Ft. Hood GI Travis Bishop : Why I Won’t Go

Travis Bishop, opening for Toby Keith in Bagdhad, Iraq. Photo from MySpace.

If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don’t think I would have been able to look into another mirror again.

By Travis Bishop / The Rag Blog / May 21, 2009

[Ft. Hood soldier and musician Sgt. Travis Bishop has refused deployment to Afghanistan. This is his story in his words.]

Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I resisting? Refusing? It wasn’t so long ago that I deployed to Iraq in support of the war on terror. I didn’t refuse then. Like a good Soldier, I did what I was told, and I spent 14 months stationed in Baghdad. It was a quiet enough deployment, I suppose. Mortars and rockets flew over the walls with unnerving frequency, but otherwise, it felt more like a move to a different duty station than a deployment to a warzone.

I didn’t see real combat. I didn’t come back with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I didn’t lose friends. Mine was, in my opinion, an average deployment. Go overseas, play X-Box and read for a year, come back with money that’s gone before you remember how you spent it. We talked and laughed about it once we came back, and talked about what we would do with the money we made from our next deployment, whenever that may be.

Back home, I received a hero’s welcome. That was the first time I felt unsettled over what I had done overseas. My hand was shook, my back was patted, and every night my belly was burning, full of free alcohol. I was a veteran of a foreign war, hailed as a hero, and yet I felt…unnerved; anxious. I felt as if I had a big secret inside me that threatened to burst out of me at any moment, exposing what I really was to the rest of the world…but I couldn’t figure out what the secret was. Not for a long, long time.

I was never plagued with nightmares from the war. I was plagued with guilt. I literally felt guilty for receiving the accolades that come from redeploying as a “hero,” knowing that I had not paid the price for the Army’s true definition of a hero. Here it goes:

Army Hero; noun. Soldier who has deployed overseas to a combat zone. Has participated in active combat. Has redeployed with PTSD, a bullet in their leg, and a time bomb in their head. Unable to rejoin the civilian world in a normal psychological state.

In my heart of hearts, I know I don’t fit this definition, or anything resembling it.

For a long time, my unit was set to redeploy to Iraq in August 2009. However, in February 2009, we were told there was a change of plans. Instead of Iraq, it would be Afghanistan. Instead of August, it would be the end of March, less than sixty days away. Rumor had it that, although we were told the rush was because of a Brigade Commander’s wishes, it was our Battalion Commander who requested our unit be put on the Afghanistan Troop Surge.

Once again, in good Soldier mode, I prepared to deploy. This time I was a Sergeant, and I had Soldiers to take care of, one of which my best friend. These things drove me to be well prepared. We had things to do, and not much time to do them in. I rarely gave myself time to think about what it was we were actually deploying for. When I did, I started to question everything.

Why are we going? What purpose does it serve? Nothing sat right. I began to read the Bible again. More and more I saw things like “turn the other cheek” and “love thy enemy.” These were things that went directly against the war we were in, and they were spoken by Jesus himself. Could I really deploy again, and compromise my beliefs, just because I was told to? Would I be able to live with that? What if I had to take a life, and knew that if I hadn’t deployed, I would never have been put in that situation?

I became afraid to voice my opinion, knowing that if I spoke to the wrong person, I would face persecution and ridicule. I told my best friend, who voiced the same opinions to me, but it seemed he was content to deploy, do his time, make some money, and then get out of the Army upon his return. I respected his opinion, didn’t try to talk him out of it, and let it be.

The rest of the pre-deployment phase went uneventfully. We loaded our gear, got our trucks ready, and inspected our equipment. We went to the field several times, and although my team and other teams never fully accomplished the missions we were given, Command congratulated us on a successful field mission, and said we were more than ready to deploy. I started to worry again after that.

I worried when they said I was leaving early with the cargo. I worried again when our cargo flights were suddenly “cancelled,” and the main body of our unit deployed to Afghanistan before us, the “advanced” party. Once again, I got the feeling that we were rushing into something before we were even close to being ready. Weeks went by, and groups of us went out on separate days, sometimes only two Soldiers at a time.

