‘Real Heroes Don’t Fight for Villains’: From Soldier to Conscientious Objector

This article originally appeared on Timcast.

When Dylan Allman turned 20, he found himself somewhat directionless.

He was living with his father in Georgia, taking classes at a local college, and working a help desk job that was becoming increasingly tedious. Around this time, he came across an article about being a photographer in the Navy.

"I thought that sounded interesting – take photos, travel the world, get free college," Allman told Timcast News in an interview. "Why the hell not?"

The possibility of changing course in life also came at a time when he had rejected the Christian upbringing he was raised to accept. He was suddenly exploring religious and existential questions that opened him up to questioning everything he thought he knew.

Shortly after speaking with an Army recruiter, Allman was looking at more than a mere change of course. He was eyeing the prospect of a better life that included free college, traveling the world, getting paid to learn a new language, a top secret security clearance, and a $30,000 bonus.

"[It] was definitely worth signing my life away to become ‘government property’ for five years, right?" he said. "No no. Not at all."

There’s a dramatic distinction between the naive young man who sought purpose in the military and the man Allman is today – a registered Conscientious Objector who is "ashamed by my ‘service’ and anyone who got duped into signing their lives to the Military Industrial Complex should be, as well," he wrote in a Memorial Day Twitter post that included a video of him burning his uniform.

"I’ve made it my mission to help keep impressionable people away from predatory military recruiters."

‘Your heroes are counterfeit’

As one might imagine, Allman’s Memorial Day post, which nabbed nearly 3 million views, provoked the ire of many users.

"Not today Dylan," commented one user, to whom Allman replied, "ESPECIALLY today. The more I can convinced not to serve, the more lives saved from dying in vain like all of those before them."

"Honor the fallen," stated another. "On Veterans Day you can cry about your hardships and how your now enlightened self hates the military."

"Those who have fallen do not deserve honor," Allman responded. "They deserve sympathy."

Regarding the decision to burn his uniform, Allman called the gesture "extremely cathartic."

"It felt really good to both physically and metaphorically burn away the grief I had from that time in my life," he said.

One veteran user appeared to take issue with the fact that Allman was never deployed, or a POG, meaning a person other than a grunt.

"Figures," he said. "They use my lack of deployment as a criticism. Thank God I was not deployed. I may not be here today … if I had been."

Allman said the responses were predictable, but frustrating all the same.

"Due to the inflammatory nature of my post, coupled with the unwarranted pride many have for the military, it came of no surprise that those who were ideologically opposed to what I said dismissed it," he said.

Others chided him for making a typo by calling himself a "contentious" objector. Allman, who said the typo was an autocorrect error, said "Now that I think about it, I am a contentious objector also."

In response to one user who accused him of failing his oath, the people, and the Constitution," Allman retorted: "I did no such thing. The military failed the oath, the people, and the Constitution."

Some users accused him of not being able to hack it or suggested he couldn’t withstand getting "yelled at too much." At least one user accused him of being a Russian bot.

"I was forced to take this as evidence that the effects of propaganda and conditioning run deep," he said. "People are not quick to accept that their loved ones died fighting for villains, and I can understand that. It is difficult to accept that your heroes are counterfeit."

Searching for a Purpose

Though Allman lived in Peachtree City, Georgia for the first ten years of his life, he considers Texas the place where he grew up. After his parents divorced, his mother remarried a police officer and moved the family to Denton, a city in North Texas near Dallas.

Allman describes his childhood as a relatively "basic" suburban middle class, religiously conservative upbringing. Prior to becoming a full-time stay at home mother to Allman and his five half-brothers and sisters, his mom worked in law enforcement.

According to Allman, he never went through a "rebellious phase" prior to adulthood. Overall, he tended to follow the rules and never fell in with the wrong crowd. He said he and his stepfather, "the self-proclaimed ‘king of the house,’" had personalities that clashed.

"I was not exactly encouraged to question how things were, which has become a very large part of my worldview as an adult," he said.

He and his father, who works in business continuity, were close and remain so today. He looked forward to visiting him during the weekends – a routine that changed into twice a year after moving to Texas.

