Category Archives: Announcement

Continuing the Work: Military Families Working Group

As you may have heard, in a few months MFSO, the non-profit organization, will officially close down. The bank account will be closed, the Board of Directors will disband, and the not-for-profit status will be ended – freeing MFSO of complicated tax, insurance, and other financial and other problems which have bogged down the Board over the last few years.

Fortunately, there is a group of MFSO members who have the energy and who are working to develop a plan so that we can continue as an all-volunteer organization, not as a non-profit. This newly restructured organization will allow military families to effectively move forward  with the mission statement MFSO has had since the build-up of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “Support the troops, bring them home now, and take care of them when they get home.”

Under this plan, military families could continue to lobby members of congress locally and nationally, continue sharing our stories with the media, holding vigils, participating in protests against the war in Afghanistan, working to support families who are in crisis while their loved ones continue or consider joining the military, and working with other peace and justice groups locally and nationally.

At this point, we have a number of MFSO members who have unified with this goal in mind and plan to participate in a MilitaryFamilies working group. Because we are spread out across the country, our planning and coordination for now will be by conference phone calls and emails. If you would like to participate in this Military Families working group, please let us know right away. We would like to hear your suggestions regarding what work is the most essential work that needs to be done,  how you think we can do this work, how we can encourage the revitalization of local and national work, how we can bring in new members, and other things you think can help the Military Families working group move forward.

If you want to be part of this MilitaryFamilies working group, please send your name, e-mail, city and state, and phone number to so that we can be in touch with you.

Thanks so much.

Pat Alviso, Jeff Merrick, Rossana Cambron, California
Military Families Speak Out, Orange County & South Bay Chapter

Announcing the MFSO Oral History & Archiving Project

This summer MFSO will launch the Military Families Speak Out Oral History & Archiving Project, and we want you to be part of it!

The MFSO Oral History & Archiving Project will record and preserve the story of MFSO: the experiences of the families, allies, and staff that were a part of it and the lessons learned in the only organization in U.S. history in which military families spoke out against a war.

From July through September of 2013, we will collect stories, writings, pictures, and videos from as many current and former MFSO members as possible. We will interview members on their experience with and reflections on MFSO. We will collect physical memorabilia to store at the Swarthmore Peace Collection, an academic archive that chronicles movements for peace and justice. Stored artifacts from the movement can include everything from banners and buttons to photos, old paperwork, and meeting notes. MFSO’s oral histories will also be stored at the Swarthmore Peace Collection and on an easily accessible website.  Additionally, we are partnering with the StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative, a publicly-funded project which aims to tell the stories of the veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and their families.  Participants in the Oral History Project may have the option to participate in StoryCorps as well.


Every military family holds an important piece of the history of MFSO, whether you were an active member, a spokesperson, attended an event, or felt connected through reading the emails.

There are a number of ways you can share your story:

We will also be reaching out to members individually for phone and in-person interviews, as well as arranging listening days in a number of cities.  If you’d like to arrange an interview or help organize a local listening day, please email us at

The MFSO Oral History and Archiving Project is directed by former MFSO staff members Samantha Miller and Nikki Morse with help from co-founder Nancy Lessin and former board members Adele Kubein and Jack Amoureaux, and in collaboration with the current MFSO Board of Directors. We appreciate and look forward to your participation. If you have questions, please email us at

Charley Richardson, ¡Presente!

Military Families Speak Out is deeply saddened by the death of co-founder Charley Richardson, who passed away Saturday, May 4th. Charley has been a beacon of hope and inspiration, a mentor and teacher, and a shoulder to cry on for so many of us in this movement and beyond.

The seeds of MFSO were sown in the summer of 2002 when Charley’s son, a U.S. Marine, was being deployed and it became clear he would most likely be ending up in Iraq. As life-long peace and labor activists, Charley, and his wife Nancy Lessin, knew they couldn’t sit by silently while their son was being sent into harm’s way, to a war that should not be happening, an illegal and immoral war of aggression. They brought a sign to anti-war protests with their son’s picture on it that said, “Our Son Is A Marine – Don’t Send Him to War for Oil!” Charley and Nancy were overwhelmed by the response they received to the power of their voice as a military family protesting the war.

