to request early out. I realized my actions would very likely result in some economic, social, domestic, and long-term repercussions. In the face of all this I consistently decided to continue in defense of my principles and my beliefs.

If these actions result in some severe form of punishment I will have no regrets for I followed my conscience, and that is more important in the course of my life than a handful of benefits and an allotment of time in confinement. I look forward to the day I can explain such things to my children with pride not remorse. This is the kind of example I have to set.


No Prior Service


Not currently an active member of any religious organization.


Not Applicable






I have been a full time student or a member of the military since age 16.

2. Enclosures (1) – (2) provide additional information, references, or official statements which I desire you to consider in review of this application.