Constitutional Opinions

Fire in the Jungle

Which beliefs can we accommodate?

By From the January-February 2014 issue

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One of the most memorable moments of my newspaper life was meeting an American GI named Glenn M. Shumway. He was a religious Christian and a conscientious objector to war who served as a medic with the First Air Cavalry in the military region of Vietnam known as III Corps. When I interviewed him for the GI daily, Pacific Stars and Stripes, he’d just been lifted off the jungle floor 90 miles northeast of Saigon, where he’d been trapped, alone and surrounded by the enemy. “Not for a second,” he told me, did he wish he had a weapon.“Ants were crawling over his hands, sweat was pouring off his brow and fogging his glasses, a helicopter was burning less than 10 yards away,” I wrote. “Bamboo on fire was going ‘pop, pop, pop,’ and the Baptist medic was ‘praying that Jesus Christ’s will be done.’” An officer had tried to get Shumway to take a weapon when he’d been inserted into combat, but he’d refused. He didn’t lack for patriotism. He didn’t lack for guts. He just didn’t believe in killing. Stars and Stripes ran the story under the headline: “Trapped Pacifist GI Sticks to His ‘Guns.’”

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About the Author

Seth Lipsky, founding editor of the New York Sun, is the author of The Citizen's Constitution: An Annotated Guide (Basic Books).