Transmuting Blood and Guts: My Experiences in the Buddhist Military

Why did a conscientious objector choose to join a Buddhist military organization? Kidder Smith looks back on his time with the Vajra Guard.

Kidder Smith

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© Kidder SmithIt was an unanticipated homecoming for me, addressing a West Point audience on military matters a few years ago. My original connection to the United States Military Academy runs through my great-grandfather, class of ’77, who’d gone on to win the Congressional Medal of Honor for action against a Native American uprising in the Southwest. His son, my grandfather, graduated from the Academy in 1907; his only son, my uncle, went from Harvard to military intelligence in Korea, and from there to the CIA. But I became Buddhist soon after leaving high school, and I graduated from college as a conscientious objector, refusing the draft because of religious opposition to war of any kind. Yet, paradoxically, it was Buddhism that brought me back to West Point.

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