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News ::
12 Sep 2003

By Dustin Langley
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 18, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Dustin Langley

On Sept. 6, after two days of testimony and hours of deliberation, a
jury of four Marines at the 4th Service Support Group command,
headquarters for the Marine Reserve in New Orleans, found Lance Corp.
Stephen Funk guilty of unauthorized absence and recommended a sentence of six months in prison.

Funk, the first military resister this year to face court-martial, says he was targeted for punishment because he is gay and because he spoke out against the war. He says he was the target of unfair prosecution because he was a conscientious objector who spoke at anti-war rallies. He was the only one of 28 Marine conscientious objectors to the Iraq war to face prosecution.

Funk is also to receive a bad conduct discharge, demotion to the rank of private, the Marines' lowest rank, and his pay will be docked by two-thirds during his incarceration.

The jury found Funk not guilty of the more serious charge of desertion with intent to shirk important duty, which could have put him behind bars for a year. Defense attorney Stephen Collier said he would still appeal for a lighter sentence. Collier said he will request that Funk receive a normal discharge and a prison term of 47 days. Lt. Gen. Dennis M. McCarthy, commander of the Marine reserves, has the authority to accept or reduce the sentence.

Funk was held in the New Orleans jail Sept. 7 and would likely be
transported to a still undetermined military prison on Sept. 8, Collier said. He will be discharged when he's released from prison.

Funk, 21, is originally from Seattle and is half-Filipino. He joined the Marine Corps to earn money for college and because at the time he
believed the experience would give him a sense of direction and

"I wanted to belong and I wanted another direction in my life, and this seemed to offer it," said Funk. "They told me I would be able to go back to school. The ads make the armed forces look so cool--'Call this number and we'll send you a free pair of boxer shorts'--and a lot of kids don't realize what's involved."

"The boot camp experience quickly snapped me back into reality, but by that time it seemed too late to do anything. The purpose of military training is to churn out non-thinking killing machines. All humans have a natural aversion to killing, and being forced to shout out 'Kill, kill, kill' every day is a major stress on the mind, body, and soul."

Funk was also alarmed by the Bush administration's rush to war against Iraq. "This war is very immoral because of the deception involved by our leaders," he said. "It is very hypocritical."

On Feb. 19, Funk's San Jose, Calif.-based unit was mobilized to load
ships and cargo planes in San Diego bound for the Middle East. He felt he had no choice but to refuse.


For 47 days Funk was absent without leave--AWOL. During this time, he
spoke at several anti-war rallies in San Francisco. On April 1, outside the Marine base in San Jose, Calif., he explained to reporters his reasons for refusing to deploy. He said: "I refuse to surrender my dignity. I refuse to kill. The military demands obedience, but I will not obey."

After the news conference, he turned himself in to military authorities. Faced with the massive media presence, Marine Capt. Patrick O'Rourke claimed that Funk would receive only administrative punishment, and that his application for Conscientious Objector status would be handled quickly. "The Marine Corps understands there are service members opposed to the war," O'Rourke said. "He'll be treated fairly."

Once media attention died down, however, Funk was transferred to New Orleans, informed that his Conscientious Objector claim would not be
processed, and charged with desertion.

As the trial opened Sept. 6, the defense presented a memo written by
Marine Brig. Gen. John W. Bergman, commander of the New Orleans-based
4th Force Service Support Group. In the memo, Bergman denounces all
personnel who were absent without authorization during the Iraq war,
saying they lack the "decency and loyalty" of those who served.

Funk's lawyers called this memo a sign of pre-trial prejudice, as all
the jurors in the case were under Bergman's command. This memo, which
Bergman now claims he didn't write, was an obvious message to the
potential jurors.

The military judge, John A. Maksym, said he was "miffed" that the memo had not come to light in pre-trial hearings, and noted that the jury would be selected from among Marines under Bergman's command. That jury could be affected by any bias displayed by Bergman, he said.

The prosecution claimed that Funk was "shirking important duty" and
asked for a sentence of one year's imprisonment. The jury, which
consisted of three senior non-commissioned officers and one commissioned officer, deliberated for approximately three hours before returning with a guilty verdict.

Funk said he was enthusiastic about the opportunity to speak out at the trial. "I have always considered myself an activist and stand with the oppressed peoples of the world. I spoke out so that others in the military would realize that they also have a choice and a duty to resist."

The GI Rights group Support Network for an Armed Forces Union--SNAFU--
has initiated the Stephen Funk Support Committee, which is calling for Funk's immediate release and is promoting an on-line petition calling for him to be released now. (

- END -

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allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
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