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When Josh Stieber was deployed in February 2007 as a part of the surge in Iraq, he was unaware that what he was going to experience would change who he was and how he saw the world around him. He came back transformed into an advocate of non-violence and opposed to the surge he had been deployed as a part of.

Stieber joined the US army thinking that he was going to prevent terrorism and liberate the Iraqi people.

"I saw things very black and white, like I thought that pretty much whatever my country decided to do was going to be the right answer and thought, that you know, because of 911, any action that we took would be justified," said Stieber.

Stieber's experiences in Iraq made him question his previous beliefs. He found that because of the asymmetrical nature of the war ,it was hard to separate out the people he was supposed to be fighting from the rest of the population.

"You don't know who's going to attack you and a lot of times, when you get hit or attacked, you don't even see who did it," said Stieber. "Often times you end up attacking and hurting the people who had nothing to do with it."

"I learned a lot more about people and that it doesn't matter what country you're from or if you have a uniform on or not, it's about how you treat people," said Stieber. "I guess the idea of trying to force everyone into liking you or agreeing with you is not the way to go about things and often creates more enemies and more problems than it solves. "

Stieber was in Iraq for fourteen months. During his deployment he was an infantryman and was worked as a humvee driver, as a gunner, a detainee guard and a radio operator.

Stieber is on a tour of the US to promote non-violence and alternatives to force. His tour began on May 27th. Stieber plans to cover between 4000 and 5000 miles by foot and bicycle. And expects that his tour will take about eight months to complete.

"If I'm saying the military is the wrong way to solve problems, then I need to show what the right answer is, so this trip is about visiting a lot of different organizations that focus on bring people together and being proactive and dedicated to solving problems in the world non-violently," said Stieber.

As Stieber travels across the US, he plans to showcase twelve charitable organizations. Stieber selected organizations with goals ranging from fundraising for childhood cancer to recycling old bicycles to micro lending.

"My first focus was illustrating the power of individuals and showing that it's not only the government or the president or the generals or whatever who make decisions and who affect things but that common ordinary people can change things," said Stieber. "I tried to look for organizations that brought people together."

Throughout his tour, Stieber will be encouraging people to participate in a letter writing campaign. The sample letter encourages soldiers to treat civilians with respect and patience.

"Thinking back to my experience in Iraq, you get a constant stream of letters and encouragement that say 'keep using force and violence as a way to solve problems'. One quote I got sent throughout my deployment was 'we can sleep in peace at night because brave men are willing to do violence on our behalf'," said Stieber. "The letter writing campaign is encouraging people in the peace community to respectfully and gently say they appreciate soldiers for the energy and effort that they're putting in, but also to respectfully offer a different point of view and to break that chain of encouragement to keep using violence."

After returning home, Stieber applied for conscientious objector status. The investigation into the sincerity of Stieber's claim would take nearly a year before it was approved.

"As of yet, I don't think I've met anyone who's critized me," said Stieber. "I've gotten different people who are just curious about what I'm doing, some people who think it's a great idea, people who just ask a lot of questions, so far it's been very positive."

Throughout his tour, Stieber will encourage people to participate in a letter-writing campaign. He has a sample letter encouraging soldiers to treat civilians with respect and patience.

"Thinking back to my experience in Iraq, you get a constant stream of letters and encouragement that say, 'keep using force and violence as a way to solve problems,' " said the former soldier. "One quote I got sent throughout my deployment was 'we can sleep in peace at night because brave men are willing to do violence on our behalf.' The letter-writing campaign is encouraging people in the peace community to respectfully and gently say they appreciate soldiers for the energy and effort that they're putting in, but also to respectfully offer a different point of view and to break that chain of encouragement to keep using violence."

After returning home, Stieber applied for conscientious objector status. The investigation into the sincerity of Stieber's claim took nearly a year before it was approved.

"As of yet, I don't think I've met anyone who's criticized me," said Stieber. "I've gotten different people who are just curious about what I'm doing, some people who think it's a great idea, people who just ask a lot of questions. So far it's been very positive."

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