Steve Newsom and his wife Lynn spent five years as co-directors of Quaker House, the Fayetteville nonprofit that advocates for peace and supports service members who question their role in the military.
As a young man growing up New Jersey, Steve thought he might spend his entire adult career in the military, joining the Navy in 1972.
"On both sides of my family were Navy men, there was no doubt I was going to go in the Navy,” he said. “I just was very depressed, but I did it.”
He served two years on active duty and three as a reservist, but came to see it was a poor fit.
“I had never heard the term conscientious objector,” he said. “There was no such creature when I was in high school or looking to join the military, but when I heard the term I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve always been a conscientious objector.’”
After leaving the Navy, Newsom began to advocate for veterans, helping to pass a G.I. Bill in New Jersey and representing veterans looking to upgrade their discharges.
Years later, during his tenure at Quaker House, he found his military experience helped him connect with soldiers who sought help there. Establishing a quick rapport was important, Newsome said, as many service members came to them in distress.
“People would come up to the door desperate,” he said. “We were their last resort so often. With the high suicide rate among veterans, we knew that we were saving lives just helping people.”
Ft. Bragg Stories is a collaboration between the Fayetteville Observer and WUNC's American Homefront Project to commemorate a century of history at Fort Bragg through personal narratives. You can hear other stories in the series here. If you'd like to share your Fort Bragg story, you can send it here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org