Growing up, there were no early signs that might indicate a future in the Army. Allman describes himself as being "the wimpy kid." However, he concedes that his stepfather would have been supportive of the idea.

"He was the authoritarian type," he said. "Very pro government, America, military, you know the deal."

Around age 18, Allman’s stepfather got a job working presidential detail for the secret service, necessitating a move to Maryland. At that point, Allman was left alone in Texas. An attempt at college didn’t pan out and being away from family for the first time in his life caused some "pretty severe mental health problems," he said. "I did not have time to adjust."

He was desperate for purpose in the community – even going so far as joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ("That was weird," he said.)

He added: "I did a lot of spiritual searching and landed in lots of different places."

Soon after, Allman relocated to Georgia and moved in with his father. During the next couple of years, his search for meaning continued and took on different forms.

"I had not really gotten too deep into politics yet, but I was on my way," he said. "I started my new libertarian journey as one does, but I was still in the vanilla stages."

He worked for Gary Johnson’s 2016 campaign for president, attended some local town hall meetings, and attended a Young Americans for Liberty event in Atlanta, where he met his future wife.

"At the time, I did not have any moral issues with military service, but if I had waited just a bit longer I am sure I would have gotten to that pretty quickly. I was well on my way," he said.

Before he arrived at his current view of the military, he saw the article that enticed him with the idea of being a photographer in the Navy. After doing some online research, he went to the local recruiter’s office.

"I was quite impulsive. I just really wanted a change and something interesting to do with my life. I wanted to get out of that help desk job ASAP," Allman said. "The Navy recruiter … said they could get me enlisted in about eight months. I couldn’t have that. I needed immediate gratification, which is something I still struggle to regulate today."

Next, he went to a Marine recruiter who told him they had a Combat Camera position. Allman recalls the recruiter describing Marine life as "basically hanging out with your buddies, shooting guns, traveling the world, and getting free schooling."

But he wanted to see what the Army had to offer. The recruiter, who Allman said was "super nice," asked if the young man would be interested in a "top secret intelligence job" instead, he recalled. Plus, he would get a $30,000 bonus.

"Looking back now, unless they are signing someone up for the job they had, those recruiters have no idea what they are talking about," he said. "They had their one job going into the Army and then became a recruiter. They know nothing about any other jobs. Everything they say is bullshit. In fact, my recruiter called me down the line and asked me what I even did in the job he signed me up to do. They just want to hit their quotas. It is extremely predatory."

Not long after that initial meeting, Allman took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test and scored quite high.

"Some way or another, the recruiters talked me into enlisting as a … Cryptologic Linguist," he said. "I came in wanting to take photos and ended up signing my life away to learn another language. If that does not scream ‘preying on impressionable young people’ I don’t know what does."

He continued: "I was told ‘the job is basically the top dogs of the intelligence people,’ which was a total lie. They had no idea. That does not even make sense. I have never even attempted to learn another language before. I had absolutely no idea if I would like, or be good at it."

"I loved all of the praise I got for taking the steps to enlist. Everybody in my family was extremely excited," he said. "Little did I know, I was going to regret my decision pretty soon after."

Advanced Individual Training

After he began Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, Allman said he experienced the hardest weeks of his life, both mentally and physically.

A key incident occurred one night when Drill Sergeants entered the bay – a big room that housed 64 soldiers in bunk beds – in the middle of the night, yelling and waking everyone up. Allman said they dumped out water bottles, tipped over beds, and emptied their wall lockers onto the floor – all while making them do push-ups.

The Drill Sergeants said if the mess wasn’t cleaned up in a hour, they would come back and do it all over again.

Allman said:

The way I felt when they went through my wall locker was the most memorable thing. There was nothing special in there. It was everything I was issued and nothing else, but it was mine. It was my one space that I could organize and they destroyed it right in front of me. I actually teared up while this happened which sounds crazy, but it really got to me mentally. Which was their intention. Their job was to break us down into nothing and build us back up into soldiers. I am convinced the way I felt in that moment still lingers in me. I am very attached to my things, almost to an unhealthy degree, which was never the case growing up.

