Category Archives: Member Blog

My Thoughts On Veterans Day 2015

11/11/2015
Last year I wrote about feeling like a zombie because I was living the life of a three Blue Star mother with my baby deployed. Today I write to you as a mother who has had one of those Blue Stars replaced with Gold. The piece of my heart that was deployed survived that tour and committed suicide at his home in Colorado Springs, CO, August 28, 2015. Sergeant First Class Tyler Milam Westbrook, 31, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.
There is nothing that prepares a parent for that call in the middle of the night. My worst nightmare has become my reality. I knew he was very troubled — how could I not know??? I am his mother, he was part of me. Recognizing his struggle and not being able to do something was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The intellectual me truly believes I was powerless over the path he chose. The mother in me wanted to intervene to protect my child.
Having the greatest support group in the world and my antidepressant dose tripled is what keeps me going. My time as an anti-war activist has put me in contact with wonderful people on several continents and all the time zones here back me with calls, messages and the invite to call them at any time day or night if I need to talk. My life-long friends and home town of Williamstown,WV along with many from the Mid-Ohio Valley have been the anchor/the rock/the strength that has helped my family start putting the pieces of our shattered lives back together. For this outpouring of love and support I am humbled and forever grateful.
The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month 1918 was the end to the fighting between the Allied Nations and Germany in World War I, “the war to end all wars”. It was known as Armistice Day and was to be commemorated with thanksgiving, prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace. Nearly 100 years later our country is involved in wars/conflicts/military actions that result in 22 Veterans a day committing suicide.
This Veterans Day, I will represent Military Families Speak Out at a memorial in Parkersburg,WV. Friends will stand with me as we try and generate participation in a group that truly supports the troops. At noon I’ll see my counselor and work on preserving what is left of my sanity. After that, I’ll be at the Williamstown American Legion to help serve potato soup and ham sandwiches to all the Vets that visit. During, before or after these events I will cry.
Tomorrow everyone will be back to normal, back to work and school. The sun will come up and I anticipate my heart will continue to beat like it has every morning since August 28, 2015. With these constants in place, I have no other choice than to live my life. 22 families have been devastated every day since Tyler’s suicide ripped the heart out the Westbrooks and Williamstown,WV.  I wake up every morning and think about 22 more families and communities being torn apart like we were. I imagine each suicide as a ripple on water and the far reaching ripples over lapping as they spread out. Considering the number of people touched by each ripple, this statistic has to have a profound affect.
We, as a nation, need to stop asking generation after generation to do things under the guise of “protecting our freedoms” that they are not able to live with afterwards. The latest generation of military is a very small percentage of the population and has been asked to sacrifice more than any before. Never ending war is not the answer.
I will “Honor the Warrior, Not the War” along with my brothers and sisters in VVAW. I will support VFP in returning to Armistice Day and as always work to bring them all home.
Peace today and all days,
Marcia Westbrook, MFSO
#WESTBROOKSTRONG

MFSO Leader from West Virginia Loses Son To Suicide

We were extremely saddened to learn that Marcia Westbrook’s youngest son, Tyler, died by suicide Thursday morning.  Tyler Milam Westbrook, a member of the Special Forces in the Army,  was stationed at Ft. Carson, CO.  Although we are always aware of the possibility of this happening to each one of us, this news has been devastating to all of us in Military Families Speak Out.

Marcia has been working steadily with the Steering Committee since our rebuild and also serves on the Rapid Response Team, the executive board of MFSO and has had three sons in the military since 9-11.

Cards and condolences to the family can be sent to Marcia Westbrook at:

814 Victoria Ave.

Williamstown, WV 26187

Tyler’s family will be greeting friends from noon until 8 p.m. Saturday, at the Marietta Chapel of Cawley & Peoples Funeral Home, 408 Front St., Marietta. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, at the Williamstown High School Gymnasium.

A complete obituary will be printed in Friday’s edition of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, or may be viewed at www.cawleyandpeoples.com

My Thoughts on Veterans Day AKA Armistice Day

I feel like a zombie. I don’t look dead or crave human brains for my next meal. I must look like my former self because people still recognize me …maybe just older and somewhat detached. I get up each day, do the usual things and go to sleep at night. Life goes on for everyone else and my anti-depressant dose is double what it used to be.

Everything appears normal on the outside, but a zombie resides inside of me. For the ??? time since 9/11 a pierce of my heart is deployed. I quit counting how many times my sons have been deployed. Such is the life of a triple Blue Star Mother.

“Sure I’m proud of their accomplishments”, I reply to well meaning people that ask about my sons.  And, “Yes. They enlisted”, I answer those who are trying to make the point that they must want to be deployed.  But those facts don’t matter a bit to a mother who is worried sick about her child’s life while he is deployed fighting in a war we know should never have happened in the first place .

Today, on the day we used to call Armistice Day, I will honor all my loved ones living and dead at the 11th hour, and pray that every military family finds peace.  Tomorrow I will go back to being a zombie because others who are not carrying my load will go back to business as usual.  I know many of my brothers and sisters in MFSO and other peace groups like Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War will continue doing the work needed to bring peace and I will have to let others carry my load while I am in the zombie mode where I need to stay until I know my son is home again and safe.

That is the way I roll. That is how others I know in Military Families Speak Out roll too. I am eternally grateful for the support from MFSO because they know what is in my heart. Thank you. I couldn’t make it without you.

Marcia Westbrook

Military Families Speak Out

West Virginia

A Note from our New MFSO Office in Long Beach, CA

After months of planning, organizing and working with the previous MFSO staff, we are proud to announce that the national organization of Military Families Speak Out is up and running once again! We bring to this rebuild project a renewed energy and commitment to our message- “Support the Troops, Bring our Them Home Now and Take Care of Them When They Get Here”. We are here because we have loved ones in the military and refuse to be silent and do nothing while our families continue to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Where we are…..

