Category Archives: Member Blog

Report from Celeste Zappala, Gold Star Families Speak Out member, Philadelphia

Sunday  November 11

I had heard of the decision to award Bush the Liberty Medal in the summer.  Gold Star Mom Sure Niederer had asked if we should be present, but I had thought to go to Washington DC with the Vets to protest the Trump parade.  By early November I knew I could not go to DC, and felt I must be a voice opposed to George Bush being honored with a medal for serving veterans of the war he so foolishly started. I checked with my friends in the Peace network but could not find any actions planned at the Constitution Center where the medal would be awarded.

By Friday, I felt compelled to go and be a witness for the Truth- even if I was alone.  Fortunately, when I posted a call to protest, a few of the old Peace friends responded.  On Sunday morning I asked the members of my faith community, the First United Methodist Church of Germantown to stand with me.  As the sun began to set on Independence Mall a dozen of us were present.  I held a huge picture of my fallen son, Sgt Sherwood Baker, and others held signs saying remember, 4,541 plus Americans dead, 500,000 plus Iraqis dead-  for a war based on lies.  

 The street in front of the Constitution Center was fairly quiet.  Well dressed guests passed through safety stations to go in, we stood on the opposite side of the street- barely close enough to see each other’s faces. Shortly after 5 we heard whistles and a drum- the vets of About Face appeared.,- the Calvary had come!  Full of energy and enthusiasm, they took their place directly in front of the recently erected tent where the ceremony would take place. Chants and speeches, their voices filled the air and we, the civilians chanted with them.

The Vets had brought a sound machine, and a projector- when finally Joe Biden then Bush spoke, we stood directly in the front of the thin plastic shield that divided us from the folks in the tent, and began to yell “:Shame”.  We called, “Bush lied, people died”  “No awards for endless war”.  One of our friends, the former wife of a Vet, Stacy Bannerman, was removed from the tent after she attempted to interrupt the ceremony to return the medal she had received in recognition of her husband’s service. 

In the darkening street, the Vets and we older folks chanted and yelled- and we were heard in that tent. Joe Biden and George Bush could not escape our shaming of them.  The sound machine provided the wail of a siren for the entire speech, and the Vets whistled – shrill and persistent.

George Bush accepted the lies created by his administration and chose to begin a war in Iraq.  The whole World was injured by that mistake.  George Bush did indeed open the gates of Hell, and to this day, hundreds of thousands of people are still paying the price, their lives are forever altered, the loss of hundreds of thousands of people will echo for generations.  This man deserved no medal of honor.  His work to support veterans can not redeem him if he can never account for his betrayal of the truth. For those of us screaming outside that tent, the loss and pain we carry is permanent, but as one Vet said, “we are together, we are here, we have our voice.”

How Are We Supporting our Troops when 20 Veterans Die by Suicide Every Day?

Excerpts from the speech given by Mary Hladky, MFSO Steering Committee Member, on May 20th in Jefferson City, MO at a Poor People’s Campaign protest of militarism. Soon after Hladky
issued this critique, she and 16 others blocked a
street, were arrested, and were released.

I am Mary Hladky. My son, Ryan, was an Army
Infantry Officer. During his deployment in
Afghanistan, the troops experienced some of the
highest death and injury rates of the war.
Today I want to talk to you about the war economy
and the incalculable harm this obsession does to all
Americans, and especially soldiers.

War drains the treasury of money. The Costs of
War Project at Brown University says US wars over
the past 16 years have cost $5.6 trillion. Our
officials justify this spending in the name of
national security. There is little left, it seems, for the
welfare of the people.

These same officials defend these massive expenses
as part of “supporting the troops”. But supporting our
troops should mean bringing them home and
taking care of them when they return.

How are we supporting the troops when many
military families need public assistance such as
food stamps to make ends meet, while defense
contractors rake in record profits?

There are 3 million veterans of the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan. These soldiers have seen more
combat than veterans of any other wars. Many have
experienced moral injury – a violation of a person’s
moral values, core beliefs. The shame, guilt, and
torturous remorse that becomes moral injury often
results in suicide.

How are we supporting our troops when 20
veterans, from all wars, die by suicide every day?
Today, here and across the country, and all over
the world, our voices declare our work for a more
peaceful world, the hope of a movement; to realize
that true security is not measured by the size of our
military, but the welfare of our people.

 

 

 

 

Just before the arrest of Mary Hladky, Michael
McPhearson, and other activists
Photo by Bennette Dibben, PeaceWorks

Afghanistan and Perpetual War: Everyone Loses

October 7th is a grim reminder of 17 years of war in Afghanistan – a war that has brought death, destruction and grievous injury to so many, with little, if any, success and no conclusion.