After graduation, he was sent to Monterey, California where he was given a little over a year to become completely fluent in speaking, writing, listening to, and reading Korean.

"This included North Korean, which was about 50% different than South Korean," he said. "Obviously, having never even attempted to learn another language before, I could not keep up and was forced to give up my $30,000 bonus and get a new job."

He went to Fort Huachuca in Arizona to complete a 10-month Advanced Individual Training (AIT) course in order to become an Intelligence Systems Integrator/Maintainer – "[That] came fairly easily to me," he said.

All the while, Allman was experiencing misgivings about his involvement with the Army. His worldview was becoming more refined as he read certain books and had "countless conversations" with those around him.

Some of the more impactful books he encountered around this time included Anatomy of the State by Murray Rothbard, The Problem of Political Authority by Michael Huemer, Freedom! by Adam Kokesh, and The Most Dangerous Superstition by Larken Rose – "[that’s] the one that really did a number on me. … [it] spoke to me considering my religious background." He said Rose’s book "is what broke the camel’s back for me ideologically."

Allman engaged with people online and fellow enlistees about his evolving recognition that he had gotten himself into a situation that conflicted with his personal ethics.

"I spent a lot of time in pretty aggressive debate with the soldiers around me," he said. "All in good faith and friendly, of course, but aggressive nonetheless. … The more I dove into the libertarian/anarchist school of thought, the more confident I became that my beliefs were incompatible with military service."

His concern grew to the point where he brought a couple of his buddies with him to have a discussion with the Drill Sergeant.

"I will give him credit, [he] tried his best to understand and sympathize, but it did not do much for me," he recalled. "I even remember him saying ‘You aren’t accepting stolen money, the Government prints the USD so technically they are just giving it back to themselves by paying you!’"

The Drill Sergeant recommended that Allman see a counselor, but, due to the strictness of the training program, this would have wiped out the seven months he had already put into the course.

"You could not miss a day of class or you would be ‘recycled’ to the beginning of the course with a different class," he said. "As you can imagine, this is not a huge deal if you are just a few weeks into a 10-month course, but if you have already spent seven months toiling away and getting close with your classmates, like I had, it does not seem worth it to put that all at risk to go tell someone else my feelings about the Army. … I was so close to going to my first duty station that I decided to stick it out and address these problems I was having in a much better environment."

‘Part of the Problem’

After spending a total of 20 months in training environments, Allman was stationed at Fort Johnson, which was named Fort Polk at the time, in Vernon Parish, Louisiana.

"The year I spent in the regular Army was miserable. It was riddled with incompetence and wasted time," he said. "It’s truly the DMV, just like any other non-tourist Government agency or building. Despite what the constant firehose of propaganda may lead you to believe, the Army is not exempt from this."

He added:

Unfortunately, I’m abruptly struck with flashbacks of the same beige feeling of emptiness anytime I step foot in a Government building. The poorly photoshopped ads, elevator music, and sadness that plagues the meaningless aesthetic make me eternally grateful to have returned to "civilian life" when I did. Military service is a stain on my life that I will forever be working to overcome. I can tell you one thing, it didn’t induce any sort of pride in my country. Quite the opposite, actually. … The false sense of pride quickly subsided once the emotional graduation was over and I was faced head on with what the regular Army had in store. The Army is full of self-righteous welfare queens ready to be shipped off across the world to make more enemies faster than they can kill them – all in the name of painstakingly brutal DMV-like bureaucracy. The world’s largest gang [whose] actions actively make America, and thus Americans, less free, all while accepting their extorted money.

It became increasingly difficult for Allman to come to terms with being stuck in a contract that required him to serve what he had come to believe was the enemy of the people. He felt he lost control of his destiny.

However, the thought of being dishonorably discharged posed more of a problem than a solution: "I did not want my mistake to join the Army affect the rest of my life poorly."

Around this time, a fellow soldier approached Allman and mentioned the regulation permitting a soldier to apply as a Conscientious Objector, meaning "one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles," according to the Select Service System website.

