A "conscientious objector" is someone, usually in the military or drafted by the military, whose consience will not allow them to serve in an organization which kills people and teaches violence. Although often brought on by religious teachings, like the Quakers, this moral conscience can also be brought on by life experiences, readings, or experiences encountered after being in the military for awhile.
The US military has a process for applying to be a conscientious objector, but it is little known and never talked about in military training. As a consequence, officers of CO's may not be familiar with the existence of the process, or willing to take an application.
I have seen interviews of veterans (members of Iraq Veterans Against the War: You Are Not Alone) who applied for CO status while in the military and they suggest that you get legal counsel.
Who Is A Conscientious Objector?. This site is by the National Interreligious Service Board for Conscientious Objectors in Washington DC. It has concise details about CO and simple advice for anyone seeking CO status. "The government has the power to make people fight a war. But many young men and women have serious questions about whether it is right to take part in war. That may mean that they are conscientious objectors. They may not know the term, or that there is such a thing as conscientious objection to war... Fortunately, there is a long tradition that is getting stronger as people with all kinds of backgrounds share the conviction that war is wrong. The Constitution gives the government the power to raise an army and people can be drafted to fight. But, there is an established right to conscientious objection dating from before the Constitution which has been recognized during the periods that people were forced into the military.
"The law provides for two different forms of conscientious objector service. The difference depends on whether or not COs are willing to accept service in the Army that does not require them to carry weapons.
"Noncombatants (classified 1-A-O) serve in the Army without using weapons or handling ammunition. They are not trained to use weapons. Noncombatants have usually served in the medical corps.
"COs who are opposed to any military service are classified 1-O. When they are ordered to alternative service they are reclassified 1-W. Alternative service workers (ASWs) do "civilian work contributing to the maintenance of the national health, safety, or interest.
"Many of these alternative service workers find their own jobs for approval by the Selective Service System. In the past, many COs worked in hospitals and in programs operated by religious organizations." (Taken from Who Is A Conscientious Objector?, accessed 6/6/2014).
Conscientious Objector Counseling Project from the Quakers.
Quaker Sues U.S. for Recognition of Conscientious Objector Status from Washington Post, July 30, 2009. ACLU... to order the government to recognize conscientious objectors when men register for the draft... The ACLU said a 1993 law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, requires federal agencies to accommodate people's religious beliefs in such cases.
ACLU Defense of Religious Practice and Expression includes defending right to CO status
ACLU Lawsuit Says Selective Service System Violates Religious Rights Jul 29, 2009 – By Arthur B. Spitzer.
Many, many links to CO articles
CCW's Advice to Youth Facing Registration with Selective Service Mar 1, 2010 – Center on Conscience and War
Conscientious Objection from the Quakers. A history of CO since 1651.
Film Review: "The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight" " The film tells the story of the more than 40,000 conscientious objectors – many of them Amish, Mennonites and Quakers – during World War II."
War. Links and Quotes
Colby Glass, MLIS