Most Americans cannot explain why we are currently at war in seven countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Niger.People don’t know and are shocked to learn that U.S. Special Forces were in 149 countries last year. There are 193 countries in the world. That’s a military presence in 77% of the world’s countries.

Perpetual War has become the new “normal” and the American people barely bat an eye.

Unfortunately, the American public is totally disengaged from the country’s wars and its military interventions. Less than 1% of Americans serve in the military. The rest of Americans have been asked to sacrifice nothing. There is no draft and since 9/11 no increased taxes to pay for these wars. With no “skin in the game”, and the wars rarely covered in the media, it is easier for people, with very busy lives, to just accept that the government is keeping them safe, no need to question.

Since 9/11 U.S. wars have not achieved their military objectives; they do not bring peace, democracy or freedom. They do not make the lives of the people in these countries better. The American people are told that the U.S. military is a force for good, but in reality, it has brought chaos and increasing terrorism to the Middle East and the region.

Since 9/11 the U.S. has created a vast national-security state surveilling Americans.

Militarism abroad has gone hand in hand with the militarization of U.S. borders and of poor communities across the country.
Military weapons from our wars are returning home to local police departments to be used against brown and black communities. The weapons used on the streets of Baghdad are literally the same weapons used on the streets of Ferguson. Young black males are 9x more likely to be killed by police officers than other Americans. This is the same racism that goes together with the war against immigrants and refugees.

War creates millions of refugees. The UN reports that approximately half of the world’s refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. All places the U.S. military has intervened.

And the most dangerous blowback, for every living thing on the planet, is the increased production of nuclear weapons and the devastating effects war has on climate change.

Wars since 9/11 have little to do with protecting Americans but are all about the immensely profitable business of war. We are told that our massive war spending is necessary to support the troops. But, in fact, it supports defense contractors making record profits.

How are we supporting the troops when there is a move to privatize the VA, so corporations can pillage the system for profit, instead of appropriately funding VA services to handle the ever-increasing number of veterans who need care?

How are we supporting the troops when the military knowingly exposed untold numbers of service men and women in Iraq & Afghanistan to deadly toxins through the extensive use of open-air burn pits instead of ensuring waste was properly handled?

Supporting our troops means bringing them home now and taking care of them when they return.

Instead of instigating wars of choice, America should have been focusing on poverty in America, maintaining our infrastructure, climate change, and understanding cyber-threats (like shutting down the electrical grid).

After 17 years of unwinnable wars, our only accomplishments are more terrorist cells and more hatred of America. These are the choices our country has made and they basically come down to hurting people – here at home and abroad.

We need to ask ourselves: Who Are We as a Nation?

And When Will We Stand Up to Change the Direction of our Country?

Mary Hladky
Military Families Speak Out

Stop The Deportation of Veterans!

 by Robert Vivar, Unified US Deported Veterans Resource Center ​and MFSO Steering Committee

August 1, the Unified US Deported Veterans Resource Center welcomed USMC Cpl.Robert Cano, another deported combat hero. The US DVR Center says that it is an injustice to discard those that should instead be honored for their service.. Our call is to LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND. Please help us support these forgotten veterans by leaving messages of support for Cpl. Cano at:Unified US Deported Veterans on Facebook or supporting their families here in the US. 

The US DVA Center in Tijuana, Mexico provides the following help for deported veterans in California:

*Assistance with citizenship applications

*Assistance for deported veterans to have their cases reviewed

*Colef, (Colegio de la Frontera Norte) in Tijuana sponsors focus groups for deported persons that are interested in obtaining information on re-validating their US education and furthering their education in Mexico. There are plans for at least two focus groups – one for US military deported Veterans and another for those working in Call Centers, since without a higher education, your progress in the workplace is very limited.

*Emergency housing and employment assistance

MFSO Members, Immigrant Rights Groups, and Friends:

YOU can help the families of deported veterans still living in the U.S.:

*Help with housing or legal aid

*Ask members of Congress to introduce legislation to keep the promise to veterans that they will not be deported.

*We can put you in contact with families of deported veterans in these cities even if you don’t live there: Modesto, CA Los Angeles, CA Riverside CA San Diego, CA Phoenix, AZ Chicago, IL Las Vegas, NV Brownsville, TX Houston, TX Ontario, Canada You can help the families in many ways (depending on their needs), such as sending or bringing food, school supplies, and clothing, helping with housing, and providing legal aid. Your support and friendship will be welcomed.

If you are interested in helping the families of deported veterans, please email Robert Vivar: dvsh.rob at gmail.com.