A few days before I was set to deploy, I was approached by members of an organization who told me that I had a choice. They told me that they were here to support me, and that if I really was against the war our country was currently in, I could choose not to go. All those old feelings and worries came back with a vengeance, and I began to question the war again. After a full day of thinking, the only reason I had come up with for me to go was the fact that my best friend was going too. And, in the end, I decided that, although he might hate me for it, he was better off with me not going in the long run. I had to put my needs before his, though it killed me inside, because a three year friendship is hard to come by in the Army. I hope that he can forgive me one day.

So the afternoon I was set to deploy, while everyone else was loading their gear in the van headed toward the airfield, I loaded my gear in my car, and left. It was the hardest decision I have ever made.

I plan on coming back; soon. I am not a deserter, and I wouldn’t go AWOL for months and risk ruining my chances at getting a good job later in life. I am a Patriot. I love my country, but I believe that this particular war is unjust, unconstitutional and a total abuse of our nation’s power and influence. And so, in the next few days, I will be speaking with my lawyer, and taking actions that will more than likely result in my discharge from the military, and possible jail time… and I am prepared to live with that.

My father said, “Do only what you can live with, because every morning you have to look at your face in the mirror when you shave. Ten years from now, you’ll still be shaving the same face.”

If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don’t think I would have been able to look into another mirror again.

Pray for me.

[This story has also been posted to Ft. Hood Soldier Voices and to Facebook.]

Also see GI Victor Agosto : ‘There is No Way I Will Deploy to Afghanistan’ by Alice Embree / The Rag Blog / May 7, 2009

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20 Responses to Ft. Hood GI Travis Bishop : Why I Won’t Go

  1. Mark Herpel says:

    Wow, amazing story. Not sure I agree or disagree but he did what he had to in his heart, I suppose you can’t ask a man for more than that. It goes to show the real sacrifice each man and woman goes through when shipped around the world separated from family in a hostile land. Voluntary sacrifice is one thing, but you shouldn’t force anyone to go for a second term that requests not to….

  2. Anonymous says:

    Go Bish, go! Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires–I’m against the war there as well as in Iraq.

  3. KingTJ says:

    I support this man’s actions, too! When this war first started, a lot of us were all pumped up, thinking “Yeah, it’s payback time for the radicals who blew up our buildings and hate our country!” Bush gave a pretty good speech at first, and fighting for our country seemed like it was just the “right thing to do”. But I think most of us have put the pieces together since then…. This whole thing isn’t nearly as simple as they made it appear. Even the 9-11 tragedy is pretty suspect. LOADS of evidence a controlled demolition was done to collapse at least one of the towers, etc.

    I have far more respect for a man who has the guts to face possible jail time to do what he knows in his heart is right, than for the man who just goes because he “doesn’t really have a better idea of what to do” and wants another paycheck!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Cowart!!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Does he mention that MULTIPLE times he could not make Army standards and still to this day can’t meat Army standard? Does he mention that he is a married Soldier collecting the that portrayed that he was SINGLE? I do not beleive that this “NCO” chose the correct path. I view him RUNNING AWAY and HIDING made him more of a coward than someone to emulate. To be a group that endorses Soldiers going AWOL and being a DESERTER while AIDING and abedding them during this time that a FEDERAL WARRANT is issued for the Soldiers is what I would think be less than LEGAL not to mention anything MORAL.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Did he mention that he never should have been promoted to sergeant? he’s lazy and expects everything to be given to him. he can’t even do the simpliest things right, that even a private can do. in the nco creed it says place the needs of your soldiers above your own, he’s not putting any of his soldiers above his own. although his soldiers are better off with a private in charge that’s been in the army for a week then him.

  7. Abe Assi says:

    Mr. Bishop,

    Your story has definitely touched my heart. You have done an extremely courageous act. It would have definitely been the ‘easy’ way out for you to deploy. You chose the harder, but more moral route. You have set a precedent to many of our young and confused service men that their doubt about the war may be correct, that their feelings are indeed shared by others. Just the fact that your story is publicized and reaches other service-members (as well as potential recruits) attests to the importance and far-reachedness of your act. But do understand Mr. Bishop, the road ahead will be difficult. You will nonetheless live with much guilt for ‘not being there’ to serve your friend and the others that you would have been commanding. But may consolation come to you when you realize the large positive magnitude of your actions. But I hope you keep to your principles. Do not waver. Remember that you are now closely watched by many fellow service men. They WANT to see your fate. They WANT to know the risk to themselves if they were to emulate your actions. So be strong Mr. Bishop. TELL the story of why the war is wrong. Persuade others that your choice is right. Show that you are a man of convictions and keep speaking in terms of your religion because it hits a chord with so many Americans. Anyways, I appreciate your service and your bravery. I do hope you keep it up because the road will be difficult ahead. So good luck and you will always be in my prayers…

