PART 1: CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR During the Vietnam War, Ted helped the Koho people of Di Linh improve their farming practices and production.
Ted Studebaker grew up on a farm near West Milton, Ohio. He graduated from Milton-Union High School in 1964.
In the United States, men ages 18 through 25 must register with the Selective Service System. On turning 18, Ted registered although he opposed war. Later, he wrote a letter to the local draft board. He explained his beliefs and asked to be classified as a Conscientious Objector. Ted wanted to help people in peaceful ways through an alternative service requirement.
Ted sincerely believed that war was wrong. From infancy he attended Church of the Brethren, one of three Christian denominations known for their historic stand against war. After high school, he went to Manchester College (now Manchester University), a Church of the Brethren school. At Manchester, Ted made friends with students from other countries and continued to develop his views. He majored in psychology and sociology. He also studied scripture and the writings of nonviolent activists such as Mahatma Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther King, Jr. After graduating from Manchester, Ted went to Florida State University where he earned a master’s degree in social work.
At age 23, Ted began his alternative service requirement by joining the Vietnam Christian Service (VNCS). Ted was going to Vietnam although not as a soldier. Farm life had prepared him to work in agriculture. College and his study of scripture had prepared him to serve through nonviolence.
“I know what I’m doing,” Ted said. “Do not fret if I don’t come back. Know that I go willingly. The dehumanizing process of war concerns me deeply.”
From 1969 to 1971, Ted lived in Di Linh (pronounced zee-ling). He worked with the Koho (pronounced caw-ha´) people. In Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the Koho are one of the many hill tribes collectively known as the Montagnards. The Montagnards are an oppressed minority group and culturally distinct from the Vietnamese majority.
As an agriculturist, Ted introduced the Koho to a new strain of rice, set up a rice huller, improved irrigation, raised chickens, and kept bees. After completing two years of service with the VNCS, Ted signed on for a third year.