One of the first conscientious objectors was Camilo Mejia who is now on the board of IVAW, Iraq Veterans Against the War. He has helped organize this Winter Soldier event because he feels it is his patriotic duty to defend the constitution.

Mejia was court martialed for refusing to redeploy to his unit after two weeks’ leave, and spent nine months in a military jail.

Now the chairman of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), which has organized the four-day gathering, Mejia spoke of a groundswell of resistance within the US military to the war in Iraq, which will enter its sixth year later this month.

“Servicemen and women are refusing en masse to participate in this war. I have seen a rapid and inevitable growth of dissent within our ranks,” he said.

At the “Winter Soldier” event in Washington, some 200 soldiers like Coppa and Mejia will give eye-witness testimonies about what they lived through during their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and afterwards.