By Lara Szott
Jo Waltz, 67, filed as a conscientious objector in March of 1972. Three years earlier, he joined the Navy Reserves as an officer candidate at the Naval Training Center in San Diego.
After seeing the submarine missile stockpiles that could take out 24 cities, he believed he shouldn’t be in the military.
“I didn’t believe in that. You can see the destruction before it even happens” Waltz said.
Still in California, he shared his thoughts of becoming a conscientious objector. His commander gave him a month off. In that month, he applied to an anti-war agency in Philadelphia for the objection forms.
“The place was full of long-hair bearded guys, but they were knowledgable,” said Waltz. “I knew I was in the right place.”
It wasn’t the war in Vietnam that he objected to, but war in general.
The paperwork for his conscientious objection went through, but he was already committed to service in Bermuda. He had the choice of either staying in Philadelphia or being stationed in Bermuda at a top-secret base.
Waltz opted to serve in Bermuda and waited to turn his conscientious objection paperwork into the commander.
Two days after he arrived in Bermuda, he told his commanding officer about his objections. A Protestant chaplain interviewed him twice to confirm his beliefs were aligned with being a conscientious objector.
He put parts together in the supply equipment room, but took the extra step of engraving peace signs. After a number of suppliers complained, the commanding officers moved him to barrack duty.
“Kind of seems like punishment, but I kind of deserved it,” Waltz said. “I didn’t want to be there, and they didn’t want me being there either.”
Supervisors released Waltz from barracks duty two months later and sent back to Philadelphia, where he still lives with his wife and two children.
He was in the military long enough to receive benefits, and he used those to get his master’s degree in religious education at Saint Joe’s University in Philadelphia.
Every Veteran’s Day, he visits the National Mall and memorials to pay respect to the friends who lost their lives.
“I sometimes think of the friends I left behind,” Waltz said. “But then I remember, I left wishing peace for everyone, not just me.”