Welcome to the Evolving Man Project’s “Evolved Man of the Week” profile. Each week we will highlight an individual that embodies what it means to be an evolved person, famous and non-famous individual alike. The world needs to know their stories and deeds. This week’s honor goes to the former U.S. Navy Sailor, youth advocate, and anti-war activist Pablo Paredes.
Pablo Paredes was born in 1981 in the Bronx, New York. He was a Petty Officer Third Class and weapons-control technician in the United States Navy. They refused to board the USS Bonhomme Richard as it deployed to the Persian Gulf on December 6, 2004, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During his 2002 tour in Japan, Paredes met several people who were highly critical of the U.S. military interventions. After his return to the United States in 2004, Paredes tried unsuccessfully to switch to the military police to avoid involvement in the war. When that failed, he purposely went absent from his ship, eventually returning to Navy custody on December 18, 2004- after his ship had already set sail. The same day he made a statement to the local press saying that he was fully aware of the possible repercussions of his decision. Paredes then applied for discharge as a conscientious objector on January 4, 2005, but was denied by the Navy in July of that year.
Paredes’s court martial in San Diego turned out to be an enormous political victory for Pablo and his supporters. Many creative actions in and outside the courtroom were mounted in Paredes’s defense. From brilliant testimony in court by witnesses and attorneys to nightly political and cultural events, the mobilization around Peredes’s case was truly inspirational!
Due to the solid legal case put forward and nationwide political pressure, Paredes was sentenced to no jail time for his courageous resistance. He was convicted of “missing movement” for failing to board the ship with his unit, sentenced to two months restriction, three months hard labor without confinement, and reduced rank to E-1.
May 2005 was a significant victory for anti-war resisters when a Navy judge decided not to send sailor Paredes to jail for refusing to board a ship bound for Iraq.
Since obtaining his freedom from the armed forces, Paredes has dedicated himself to building youth power in communities of color to challenge militarism, racism, and xenophobia. At 39 years old, Pablo has spoken at hundreds of high schools in several states and Puerto Rico. Son of an Ecuadorian (im)migrant father and a Puerto Rican mother, Paredes has always had a deep understanding and passion for migrant justice issues.
His wife became undocumented in the first years of their relationship. His family lived the fear of the possibility of raids and checkpoints destroying their young family. In 2010 he brought together a core group of high school-aged (im)migrant youth to begin the 67 Sueños collective with AFSC. This migrant youth organizing project aims to build migrant youth leadership and advocacy skills while providing work experience and summer-paid internships for undocumented youth.
Here is Pablo Paredes in his own words about his moral reasoning for refusing his military orders:
“…if there’s anything I could be guilty of, it is my beliefs. I am guilty of believing this war is illegal. I’m guilty of believing war in all forms is immoral and useless, and I am guilty of believing that as a service member I have a duty to refuse to participate in this war because it is illegal.”
From one Navy veteran to another, I viewed Pablo Paredes as an inspiration by challenging my beliefs and politics in 2004 as a young sailor like him. We at the Evolving Man Project wish Pablo Paredes continued success and share his values of creating a world without war. Another world is possible, and people like Pablo dared to fight to make that world a reality. Today we honor Pablo Paredes as our Evolved Man of the Week.