Santa Monica, California, USA
Having faced, as many others did and do today, this precise dilemma, my feelings are somewhat ambiguous.
When I recieved my draft notice in the Viet Nam era, I fully and truly believed that all wars, including that one, were moral abominations, and participation would inevitably result in the degradation of my soul.
I also believed it was my responsibility as a citizen to serve in the military when called. This notion, apparently, was more strongly engrained in me, personally, than the notions of refusal, flight, or seeking CO status.
Hindsight being wonderful, I of course, the least likliest of soldiers, made the wrong decision, and I've paid for it ever since with a debilitating and occasionally hospitalizing "knowing" that I made, for me, a cowardly choice. The choice to participate.
I don't know how it is for others, and don't presume to speak for anyone else. I have nothing but the greatest respect -- an unresolvable conundrum -- for those who serve and those who choose not to. FOR ANY REASON AT ALL.
At the time of the Vietnam war, it was a life altering decision for slightly older fellows like me, to serve or not. The number of those who "opted out" or chose to serve as valiant unarmed Medics, or go to Canada, or go to jail, was statiscally miniscule, and I suspect, comprised as a group, the truly committed anti-war protestors, with deep religious or ethical convictions, and enormous personal strength.
Given the current all volunteer military, with an older average age, it is possible to forget that the average age of the Viet Nam era Army draftee or volunteer was 19.
I doubt that these "kids," my fellow soldiers, had the maturity to make a reasoned decision. What I don't doubt is that military service in time of war will profoundly affect the remainder of a "vetran's" life, as it has for all vetrans of all wars on any "side."
Looking at it again today, as my grand children approach the age of draft-potential should a draft be reinstitued, I would advise them all to buy a ticket to the Canary Islands. I want them to live, and I hope they will never have to, or want to, participate in murderous madness.
Right now, in my own obscure spiritual way, I pray for our soldiers as individuals, for the Iraquis and the Afghanis and every other individual in every other place where people are being killed or encouraged to kill.
Heavy duty question.