At one of these rallies they met another a father whose son was facing deployment to Kuwait. Together, they formed Military Families Speak Out to organize and amplify the voices of military families in opposition to an invasion of Iraq. Just months later, Nancy and Charley spoke at a press conference, offering their home phone number for MFSO; within days, two hundred families from around the country joined the organization.

In February, 2003 Charley and Nancy were lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against then-President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, calling for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the U.S. from invading Iraq until there was a congressionally mandated declaration of war. Three active-duty service members, other MFSO members and twelve Members of Congress were part of that lawsuit. The case went two rounds in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, and finally failed on March 18, 2003. The bombs dropped on Baghdad the next day.

For the next two years MFSO existed in Charley and Nancy’s living room. On top of their day jobs as prominent labor activists, Nancy and Charley wrote grant proposals, helped members start chapters, trained families on how to speak to the media and pushed tirelessly to create a home for families like them, who had loved ones in the military and were opposed to the war. Families came to them with the same story. “Thank God I found you. I thought I was the only one! What can I do to be a part of this?”

In 2005, MFSO was able to rent an office and hire a small staff. The chapter network grew from 6 to over 30 chapters. MFSO members spoke at local, national and international press conferences; rallied and held vigils at the offices and homes of Senators and members of Congress; formed chapters on military bases and base towns; collected and delivered tens of thousands of letters, postcards and messages to elected officials; spoke at forums in churches, union halls, community centers, high schools and universities; appeared on “The Lehrer News Hour,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” National Public Radio, and CNN; and were featured in articles in The New York Times, Military Times, War Times, Stars and Stripes, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and other local, national and international press. MFSO helped to change the definition of what it meant to “support the troops,” as MFSO’s mantra “Support Our Troops – Bring Them Home NOW!” caught on across the country.

In May, 2007, Charley and Nancy received devastating news—Charley was diagnosed with a very advanced, aggressive cancer. Originally given a prognosis of 18 months to live, he defied the odds and continued to live, fight, and love to his fullest. He learned to take vacations, welcomed three dearly beloved grandchildren, and laughed and played with his growing family. Charley continued his work as a labor educator and MFSO leader through the ups and downs of his struggles with his illness, treatment, and declining health. Charley brought his all to his life work, till he could no longer work.

Charley passed away peacefully on May 4th, 2013 at home after a six-year battle with cancer, surrounded by his beloved wife and co-agitator Nancy, and their loved ones. Our best testament to the life and work of Charley Richardson is to continue his legacy in word and action. May we all hold close what he has given us and carry him with us in all that we do. Rest in power Charley — the power of a life well-lived and well-loved.

Charley’s impact on us all is beautifully stated by several MFSO members on a Facebook tribute page (where details about sharing condolences and donating in his honor are held, and where information will be shared about a Memorial to be planned for the summer):

Connie C:

“Charley & Nancy – I don’t think either of you realize what an impact you had on my life. When we first met (at Mike and Betsy’s) I was struggling – I had voted for W in 2000, my brother was in Afghanistan and I was confused. Charley’s gentle soul and kind spirit helped guide me. I found my voice – it was shaky – but I learned that I could speak – and to my amazement – people listened. Charley you were my teacher. Thank you for helping uncover the wise, peaceful, liberal, brave being that I really am!”

Phil & Linda W:

How grateful we are for the email you sent to us back in 2005. “Thank you” just does not seem to say enough for all you and Charley have given to us and to so many others. We are holding all of you within our hearts and sending loving, comforting thoughts your way. Thank you Charley for giving so much of yourself to right the wrongs, you will always be with us. Linda & Phil

Denise T:

Charley and Nancy, I met you at such an awful time in my life. My daughter was physically compromised and at war. After all the rejection I was facing because I hated the Iraq war, you embraced me, as you did so many of us, and you pointed us in the right direction. My prayers, my love, and my hugs from Georgia are with you. As I told you Charley, this picture (below) makes me smile. It’s my favorite picture from the anti Iraq war movement. I faded it because I can see the graphics on my desktop much better that way. It looks like you are saying “we’ve won!”. Charley and Nancy you both HAVE won. you have won my heart and the hearts of so many. I love you both more than there are words. Thank you for coming into my life.