GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bob Watada and Carolyn Ho voiced their support yesterday afternoon at the Hawaii state Capitol for their son U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada. Watada has said he will refuse to be deployed to Iraq when his unit is called up.
Watada: Like father, like son
During Vietnam, Bob Watada was able to avoid serving
More than four decades ago, Bob Watada, who lost a brother fighting in Korea, opposed the war in Vietnam.
Instead of running off to Canada, Watada approached his draft board in Colorado and was allowed to serve in the Peace Corps for two years in Peru.
He believed the Vietnam War was illegal.
Now his son, Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, has announced he will not serve in Iraq for the same reason.
The elder Watada said even after spending two years in the Peace Corps, the Pentagon tried to draft him when he returned home, but he did not have to serve because he was able to enter graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado.
Watada, former executive director of the state Campaign Spending Commission, said he had many discussions about Iraq with his son before the younger Watada enlisted in 2003 -- the same month the U.S. invaded Iraq.
"He knew that I had been given the option by the draft board to serve in the Peace Corps for two years in Peru," the elder Watada said. "He also knew I had a brother who died in Korea and what his death meant to the family."
He spoke yesterday at a state Capitol news conference that was supposed to include a telephone hookup with his son. However, Lt. Watada was ordered not to talk to the media while on duty, so he did not participate.
Still, supporters carrying light green placards with the words "Thank You. 1st Lt. Ehren Watada for resisting an illegal war" crowded into the Senate conference room yesterday.
Bob Watada told how of the 10 brothers in his family, seven served in the military, with an elder brother working as a Japanese interpreter at the end of World War II in the Military Intelligence Service.
Ehren Watada "knew that I had a brother who had died in Korea, and I was concerned about him going to Iraq. I didn't want him to come home in a box," his father said. "He told me that he was very proud of his uncle. He was willing to die for his country as his uncle had. He knew the risk.
"He was very, very patriotic. He was very much for his country. He didn't realize then that the president could lie."
Watada said both the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq were illegally done.
Like the anti-war protests of the 1960s, Watada said, pressure has to be placed on the Bush administration by those who are doing the fighting in Iraq.
Carolyn Ho, Ehren Watada's mother, said her son's decision is "an act of patriotism, and act of conscience. ... It is a message that blindly following an order is an option. It is a statement that voices of the people must supersede the voices of the politicians."