    Honestly and Respectfully,

    Abe Assi

    p.s. Only if you have time, please check out my newly posted blog http://www.hopeandjustice.blogspot.com

    I would love your advice for I am a new blogger and, honestly, in much need of an expert blogger’s advice.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Even if he only sat in Iraq and played X-Box, in my eyeas that is still a hero. He enlisted, he offered his well-being for that of his Country. A true American Son, and a Hero.

  9. A Short mom says:

    A short mother

    Mr. Bishop,

    I feel that you made a very tough decision of what was the right thing for you to do to stay true to your belief’s. I know that you did a full tour in Korea and a full tour in Iraq. Therefore, any one that calls you a coward (or the great intellectual that spells so well as to call you a cowart) has any knowledge of the workings of the military and the sacrifices you have made and what a difficult decision this must have been for you. You obviously love your country or you would never have served the first full term. I do not believe you are now or ever have been a coward or lazy. I am an American Indian and we have a saying as follows. “Never judge a man until you have walked his path in his moccasins.” Be like the willow bend when necessary but never break. If these people are let them serve and have the full inside knowledge of what is really going on inside our military. I feel you were sentenced to harshly. I hope you never waver in your faith and may you see the person in the mirror you choose to be. To everyone out there it is very easy to sit and judge but very hard to see the reality of someones heart. Would you be able to take a life or would putting yourself in that situation be suicide by war? He put his self in and served his country as long as he could, What have you done? What was different about this war? Maybe he just didn’t believe it was a just war.
    I am glad to see people that can think for themselves and believe in themselves instead of being brainwashed robots. This is what keeps us humans and separates us from dominated animals. Thank you son for your tours of service you believed in and keeping us safe while you did. Sometimes it is braver to do what you feel is right instead of what is popular or expected.

  10. Clamor says:

    First off, this is in no way intended to disrespect these two individuals. This isn’t an attack on their character (because I don’t personally know them), it’s more of a personal comment. I recently heard about this issue going public when a friend mentioned it to me while we were volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. I didn’t intend to comment on this issue at first, that is until I read what they have said.
    Allow me introduce myself a little, so you know where I am coming from and won’t think I’m someone talking about something I don’t know nothing about.
    I have serve under the same unit banner, and was also part of the last deployment with these two soldiers. I have been in COB Speicher, COB Sykes, COB Stryker, Camp Washington, COB Victory, BIAP, and etc. During my deployment, I have worked in 8 hour shifts to 12 hour shifts (majority of them 12 on – 12 off). I’ve had schedules where I would work 6 days a week to not having a day off for a month or two. I’ve done missions and duties ranging from guarding/escorting Third World Nations to E.C.P., Up Armoring Vehicles (form 1st CAV units to Special Forces units) to working in a COMMTEAM, providing communications to a whole Contingency Operating Base (COB). Though I am also “Stop-Loss” I am currently under going a Medical Evaluation Board due to injuries I have sustained during my deployment and services in the Army.

  11. Clamor says:

    Now that I have established my credentials allow me to comment. “It’s a matter of what I’m willing to live with.” “I’m not willing to participate in this occupation, knowing it is completely wrong.” “What I did there, I know I contributed to death and human suffering. It’s hard to quantify how much I caused, but I know I contributed to it.” These are the words of Spc Victor Agosto. So what you’re telling us is that you are willing to not help out a country that is being terrorized daily, you’re not willing to help contribute in an effort to stop the mass killing of innocent people in the streets and in their homes. You are okay with knowing that you and I are fortunate enough to be born, raised, and live in a Country where you can say all this and not be executed where you stand. You’re okay with turning your back on your fellow man who wants the same Freedom? You’d rather choose jail time over protecting your battles six? What if, Lord forbid, you got news that a close friend died during this deployment in a fire fight where he was out numbered? Would you be okay not knowing that maybe if you were there, everybody would be convoying back to base?

