By Cordell Whitlock
(KSDK) - United States Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to Iraq.
In June, Watada refused to board a bus near Tacoma, Washington with fellow soldiers who were deployed to Iraq. Watada joined the military in 2003.
"I really wanted to serve my country to defend it against terrorism," Watada said. But he says his patriotism was put to the test as Operation Iraqi Freedom continued. He refused deployment after accusing President Bush of misleading the country about Iraqi weapons and violating the Constitution. The Army has charged him with several crimes that could land him in prison for six years.
"A government that is unaccountable breaks the law at will that doesn't listen to what the American people say are no better than foreign terrorists," Watada said.
Bob Watada attended a Veterans For Peace meeting Tuesday night in St. Louis. Ehren has become a poster child for the anti-war movement and Bob is traveling nationwide defending his son. "He's giving his life and taking this stand so the war can stop sooner," said Bob Watada.
Some have said Watada is helping Al-Qaeda and his actions are shameful. Shane Bernskoetter served in Iraq with the Army and wrote a book on his experiences. The St. Peters resident says Watada took an oath to serve his country regardless of personal opinion.
"By reneging or backing out or deciding not to fulfill a commitment, obviously it's not a good situation it's a little disappointing as a fellow soldier but everyone's entitled to their opinion and they act accordingly," said Bernskoetter.
Lieutenant Watada will go to trial early next year in military court. A panel of officers will serve as jury. If convicted, Watada could spend six years in prison and be dismissed from the Army.