"At that point, I had fallen into such a deep trance of hopelessness that it actually took me a while to find the courage to go forward with the process since I knew it would be a huge ordeal and I was afraid what my family would think," he said.

He didn’t share what he was going through with his family until it was too late for him to reverse his decision because he said he "did not want to be guilted out of it."

In fact, it was a during a trip home to visit family when Allman knew he had to permanently separate from the Army.

As he approached the USO military lounge in the airport, he happened to notice a morbidly obese woman – "Probably a military wife. We called them ‘dependapotamuses,’" he added – kicked back in a La-Z-Boy with a can of Coke. Something about that sight made him instantly think about Hunger Games.

"I must have just watched the movie or something, and thought to myself, ‘Oh shit, I’m the Capital.’ … I realized, ‘I am the bad guy, and I’m working for the bad guys.’ … At that moment, I felt ashamed. I had sold my soul and it had finally clicked. I was actively contributing to what the founders had warned against. I was part of the problem. … My country and the individuals that make it up deserve better from me."

Allman’s mind was made up. He would submit the paperwork necessary to be a Conscientious Objector. What he didn’t know at the time was that he was in for an "excruciatingly long process" and he would file his packet "at the worst possible time."

The ‘Bureaucratic Crawl’ Toward CO Status

Allman’s Conscientious Objector (CO) application consists of a meticulously detailed four-page document wherein he cites his belief in the Non-aggression Principle (NAP), as well as his affiliation with The Satanic Temple, to argue that his convictions were incompatible for military service.

"[NAP] means much to me personally because it accurately describes my moral compass perfectly," he wrote. "It leaves no room for exception. Consistency is extremely important to me."

He also mentioned future plans "to promote liberty and freedom which are directly tied to Nonaggression because when respected by others we are truly free from aggression," in reference to his membership in Young Americans for Liberty.

In the application, Allman characterized The Satanic Temple as "a non-theistic religious organization dedicated to promoting similar ways of living free from aggression." He wrote that he became a member in late-2018 via an online application and goes on to list how The Satanic Temple’s Seven Tenets directly conflict with his military service.

For example, the first tenet states, "One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason."

"Military service and war is in no way compassionate or empathetic toward other people," Allman wrote beneath. "In fact, it is the opposite. Military service and war is a direct aggression towards peaceful people whether it be direct violence or the support thereof."

Allman told me that the Temple’s tenets helped "bolster my case" for seeking CO status.

"Even though it is not a traditional religious organization and is literally atheistic, I wanted all of the help I could get in convincing the board of my sincerity," he added. "After all, I would only be let go ‘for the convenience of the Government.’ It says that verbatim in the regulation."

Allman has since departed from the Temple because, according to him, it had become "too woke."

"It became clear that they are merely a political activist group full of disgruntled ex-Christians who want to be edgy. There is not a consistently applied philosophy," he said. "They do some good work, but it just isn’t a thing for me anymore."

He added: "This was written years ago and some of my specific stances and motivations have evolved. However, the spirit is still accurate."

Upon completion, Allman had the misfortune of submitting his complete CO application "at the height of COVID," he said – June of 2020.

"The bureaucratic crawl doubled in slowness. It took an entire year for the process to be complete."

Furthermore, Allman claims he had to drive the processing of his application because "nobody around had seen anything like it outside of movies." He found himself digging up old regulations and walking leadership through the process.

For instance, when his First Sergeant sent him to the behavioral health clinic for the required evaluation, they didn’t initially realize they had a role in the CO process. From there, he was interviewed and judged by a chaplain, underwent an investigation by a captain, and participated in a hearing with his Investigative Officer (IO).

For Allman, the process dragged on unbearably.

"[I was] going to work everyday doing absolutely nothing of value until my packet went through. My life was on pause for so long and there was nothing I could do to speed it along."

By July of 2021 – over a year after submitting his application – Allman received a decision from the Department of the Army Conscientious Objector Review Board (DACORB): his request was denied.