  12. Clamor says:

    We’re “commo,” we help provide various types of communications down range. We are the reason why soldiers get to say, ” I love you” to their love ones during their lunch time or day off. We are the reason why soldiers get to hear their 3 month old baby cry thousands of miles away. We’re the reason why a whole convey was able to reroute away from a road filled with I.E.D.’s. We’re the reason why family member’s are able to know that their son/daughter is safe for another day. This is weird to say, but we are also the reason why a mother knows the following day that her son/daughter was killed in combat during a raid, instead of worrying for a weeks about why their child hasn’t called to greet them a Happy Birthday. We are the reason why someone’s last words before they went in that missions was “I love you, I miss you, and I’m proud of you.” We are the reason why soldiers can call up their loves to tell them that they’re safe and weren’t pulling guard during the time that suicide bombing in the market happened that’s being shown in television right now. That is what we do when we serve during deployment.

  13. Clamor says:

    I don’t under stand why people act the way they do after they signed the “dotted line.” There are many things we didn’t know we’d be doing while in the Army, but deploying was the one thing we did know! To all the AWOL’s and Anti-war soldiers in service, not only did you joined a military establishment, but most likely you joined after September 11, 2001 (a time of war). Do you know how stupid that makes you look, when you say and act like this. I hope you guys and gals know what you stand for now, because it’s no longer selfless service and honor.
    Sgt Bishop, you said that “My father said, ‘Do only what you can live with, because every morning you have to look at your face in the mirror when you shave. Ten years from now, you’ll still be shaving the same face.’ If I had deployed to Afghanistan, I don’t think I would have been able to look into another mirror again.” Now that you can look at your face in the mirror everyday now, can you do me one favor. Can you shave your face every morning for a year and walk up to one random person a day who resides in Afghanistan or Iraq and let them know that you weren’t willing to help them out in any way? Or how about go up to a highly decorated vet and tell him that he didn’t need to do what he did during he’s time in service. Or how about something easy, write an email to I.P.S. and address it to all the families who have Medal of Honor members in their family, and let them know that if they had turned their backs, they would have lived to be at least 40. With that single email, you knocked out a flock of birds with one stone.

  14. CLamor says:

    And for people who don’t know, everybody who joins the military signs an eight year contract. The only thing that varies form person to person is how many years in those eight years will you be serving in active status. So technically we have an eight year service obligation. So lets say you have a three years active/five years IRR (Individual Ready Reserve) contract and you get “stop-loss,” 99% of the time the Army is just asking you to add an additional year in your active service. So now, that makes it 4 years active service/4 years IRR. That’s what happens when soldiers get “stop-loss” so don’t be fooled people, an additional year is better than the whole eight years.

    P.S.
    I joined because when my father was young he wanted to joined, but wasn’t able to. So I served for him and though he worries everyday he’s extremely proud of what I do

  15. Soldiers know the truth says:

    Why are you guys asking for donations??????? Now that you’re in jail, hopefully no one taps you in rear. Then you’d regret the whole BS of you wanting to go jail over a chill deployment.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Travis,
    Once upon a time, you and I were good friends. And while I can’t agree or disagree with the choices you made, I keep you in my prayers in hopes that you did make the right decision. I don’t know where you are today (It’s Oct. now) but here’s to hoping you are well, and in good spirits. I am a Military Wife, and while I view any man or woman who goes overseas as a hero, I can’t think of you as anything less.

    You did your job,and I’m proud of you. Just as I’m proud of my husband everyday he puts his uniform on. I wish you luck my friend in all of your endeavors.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Get Real. Put on your big boy panties and man up. You joined the Army. Did you really think you were going to get a condo? I spent my time in Iraq in 2003 to 2004. I lost 17 friends, one of which died in my arms. You disgrace the memory of everyone that has gone and done what they promised to do when they enlisted. As far as I am concerned, you are no better than Jane Fonda.

  18. TRUTHMONGER says:

    You’re only a patriot if you fight for America, not Israel. There are only five countries left that don’t have a “jewish” bank: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, and North Korea. Israel is not America’s ally; they’re our Master. Let’s all say it together – Jewmerica.
    – HDEANBERRY.COM

  19. Anonymous says:

    Sorry I’m late to the party. I offered you help well before “a few days before deployment”, Travis. I told you to listen to me and you spat in my face. You and Victor both did and look where it got you. It’s sad really, you didn’t deserve to go to jail.

    I am glad you still qualify for benefits; I only wish we could say the same for Victor and I hope you put this bullshit all behind you. Fuck the Army and fuck IVAW.

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