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My Service Experience in CPS

By Edwin R. Stucky

Peace and social concerns have gotten much more attention because CPS veterans became more concerned about the cause and teaching of Christ.

Some years ago [World War II] when war clouds seemed to be hanging around in the world, many things began to change and the military draft became a reality in the U.S. [People opposed to war proposed] an alternate service program and the result was that Civilian Public Service (CPS) was made available and thousands of young Americans took advantage of alternate service rather than join the military.

I was born to a Mennonite family and my church experience in the Eden Mennonite Church and my several years at Bethel College convinced me that war is not the best way to solve world problems. As a result I was happy that I could join a CPS activity in Colorado.

Of all the things I have experienced in my life, I believe that my involvement in CPS during World War II was one of the most constructive activities I have ever been involved in. I recall that at one of our CPS reunions Bob Kreider said to us, “You and your kind were the real heroes of World War II.” The CPS or Alternate Service provided opportunity for thousands of young men to choose loving service rater than hate and killing. It allowed service in mental health, in national safety and agricultural activities rather than destruction, death and hate.

It was great to work with a variety of people, Mennonite and non-Mennonite, and discover that there are people in all walks of life, and who may well belong to a variety of religious groups, who are aware that war and killing is wrong and who hope to find some alternate service in which they can serve their nation and their God.

I would hope that more young people would be involved in some experience which would help them enjoy a positive impact on their lives and society. I am certain that the thousands of CPS people have had a positive impact in many areas of life in America. I am also convinced that CPS was a wonderful thing for the thousands of young men in the U.S. and many positive things were the result of this alternative service: 

  1. The church, especially the Mennonite church, was blessed by the CPS people who came home with new zeal and excitement for the significance of the teachings of Jesus and the impact of Christian churches in the lives of people. Many CPS men came home and became involved in leadership roles and activities in the church.
  1. Peace and social concerns have gotten much more attention because CPS veterans became more concerned about the cause and teaching of Christ.
  1. I am convinced that mental health has received a positive impact by the fact that many CPS people were very involved in mental health.
  1. Many activities that focused on serving others were given a great deal of support by those who were involved in real service for some time. It would be a wonderful thing if the younger generation in America could have some experience that would help them to be a bit more concerned about service to others, something like CPS.

By Edwin Stuckey, in The Eden Peace Witness: A collection of Personal Accounts, edited by Jeffery W. Koller, p. 143-144, who was inspired by Tom Brokaw’s bestseller, The Great Generation, about the commitments and sacrifices of the citizenry during World War II. The Eden Peace Witness was an attempt to alternatively tell the stories of persons who opted not to take part in war. Used by permission. Published in 2004 by Jebeko Publishing.

See  more information on CPS . Another later service program, PAX, had similiar goals and outcomes as the CPS program; Third Way Media produced a documentary on PAX called Pax Service: An Alternative to War.


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