The new MFSO office is located right behind the home of Pat Alvlso and Jeff Merrick in Long Beach, CA. and is set up with donated office equipment given to us by local members of MFSO  and Veterans for Peace. Our address is 775 Havana Ave., Long Beach, CA 90804. You can reach the office at or email us at mfso@mfso.org.  Pat, Jeff and Tina Lopez, (MFSO steering committee member Long Beach, CA) will be checking and responding to all emails as needed. You may also call us at 562-597-3980.  

Who we are and what we’ve done so far…….

We have a total of 15 members from across the country that have agreed to be responsible to complete the many tasks that are required in order to keep MFSO running. This group has volunteered to meet twice a month by phone for now and then later on a monthly basis to make important decisions that will keep us operational and create a powerful voice until all combat troops come home from Afghanistan- at least until December 2014. Soon the names of these volunteers and their area of responsibility will be posted on our website.

The major reconstruction work of setting up and updating our website has begun and will continue to be handled by Dede Miller, (Goldstar Families Speak Out member, Bellflower,CA). We are grateful for the work Dede has put into making our website operational and once again relevant. Please visit our new website at mfso.org.  Dede will continue to add more information, as needed, along with the latest information on campaigns, reports, calls to action and stories from you. Your submissions and comments will be appreciated.

We also invite you and your friends to join our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MilitaryFamiliesSpeakOut . Rossana Cambron, (former MFSO board member, Los Angeles, CA), is the moderator for the site and is looking for your valuable input. Please take a moment to “like, comment and share” so we can get the word out to as many people as possible about our actions and grow. At this point, MFSO has over 6,000 followers on Facebook. Thank you, Rossana, for getting our Facebook page organized and operational.

As a result of Paula Rogovin’s leadership, (former board member, New Jersey), we have determined that our first campaign should be about stopping the new security agreement that is being discussed in Washington between the US and Afghanistan. If this new agreement is signed by both parties it could allow our troops to stay in this unjust war for another ten years!  We invite you to put all the energy you can to support this campaign by getting other like minded organizations, friends, and your local representatives in congress to participate. Below you will find more information about the campaign and suggestions on what you can do to stop the treaty from happening.

We look forward to hearing from all of you and ask you to renew your commitment help bring our troops home now. We know that at least 75% of the American people agree with our position   that our troops need to come home. We believe that no possible good can come from us staying in Afghanistan another day. We will need you to help us harness this energy, mobilize and not let the public forget that our troops are still out being deployed and need to come home now.

We encourage you to read the letter below and take action now.

 CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?

Dear Military Family Members,

Can you believe it? The U.S. government is literally begging the Afghanistan government to allow us to keep our combat troops in Afghanistan until 2024! It will be our daughters, sons, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and other family members in the military (and Afghan civilians) who will pay the price. Once again the American people will be used to pay the billions of dollars to pay these bills.

This is an emergency and Military Families Speak Out and veterans must mobilize now and demand that all combat troops be out of Afghanistan in 2014! Please, please look below to see how you can help stop this war.

What MFSO members and friends can do

1.      Contact the following people and insist that we bring all combat troops home in 2014.
President Barack Obama.   202-246-1111
Secretary of State John Kerry. 202-647-4000 or go to his website: US.state.gov. Then click on “e-mail a question” or “comment” and demand a full withdrawal of our troops .
Your members of the House and Senate in Congress. 202-224-3121

2.      Set up a meeting at the local office of your members of Congress. If you are the only MFSO member or you have only a small group in your area, work with veterans and other peace activists to join you.

3.      Below you will find a letter that you can mail, post on social media or email. This letter is taken in part from a letter we have also included from congress members Barbara Lee, Walter Jones and James McGovern and changed so that it fits within our mission statement. Attached we have  included the original letter from the three congress members, which allows for a later date for withdrawal and wiggle room for the president to get congressional approval, but we wanted you to see  that there is support from some members of congress to end this war. We encourage you to write your own letter, of course, and send it out. BE sure to mention if you have or had a loved one in the military.

4.      Newspapers and other media- consider sending letters to newspaper editorial sections or as an ad.

5.      Vigil. If there is still a local peace vigil in your community, ask if you can hand out flyers about this effort. Make signs and flyers. Do let MSFO know about vigils and send any flyers or copies of signs so we can help spread the word.

6.      If you have other suggestions for actions please contact us at MFSO@MFSO.org

Letter from MFSO

Dear Mr. President:
The war in Afghanistan is in its 13th year, and the need to bring our troops home could not be any clearer. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan suggested in a recent interview that he would be willing to see the permanent exit of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. President Karzai has also repeatedly stated that he sees no potential security benefit from an enduring U.S. security mission.
Lacking a supportive and viable political partner in Afghanistan, there simply is no military solution American troops can achieve, and extending U.S. troop presence will not serve vital U.S. security goals. Why lose additional lives for an openly hostile and corrupt Afghan government?
The U.S. simply no longer has compelling security interests in Afghanistan that justifies combat troops beyond December 2014. Furthermore, as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, U.S.-funded reconstruction projects worth billions of dollars will soon be inaccessible for safe inspection, raising serious questions about our responsibility to conduct vigorous oversight of taxpayer supported efforts.
There is a growing bipartisan sentiment across the country for an expedited end of military activities in Afghanistan. After over twelve years of war, after the loss of lies of thousands of our loved ones, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent, it is time to bring an end to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and bring all of our troops home now.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Military Families Speak Out
Pat Alviso & Jeff Merrick
Military Families Speak Out
Orange County & South Bay Chapter
www.mfsooc.org
562-833-8035
Support Our Troops
Bring Them Home Now!
Take Care of Them After They Get Home