Meet A Centurion – Jason Vance

I grew up as a preacher’s kid and knew from an early age that I wanted to be in full-time ministry. I started attending Great Lakes Christian College with the intention of getting a degree in Christian Ministries. My church background didn’t really have a lot to say about the military, good or bad. It was just another profession people could choose.

My first experience with the military was when I visited my girlfriend (now wife) during her drill weekend. She was in a public affairs unit in the Michigan Army National Guard (MIARNG) and it was rifle marksmanship weekend. My curiosity and masculinity went into overdrive; I thought it was the coolest thing ever. During that visit, her First Sergeant told me they had an open seat on a free six month “vacation” to Bosnia if I wanted to join.

Without knowing anything about pacifism or just war theory, violence in the military just seemed like part of a job. I knew it shouldn’t be reveled in; but if it was for a good cause, I didn’t see a problem with it. I couldn’t shake the crazy idea of this unexpectedadventure, so I enlisted and trained for the quickest MOS the unit needed, 71-L (admin specialist). It didn’t feel contradictory to my path toward ministry, just an addition to it.

After a fairly uneventful deployment (as far as my faith journey is concerned), I returned to Bible college to finish my degree and met a new professor. This professor challenged my allegiance to the way of the cross and my willingness to kill for my country. This started a two year process of debating, struggling,and wrestling with the concepts of peace, love, and allegiance. The final straw came when I tried to write a research paper to defend my own military involvement.To my dismay, by the end of the research I realized that I could no longer,with a clear conscience, participate in the military system.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know what to do about the rest of my military commitment, because I also took my oath seriously. When I originally heard the words “Conscientious Objector,” I thought it was only something done during the draft for Vietnam. I had no idea I could still apply for this status.

My commander and entire unit where shockingly supportive of my decision, because they had seen me go through this two year transformation. They didn’t agree with my decision, nor did they make it easy on me, but they still respected me as a person. After I submitted my entire CO application to my commander and agreed that I wanted to go through this long process,he told me of an alternative method to be released from service. He knew I had been talking about seminary, so he said I could be honorably discharged if I was enrolled as a divinity student.

I applied to the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary’s Master of Divinity program. When I received my acceptance letter, I presented a copy to my commander. Two months later, I was turning in all my gear and shaking hands and saying goodbye. This is the fastest I’ve ever seen the military process any kind of paperwork! Upon reflection, I believe they made me go through the entire CO application to see how sincere I was, but then found the quickest way to release me without much fanfare. They did not want to be the first unit in the MIARNG since the Vietnam War to have a soldier file for Conscientious Objection under their command. I was honorably discharged in 14 June 2006 from the Michigan Army National Guard. Now I strive to be a peacemaker in all aspects of my life.

~ Jason Vance is a National Guard veteran and the latest member to join our ranks. He lives with his wife Rhonda in Lansing, MI,where he works for Habitat for Humanity. At press time, they were still in the hospital waiting the arrival of their first child!