The American serviceman who refused to play ball

March 7, 1997

Looking at Don Power, it is hard to see how he differs from other US militarypersonnel. Outwardly he looks like any other young marine. But the 31-year-old father from Oregon haslost almost everything.

"A year ago I decided Iwas going to make the navy my career," he said."I was ranked highly among my peers. We had bought a house. Everything was good."

Power, who is a member of a Native American lodge, chose to transfer to a military ship to make a third tour of the Persian Gulf. "I reported aboard the USS Arkansas," he said. "While I was being shown around, I was told I needed extra time in the medical department so they could take a DNA specimen. I had heard nothing about this, but I felt there was something wrong. I discussed it with my wife.

"I felt an instinctual reaction. I had been trying to create greater sensitivity to the principles that guide my life. I am a member of a lodge. I believe I am the way I am for a reason. That reason is mine, and no one else's." Power refused to give a DNA sample. "I said my body was a sacred recipe to me, and that I didn't think I should share it. The officer was notprogrammed for that response.

"I didn't really go into this thinking I could lose my job. I thought if I had an argument and I was respectful I would get away with it. They wanted to know why I didn't want my DNA on file. Wouldn't my wife want to know if I died? My wife wrote a letter explaining our shared views.

"They had previously taken urine and blood samples. But they were not holding a part of me on a shelf. The lodge teachings are based on honour and respect. You find personal power in knowing who you are.I think it would be dishonouring myself to share that with my employers. Of all the things we have in the world that can be taken away from us - our house, our spouse - the only thing we really have is ourselves."

Power says he lost a stripe, his nuclear classification was removed, he lost 40 per cent of his income. He could not pay his mortgage. "My family is paying the price. I am still in the navy, but I am going to work everyday and not doing the job I should be doing. I am awaiting a court martial."

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