Brothers Travis and Taylor Burnham are both in the Army yet find themselves on opposite sides of a looming conflict with Iraq: One is willing to fight, and the other is not.
Travis Burnham, 24, is stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y., where he applied for conscientious-objector status in January. Taylor Burnham, 27, is a combat engineer in Kuwait waiting for a potential invasion of Iraq.
"I know how a mother might have felt in the Civil War having sons on both sides," said their mother, Judith "J.P." Burnham, a social work professor at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.
"I'm very divided. I support both of my sons," she said. She keeps a yellow ribbon on her office door for Taylor and a war protest sign on the wall for Travis.
Travis Burnham describes himself as a pacifist. In high school, he was kidded about not being aggressive enough for sports. During basic training, he refused to chant "kill" with the other soldiers. More recently, he marched in antiwar protests and spoke openly about his objections.
"I'm opposed to taking the life of another human being," he said. "I understand there are situations where we react to human instincts and in self-defense, but to aggressively and collectively destroy another human life, my conscience won't allow me to do it."
His mother said older brother Taylor has reservations about the war, too, but that he understood when he enlisted that doing his duty might mean using violence.
In joining the military, the two men followed the example set by their father, Jeff, and oldest brother, Preston. They enlisted in peacetime to earn money for college, gain discipline and see the world.
Travis Burnham joined the Army in 1999 after he dropped out of college and ran out of money while traveling in Europe. He sought help from his father to return home.
"I told him I'd send him $300 if he'd join the Coast Guard," recalled the elder Burnham, an engineer and a member of the Coast Guard in the 1960s. "I think it's a good thing for young men or young women to join the military, learn a skill, get some discipline and contribute to the country's safety."
But the Coast Guard had a 22-month waiting list, and Travis Burnham was impatient. He signed up for a five-year hitch with the Army and is now assigned to the 10th Mountain Division as a photojournalist.
"It was the Clinton administration, the economy was strong and war didn't seem to be on the horizon," he said. "Not once did any of the recruiters I spoke with mention war, enemy, shooting or death."
His older brother also joined the Army for direction. He attended college but was uninspired and drifting. He decided to enlist in 1998 and, after a five-year stint, plans to study environmental biology in Maine.
Assigned to the 814th Engineer Company at Fort Polk, La., Taylor Burnham has been in Kuwait since Valentine's Day. Security concerns have kept him from contacting his family since he left the United States.
The Army is investigating his younger brother's conscientious-objector application. The process involves 26 steps and usually takes at least 90 days. Travis Burnham has already been interviewed by a chaplain and a psychiatrist.
The Army can refuse him, grant him a discharge or move him to a position where he would be unlikely to have to fire on an enemy -- such as the position he already has.
"We can't push him much further back than being a public affairs guy," said Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty of the 10th Mountain Division. "He's a photojournalist. I don't know of any photojournalist in the history of the U.S. Army who has ever killed anybody."
The Army has granted two voluntary discharges to conscientious objectors in this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, according to its records. Last year, it granted 17; and the year before, nine. The highest number in recent years was 59, in 1991, during the Persian Gulf War.
As he waits for word, Travis Burnham worries about his brother. He met with Taylor in December at Fort Polk and told him how he felt about a war with Iraq and what he planned to do. There were no hard feelings.
"There was no, 'How can you do this to me?' " Travis Burnham said. "He pretty well understood, and he accepted it."