Scout pens conscientious objector primer for project

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2007

HOMER - Nathan Lander didn't use hammer and nails to construct his Eagle Scout project. Instead, he brought together graphic artists and designers to create the backdrop for something pertinent to our times: conscientious objection to the selective service.

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The Homer High School senior, as a candidate for the Scout's highest rank, chose the topic because he attached his personal philosophy to military service - and he wanted to help others deal with the choice many face in signing up for the Draft.

"My pamphlet is a choice. You either make the sacrifice, or you don't," Lander said.

Through draft registration, each 18-year-old man is require to share their personal information with about a dozen federal and state departments; some military-related, some not. Failure to register could lead to five years of prison and a quarter-million-dollar fine. But Lander isn't telling anyone what to think about the military, or current U.S. wars. Lander said the volatile times could create a situation where the draft becomes active,

"It's more dangerous now, because it's something that has been ignored," he said, in that people haven't been thinking much about it, and this is a reminder

There have been no prosecutions of breaking that law since the early 1980s. Even still, the federal government can withhold college aid to those who fail to register. For Alaskans, Lander said those who put in for the Permanent Fund Dividend are automatically signed up.

Art Kenner, a member of the Homer Friends Meeting, helped Lander with the project and said the purpose was to demonstrate community leadership and service - and giving his late-teen schoolmates some options on the selective service is an altruistic approach.

"It was a group effort. Nathan did some outreach into the community and got some input from other vets and other conscientious objectors. He also worked with other church groups and ministers," Koeninger said. "I was his Quaker contact."

Lander worked with several local artists as well.

The local scout leaders have approved the pamphlet, which has now been sent on to the regional and national process. Lander will go before the Tustumena Scout District Board to be approved

"I think it's exactly what the Eagle Scout badge is intended for - and that is for a young man to show some civic responsibility. And I think he showed courage in choosing this particular project," Kenner said. "It's more of posing questions and offering options rather than promoting a particular option."

Lander isn't sure of the response he's going to get, but he said he hopes those his age realize that war is not the path to peace.

The last time military (both pro and anti) pamphlets circulated the school was in the fall of 2005. At that time, many of Lander's classmates watched another installment of the reaction of military service recruiting unfold last year at Homer High School when three local activists were arrested for protesting military recruiting and handing out pamphlets offering alternatives to military service in the commons area. The charges were later dismissed.

"War never really seems to serve the purpose it was intended for. You just can't win and it just seems wrong, but I think a lot of people still believe war is necessary for peace," Lander said.

Troop 555 Scout Master Adam Bauer said the Eagle Scout project is meant to demonstrate the leadership a scout spent the previous years learning. He said the project must be done for a community organization, in this case, Lander worked with the local Quaker group, Homer Friends Meeting.

Bauer said at the end of the project, it's not really so much about doing the work than it is about working with others. Oddly enough, nobody gets anything done in a vacuum, he said.

Will Landers project promote him to Eagle Scout?

"Oh yeah. I have every confidence he'll make it," Bauer said. "I expect (the feedback from the pamphlet) to be nothing but favorable, and I'm proud to have him as an active member of the community."

The "Draft Registration and Conscientious Objection" pamphlets are available in the counseling office at Homer High School.

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