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Death By Lying:
"Military recruiters misled my son, and now he's dead."

Interview with Sue Neiderer

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

Seth Dvorin.
Second Lieutenant Seth Dvorin.

American soldiers are willing to risk their lives for the truth. But no soldier should give a life, or take a life, for a lie.

Remember Michael Moore following military recruiters around a shopping mall in "Fahrenheit 9/11"? It's a painful scene for Sue Neiderer of Pennington, New Jersey. As a parent she bears a special grievance against military recruiters who, she says, misled her son.

Seth Dvorin was a Second Lieutenant with 18 soldiers under his command. He died instantly on February 3rd when he tried to dismantle an "improvised explosive device" near Iskandariyah south of Baghdad. "Seth had no equipment, and he was not trained in explosives," his mother told me. Seth's father, Richard V. Dvorin, is an Air Force veteran and retired New Brunswick police officer.

A member of Military Families Speak Out, Sue Neiderer is now a peace activist in opposition to the occupation of Iraq. After she returned from a memorial at a New Jersey school, I talked with her about the war, her loss, her sense of responsibility for those who are still alive in Iraq, and about military recruiters who wrongfully changed the course of Seth's life.

Paul Rockwell: Many members of Military Families Speak Out, parents who lost their loved ones in Iraq, comment on the misinformation that led to war. Do you believe President Bush lied to our troops?

Sue Neiderer: Absolutely. He lied. There was no war when Seth went into the military. Now it comes out that what we went to war for was a deception -- total lies. No weapons of mass destruction. Absolutely no link to Al Qaeda. The war was basically Bush's personal vendetta. The day after my son was killed, George Tenet, the Head of the CIA, came out and said: There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction. Do you know how a mother feels? My heart sank. My Family. We all just went to pieces. Our son was killed the day before Tenet made his announcement. We learned that we just lost our child for no reason.

Paul Rockwell: You're a vocal member of Military Families Speak Out. All of the members that I have interviewed so far, especially parents, express a certain sense of betrayal. They tell me there's a process of deception that extends beyond the politics of the White House. It goes into military recruitment itself.

Sue Neiderer: Last week I was a substitute teacher in a class. I thanked the students for all they had done for my son. A student said to me. "Mrs. N, the recruiter told me that the military will pay for my college education, and then put me through medical training. And if I have to go over to Iraq, I would be a Medic, and I would be out of harm's way." The kid was 17. I said, "Where's your brain? Where's your brain?" I looked him in the face and I said, "Please, for your sake, your parents' sake, make them put this in writing. My son is dead because of the lies he was told by the recruiters.

Paul Rockwell: What happened with the recruiters?

Sue Neiderer: Let me tell you something. This is where I go ballistic, when it comes to military recruiters. Seth was not thinking about the world at all. He was thinking about the enticements. He wanted to go into the FBI or CIA. That wasn't wrong. But the recruiter told him joining the military would be a good way to get into those agencies. Seth owed money and wanted to pay his debts. The recruiter said the debts would be paid. They come upon the youth with enticements, those who don't have money. They say, "If you enlist, there is a signing bonus." When kids turn 18 they must send their names in. They have to register. Then the floodgates really open. The phone calls start to come.

The recruiters knew that we would not permit Seth to enlist before he went to college. So they continued to call him throughout his college. They were continually on his back. Seth had a brilliant mind. They wanted him to go into officer candidate school. They told him that, because you are an officer, you are not a grunt, and you will not see the front line, like the grunts do.

Paul Rockwell: He wouldn't see the front? That's what Seth thought?

Sue Neiderer: That's what he was told. I said to Seth, "Get this in writing.'" But his recruiter said to him, "Aren't you man enough to sign on the dotted line yourself? Who wears the pants in the family?" So they didn't put it in writing. I think they should put a wire on the students. I'm serious. Let the students tape the recruiters.

Paul Rockwell: Your son was an officer in Iraq. Was he home on leave, and what were his thoughts?

Sue Neiderer: He came home, and if I had known then what I know now, Seth would not have gone back. Seth did not believe in the war. When he went back, he went back to bring his troops -- his 18 men -- home. "Mom, listen to me," he said. "I'm a lieutenant. I have 18 men under me. I must go back for my men. They are my family." That's the reason Seth went back. And he died saving his 18 men. He was out on patrol looking for bombs in the road. He was never trained for that. He had no equipment.

Paul Rockwell: Many parents who lost loved ones in Iraq feel compelled to say the war is right.

Sue Neiderer: For a parent to accept that a child died in vain is heart wrenching. But parents need to face the truth for their own sanity. I have accepted it. It is part of my crusade to say my son died because of deception and lies. My son went back to bring his troops home. I am campaigning to bring them home, to keep my son's wish alive.

American soldiers are willing to risk their lives for the truth. But no U.S. soldier should give a life, or take a life, for a lie. The covenant between our government and its people, between the Commander-in-Chief and our soldiers, is broken.

Paul Rockwell is a writer in the Bay Area. He can be reached at

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Published in In Motion Magazine July 25, 2004