Bernie Sanders was a pacifist during the Vietnam War and applied for conscientious objector status at the time, his campaign told ABC News.
“As a college student in the 1960s he was a pacifist,” campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said in an email. “[He] isn’t now.”
The information was confirmed after a Vietnam veteran wrote a letter to The Des Moines Register asking how a Democratic Socialist like Sanders, who did not serve in the military by applying for the conscientious objector status, could be commander in chief. Steve Wikert of Cedar Falls, Iowa writes in part:
I enlisted in the military while I was still in high school. Around that time Bernie Sanders’ draft board was deciding on his claim that he refused to do military service because he was a conscientious objector. He did so to avoid having to serve his country in the Vietnam War. Soon after he turned 26, too old to be drafted, and no longer needed ways to avoid the draft. Sanders was just settling down in his new home in Vermont in 1970-1971 while I served my country as a military policeman in jeep patrols in Vietnam.
His decision to refuse to fulfill his wartime civic and patriotic duties claiming conscientious objection follows him his entire life.
The Burlington Free Press reported that Sanders’ conscientious objector status application was eventually rejected, but he was too old to be drafted at that point. He went on to become an anti-war activist from the 1960s through the 1970s.