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A Message From Lillian Lyons

It is important for both Michael and I to let you know how much we appreciate your support whilst my husband is locked up in Military prison. Every message, letter and show of face means the world to us and is really helping us to get through this crazy time in our lives.

I am sure most of you know why Michael has been punished by the Royal Navy so I won’t waste your time regurgitating the details of his case, the intimidating Court Martials or the legality of his defence.Instead I will tell you a bit about how Michael’s conscience led him to a incredibly unjust sentence.

Mike has served as a Medic in the Submarine Service for nearly 7 years. It sounds cliche but he really did join up because he thought he could help people. In fact he saw an advert on TV of a Navy Medic jumping out of a helicopter giving humanitarian aid in an unnamed war zone. The medic wasn’t carrying any weapons just a box with a big red cross on it. He was sold.

He had just turned 18, he had no knowledge of current affairs, the legality of the war or any war for that matter. I guess you could say he was naive and he’d probably agree but who isn’t at that age?

Mike was never going to stay in the Military, and as he grew up and matured this was certain. Slowly he developed a keen interest in the issues facing the countries involved in these invasions and i guess you could say this snowballed, the deeper he dug, the more he read the more detached he became from his job, his employers and his colleagues.

In 2009 he started to ask his superiors about notice periods and was told February 2011 would be the earliest time he could give a years notice to leave the Navy. I think this was somewhat prompted by his initial learnings of the political reasons behind the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In march 2010 he was given an order to deploy to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan leaving the 30th March 2011. His initial reaction was shock as he had made it quite clear to his superiors that he was planning to give notice to leave. They also knew Mike’s opinion on the Afghan War but despite this he still felt he had a sense of duty and so we started to plan for his deployment.

In the next couple of months he discovered Wikileaks, he read and read about the 76,000 military documents that had been leaked on the internet and published in analysed form in various newspapers. These documents detailed the military’s under-reporting of civilian casualties caused by Nato troops, both in the air and on the ground.

Examples included the convoy of US marines driving down a six-mile stretch of highway firing at everyone they saw, 19 unarmed civilians were killed and a further 50 wounded. Closer to home there were the allegations that Royal Marines had shot innocent drivers and motorcyclists on eight separate occasions over a six-month period, and that Ghurkhas had called in an air strike on a family compound, leaving seven innocents dead. These were just some of the reports.

Within days Mike had to attend a 2 week advanced medic course to prepare him for deployment to Afghanistan so he didn’t have time to gather his thoughts about the leaked documents or analyse how he felt. The only way I can describe Mike’s reaction to this information is sickened.

On the last day of the course he had a heated argument with an Army doctor who was giving scenarios of when a Royal Navy Medic would need to administer aid. One scenario was of a Afghani Child that had been carried to the Military hospital by her family, the child had a birth defect and was in pain. Mike was the first to speak up saying he would treat the child. The army doctor answered quickly ‘the child’s birth defect is untreatable Lyons, how would you approach this?’ Mike answered back even quicker, well if after i have covered all possibilities and still I cannot treat the condition I would at least offer pain relief, support and compassion to her and her family. The doctor wasn’t happy, this would be a waste of resources, you would have to turn them away, she said.

This was the first thing Mike told me when he got home that night. I just cried. We both got very upset and he said I don’t agree with what’s happening, I don’t agree politically and I don’t agree morally, I cannot be part of it, I can’t be in the Military knowing this is what they stand for. I guess I am a Conscientious Objector. These were his exact words, they are ingrained on my memory because this was the moment I have never been more proud in my life.

He told his superior and they asked for it in writing, he did this immediately and the captain accepted the statement and agreed that Mike was a conscientious objector. However as it was passed up the chain of command something went very wrong. A few days later the decision had been overturned by someone, we still don’t know who further up the chain. Mike was furious and advised his chief he would be appealing the decision. He handed his second statement to his chief the next day and detailed the reasons why he was a conscientious objector, the chief promptly handed this back to Mike and said he would not pass it to the appeals court until Mike had toned it down and written in a less emotional way!

Whilst we were waiting for a date for the appeal Mike was due to attend a weapons training course, here he would learn how to use an SA-80. Mike called it a learning to Kill course. Mike’s conscience would not allow him to complete the course and he asked to be put on non-combatant duties whilst his appeal was pending, he explained why he was a conscientious objector in detail. He was returned to unit.

On december 17th 2010 Mike’s appeal was unsuccessful, we were all in shock, he was honest sincere and correct. The judge even had to adjourn the court half way through as Mike got so upset when speaking about the details of the casualties of this war.They gave no reason why they had chosen not to believe Mike and we have yet to receive any. Technically the appeal is still pending because Liam Fox secretary of defence has the final say and Mike has not received any formal decision in writing.