"The DACORB thoroughly reviewed the applicant’s complete case record," states a document from the board dated Jan. 19, 2021. "Based on that comprehensive review, the Board determined that the applicant does not meet the burden of proof for obtaining Conscientious Objector status."

According to the document, "the applicant’s chain of command recommended approving [his] request for classification and separation as a CO" on Aug. 18 and Sept. 13 of 2020. The Brigade Judge Advocate subsequently approved the IO’s findings. Then, on Sept. 17, the General Court-Martial Convening Authority (GCMCA) approved Allman’s request.

While the board "gave considerable weight" to the aforementioned recommendations, it determined that "the applicant’s ethical and nonaggression, self-study education are neither credible nor rigorous." Furthermore, DACORB stated Allman’s "approach to self-education is unconvincing in that it led him to his espoused beliefs."

The document also claims Allman’s "parents are Christians but did not practice or educate the applicant in their espoused religious belief" – a statement that Allman found "weird."

"That is extremely far from the truth," he said. "No idea where they got that from."

The board also cited the fact that he turned down the behavioral health counseling he was offered because, DACORB wrote, "it would cause him to delay his graduation from AIT." This led the board to deem "the applicant’s desire to complete military training in spite of his espoused ethical beliefs is inconsistent and contradictory."

"It turns out, not going to see a counselor back in Arizona came back to bite me in the ass," Allman told me.

However, a July 13, 2021 memorandum from the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of the Army stated that there was sufficient evidence to grant the request. Hence, Allman’s request was approved. He was officially, finally, a Conscientious Objector.

Rebellion, Liberty, Individualism

Today, looking back on his time in the Army, Allman says "it was not all bad."

He discovered he was more mentally and physically resilient that he thought possible. He learned a number of skills that he still finds useful. He also made several friends with whom he’s still close to this day. In fact, he was able to help guide one of his friends, who was part of a Special Forces Unit, through the process of becoming a CO.

"It turned out to be for the best and we are both incredibly happy and still very close friends," he said.

Allman’s family, on the other hand, was "extremely disappointed" with his decision. His stepfather told Allman that he had ruined his life by becoming a CO.

"Although it is no longer a point of contention, they are not exactly happy or proud of my decision to leave the Army like I did," he said, adding that his family eventually came to understand how important it was for him to leave "for my happiness and overall sanity."

It seems, to this writer at least, that a key component of Allman’s story thus far revolves around searching for meaning and purpose in life.

When asked if he currently has a stronger sense of purpose, he said, "Absolutely."

He got married earlier this year and recently bought a home in Austin, Texas. He has a close circle of friends and said he is closer with his family than he ever has been been, although they live far apart now.

"I am always searching to better myself in any way possible," he said. "Always searching to better understand myself and the world around me. Life is a journey that has [been], and always will be, a pleasure to experience."

He currently works from home as a project manager for a tech company.

"Being able to provide value to the private sector feels much more fulfilling than working in Government," he said.

In addition to his career, he has also stated another mission: doing whatever he can to "help keep impressionable people away from predatory military recruiters."

Allman said he’s received many messages from soldiers, teenagers considering enlistment, and parent looking for advice about their children serving in the Army.

"I always take the time to answer any questions anyone has, help someone go step by step through the process, or explain what to expect," he said.

Though he hopes to further these efforts in an official capacity in the future, he doesn’t currently have any specific plans.

Given his identity as an anarchist and his experience in the Army, I wondered: does he still consider himself to be a proud American?

He replied:

It really depends on how you look at it. … I tend to reserve "pride" for accomplishments that I have made or a feeling towards others for accomplishments that they have made. … I absolutely feel fortunate to live in and have grown up in America. I believe there is a rich history you seem to adopt by the nature of being American. A rich history of rebellion, liberty, and individualism. I’m proud of what many individuals, who happen to be American, have accomplished throughout history. I don’t take credit myself, but I’m grateful for what some have accomplished, despite the actions of the Government, to award me with the privilege of living in such a great society.

Chris Karr is Executive Editor at Timcast, has been writing and working with words for 25 years. His articles, features, reviews, interviews, and essays have been published in a variety of online periodicals.