They pursued her relentlessly.
From the time she was 16, recruiters bombarded her with telephone calls while others continuously pushed her to accept their offer.
But Kimberly Rivera wasn’t a superstar athlete sought after by colleges and universities across the country.
There was only one organization interested in her services: The United States Army.
“As a high school student you’re not really prepared to make a life changing decision,” said Rivera in a 2007 telephone interview with Courage to Resist, an organization supporting war resisters based in the San Francisco Bay area.
“And that’s what the military is.”
Rivera thought joining the army was the best way to earn the money for post secondary education. At 17, after enlisting without realizing it, she convinced herself that she had made the right choice.
At boot camp, basic training felt more like a game than real life.
“I grew up in Texas,” said Rivera. “I was always around guns. I was very much a tomboy. So doing that type of stuff like running obstacles and shooting guns wasn’t real to me.”
Then she started feeling sick in the mornings, fine again in the afternoons but managed to pass basic training.
When she tested positive on a pregnancy test, she was honourably discharged.
Five years later, she found herself precariously employed at Walmart making $10.50 an hour with no benefits. So she left the retail giant and re-enlisted in the army, this time as a full time soldier.
“Everything that a person needs to live successfully with a family they have,” said Rivera.
“I was looking forward to serving some type of military action because then I felt like I was doing my part, keeping things safe and protecting my family.”
Then one day, after watching a CNN news clip that said 30,000 troops were being deployed to Iraq, she knew she was headed overseas.
At that point, all she wanted to do was go to Iraq and do what needed to be done so she could get back to her family as quickly as possible.
But when she got to Iraq she wasn’t eating or sleeping properly. Eighteen hour shifts followed by routine chores didn’t leave much time for rest.
Soon, she realized that the U.S. military was harming Iraq rather than helping to rebuild the country.
When she came back home on leave, Rivera and her family headed east before eventually heading north and crossing the border into Canada.
“It was the darkest day,” she said. “It was snowing and raining. But as soon as we got on the bridge, the birds came out, the sky was blue and even a rainbow.”
For the next two weeks, they moved around constantly and stayed offline. They removed the batteries in their cell phones as well as the SIM cards.
They were terrified of being found by U.S. authorities.
Rivera and her family applied for refugee status in Canada. But on March 10, 2009, they were ordered to leave Canada by March 26 or face deportation.
On March 25, they were granted an emergency stay of removal.
Since coming to Canada, Rivera and her family have settled in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. She and her husband now have four children, two of them Canadian born.
“We want our children to grow up in a peaceful country that values tolerance, respect, and community,” said Rivera on the War Resisters Support Campaign petition website that was set up to keep her in Canada.
Over 19,000 supporters have signed the petition. Click here to add your name to the list of supporters.
Unless Rivera can win another stay, she and her family will be deported back to the U.S. on September 20.
“I would be taken into custody, separated from my family, and likely put in a military prison for years: all because I opposed the war in Iraq,” she said.
“Once I was stationed in Iraq, I realized I had been lied to. I saw the true face of war: countless civilian casualties, and Iraqi children left devastated by loss and filled with fear. We were not bringing freedom to Iraq; we were bringing needless pain and suffering and death.”
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