HONOLULU, DEC. 5 -- The Marine Corps yesterday dropped court martial proceedings against Cpl. Jeff Paterson for refusing to be sent to Saudi Arabia, and said he will be given a "less than honorable" discharge.
Paterson, 22, of Hollister, Calif., whose unsuccessful bid for conscientious objector status drew national attention, said, "We got over one hurdle. Now we've got to stop the war."
Paterson said he plans to tour the United States to encourage others to resist deployment, and to appeal to citizens to oppose use of force in the Mideast.
Paterson's lawyer, Eric Seitz, called the Marine "a hero of his generation," and predicted more resistance, "not just due to this case, but also because of what President Bush is trying to do in the Middle East."
Marine Brig. Gen. R.L. Phillips, commanding officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade at the Marine Corps Air Station here at Kaneohe, ordered that Paterson be discharged "under less than honorable conditions" and that his rank be reduced to lance corporal.
The discharge falls short of either a "bad conduct" or a "dishonorable" discharge, but still means denial of all veterans' benefits and often leads to "substantial negative prejudice in civilian life," a Corps statement said.
As part of his agreement with the Marines, Paterson admitted being absent without leave on Aug. 16, when he announced his conscientious objector application at a news conference, and of purposely missing a military movement when he refused to go to Saudi Arabia Aug. 29.
Paterson also agreed to drop his pending lawsuit against the Marines alleging they improperly denied him conscientious objector status.