Just after the appeal the Navy chose to charge Mike with wilful disobedience for refusing to complete the learning to kill course.

Since then It has been a very hard journey, we have both lost a lot of friends through this, Mike has received threats and been the subject of bullying from his colleagues, getting into arguments on a daily basis about the legality of war and reporting back to me every night about how astonished he is by the level of racism within the navy.

His chief called him a cancer worried that he would spread his message of love and peace among the ranks!Michael has however been very discreet about his views and has never tried to push them on to anyone else, he has simply defended the afghani people when they often became the subject of race hate within the office where Mike worked.

Despite the difficulties Mike has faced he is completely at peace with all of his decisions. He says that he has a clear conscience and if he had done anything differently he wouldn’t be able to live with himself so he is happy and proud of what he has made a stand against.

I am so proud of my husband, he is the most compassionate, kind, loving and moral man I have ever known. I agree with everything he has done and I am appalled by the way the Navy have treated him.

One thing sticks in my mind about this last year and it’s really personal but I want to share it with you because it shows how strong Mike’s convictions are. He said to me just before the sentencing that if he hadn’t had stood up for what he believes in, or if he had gone to war or stayed in the Military he wouldn’t have been able to start a family with me. He said I would never want my children looking up to me if i had been part of this destruction, this death and greed And I couldn’t be the husband that you deserve either.

One day Michael and I will start a family and our children can be proud of their father. Michael is locked up unjustly for having a conscience but i feel like the luckiest woman in the world simply because that man is my husband.

Lillian Lyons

  • John Goss 14/09/2011, 17:29

    What a lovely personal family message, Lillian. You deserve one another, and I hope when this nightmare is over for you both you go on to have the family you wish for, because your future children could not have more loving parents. !8 is no age for anyone to make decisions covering the next few years of his, or her, life, let alone in organisations (any of the armed forces) that do not allow people to question the morality of orders. His reasons for being a conscientious objector is one of which both of you can be proud. I have to confess, I served my apprenticeship at an Ordnance Factory. I was sixteen when I began. I have long been ashamed of the fact that I may have contributed to the manufacture of weapons and have been a peace campaigner for many years. I wrote to Michael in prison, and will write again before long. In the meantime tell him that I believe he is much braver than somebody who wilfully obeys orders to the detriment of the rest of the human race. God bless you both.

  • A Room of My Own 20/09/2011, 15:41

    Lilian, that is an absolutely beautiful letter. You are rightly proud of Michael and we are too. Thank God for people like you willing to stand up for your beliefs.

    My husband has done jail time for peace actions, and since we’ve been married we’ve lived through two (very short) sentences. I know a little of the frustrations of being apart from the man you love and how the prison system distorts communication. So I just wanted to say to you too, that you are as much part of this as Michael, and I think what you are both doing is brilliant.

    Good luck and stay strong.

    Virginia

  • Stefan Gillies 21/09/2011, 06:17

    Guess you’ll be needing the “give peas a chance” bib in future then haha.
    Beautifully written peice Lillian.
    Looking forward to visiting Michael on the 9th Oct.I’m hoping they allowed him to read the literature on conscientious objector’s I gave the guard on my last visit.

  • Stefan Gillies 21/09/2011, 11:17

    I know Michael would appreciate this from the Fatima Crusader by Father Paul Kramer, M.Div., S.T.L. (Cand.)

    We Must Regain Our Sight…Only a few months ago I spoke with an Archbishop in the Vatican who thought there was no serious reason for concern about the possibility of another world war. According to his mind there is some legitimate concern about terrorism, and he even mentioned al-Queda, but he saw no major geopolitical developments threatening world peace. I replied by saying it is interesting that he mentioned al-Queda, because that organization was created by the CIA with the help of other [nation] state intelligence agencies. The Archbishop was absolutely incredulous – it was as though I had said that Vladimir Putin was a space alien whose armed forces are poised to attack the earth from the dark side of the moon….
    …If we are to regain our sight we must not allow government and media to do our thinking for us, but must employ our own intellectual powers to analyze the facts and realities that are plainly in our view. The War is Against Us! If we can refrain from conditioned reflex judgments, examine the evidence and subject everything to critical analysis it will not take long before we grasp the absurdity of the conclusions we are constantly being induced to accept and come to the understanding that there is indeed a global war being waged, but it is not a ‘War Against Terror’ being waged against shadowy terrorist groups supported by militant Islamic or Communist regimes, but against us –against all of us – in order to set up a global government – a perverse and genocidal anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-God police state.

  • Mrs Lyons 16/10/2011, 13:43
  • Ade Walker 29/10/2011, 17:55

    Nice one Lillian. An example to us all.