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News ::
16 Jul 2003

By Heather Cottin
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the July 17, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Heather Cottin

He is gay, he is young, and he is fighting the most powerful military
institution in the world. Stephen Eagle Funk from Seattle, Wash., is a
U.S. Marine Reservist who was on unauthorized leave before he publicly
declared himself a conscientious objector in April. Since that time he
has spoken out against the military. He is facing a court martial and
two years in the brig.

He says that military recruiters manipulated him and thousands of young people like him to join the military. They create ads that make the armed forces look "cool" and "a lot of kids don't realize what's

"The military coerces people into killing," Funk, 20, said in a recent
interview with Workers World. Recruiters "get points for recruiting
people into the Marines for four to six years, and they don't tell you
that you can serve for less time."

Funk went through Marine boot camp training. He was an excellent
shooter, but he wanted out. The brass gave him the run-around when he
tried to apply for conscientious objector status, and he served for six months, facing open hostility for being gay.

Funk realized that the military cultivates anti-gay sentiment, but he
also believes that it "perpetuates feelings of hatred against all who
are different either culturally, ethnically or otherwise. I think that
is the way the military dehumanizes the enemy--whomever that may be--so that its members won't be averse to killing them."

Funk realized that he was against all war during his training, which
included having to bayonet human-shaped dummies while shouting, "Kill,
kill." He is from a progressive family. His mother is a Filipina and was not happy that he joined the Marines, but told him she would be there when he decided to get out. She supports his decision to apply for C.O. status, even if it means time in jail.

Stephen Funk was an activist before he joined the Marines. He had
participated in the anti-globalization protests in 1999 in Seattle. He
protested at the Democratic National Convention in 2000 in Los Angeles
and was politically active in San Francisco.

Funk was recruited into the Marines during a period when he was
depressed and searching for meaning in his life. He told Judi Cheng, a
member of the Support Network for an Armed Forces Union (SNAFU), "If I
can be recruited, anyone can be recruited." Funk addressed the July 4
protest in Philadelphia against U.S. wars at home and abroad. He told
the crowd of 5,000 that he realized the war on Iraq was immoral because of the deception perpetrated by the government. He said, "People in the military are not reenlisting because the conditions in the military are oppressive."

Stephen Funk spoke softly for only a few minutes, but he explained to
the demonstrators in Philadelphia that the military lies to recruits. He said that in the Vietnam period, people knew about conscientious
objector status, but today, young people are ignorant. "I only knew
about it from 'Forrest Gump,'" he told Workers World.

Funk described the training in the military. "You're in suspended
thought. You are trained to be subordinate. It is so stressful, people
forget how to think." The chaplains lied to him, and told him that his
religion condoned killing. They never told him about C.O. status,

When he decided to resist, Marine Corps officials were angry but many of his fellow Marines supported him. When he raised the issues of war
causing environmental damage and the death of innocent civilians, many
Marines agreed with his analysis. "I found people went along with it
[the war] because they felt they had to."

Stephen Funk discovered that the young people in the Marines were poor, and felt they had few opportunities except to join the armed forces. "They are oppressed by the same people who are oppressing people in Iraq. They learn hopelessness. They learn ways to justify killing. They learn to dehumanize themselves and other people, to subordinate their actions and thoughts. The military doesn't want you to have opinions about politics."

"Our economy," said Funk, "is based on our military." He is really eager to get out to the high schools and colleges to do anti-recruitment work. He said, "The U.S. won't spend money on education, on teachers. We base our whole economy on the military. It's part of a plan. But we can't exploit everyone forever."

"I am lucky," he said, "being a minority and gay. I was already anti-
military. It's easier for me to resist what I was told to do. I just
became stronger."

Dustin Langley, a U.S. Navy veteran and member of International ANSWER's SNAFU group, said, "What impressed me about Stephen was his remarkable courage. He sees that our conscience and concern for all human kind is greater than our obligation to blindly follow orders. Stephen is one of the real heroes of this war."

Langley noted that SNAFU ( is mounting a campaign to
pressure the Marine Corps to drop the court martial charges against

- END -

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