Military Families Speak Out’s (MFSO) last meeting at the White House was August 27th 2015. We discussed ending our military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the high rate of military suicides and VA care. The very next morning we learned that Tyler Westbrook, son of WV MFSO representative, Marcia Westbrook, commited suicide at his home. Tyler was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.
We immediately informed our White House contact who was very sympathetic stating that a request would be made for a letter of condolence from the President.
A few days later, our contact informed us that this letter would not be sent because Tyler died “stateside”. We were informed that it is the policy of the Department of Defense that only active service members who die by suicide while deployed can be sent a letter of condolence from the President.
How can such a distinction be made? It is an obviously offensive and ill-conceived policy that is very painful to the families. This policy reinforces the stigma attached to suicide making these families feel less than, that their loved one’s service was unimportant and their sacrifice not respected.
MFSO diligently worked with our White House contact requesting the Defense Department’s policy be changed so that the President could send a condolence letter to the family.
After 16 months, to our surprise and with tears of joy and sadness, Marcia Westbrook received a signed letter of condolence from President Obama.
Thank you President Obama.
We don’t yet know if the Department of Defense changed its policy or if President Obama signed this letter because he agrees the policy is ridiculous and hurtful, causing more pain. We are in touch with the White House hoping to learn that the Department of Defense changed this awful policy so that every family whose military member dies by suicide is entitled to receive a presidential condolence letter.
Military Families Speak Out members are concerned after the Presidential election. There is great uncertainty around a Trump presidency and what it will mean for military members, veterans, and their families.
Our nonpartisan group is concerned about the endless wars that the United States has involved our military. President Obama and numerous military officials have repeatedly stated there is no military solution in the Middle East and surrounding area, yet war has been the government’s main response. Military statements by President-Elect Trump are often vague, contradictory or unknown. A review of the individuals being considered for cabinet positions indicate an increased militaristic approach.
MFSO continues to call for: No U.S. military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and now Yemen. MFSO and the whole peace movement must stand strong against policies that call for more violence and war.
We call for continued efforts for diplomacy and humanitarian aid. In addition, we know that xenophobic rhetoric & hate speech only exacerbates the situation and sends a false message that we are at war with Islam, which in turn only leads to more hatred from civilians in the Middle East who are mostly Muslim. It also gives ISIS the propaganda they need to continue attracting more anti-American recruits.
We have so many concerns. We need to be bold. We are extending an invitation to all members to get re-involved in the work of MFSO and reach out to other like-minded military families. There are many ways to get involved. We need help from every member if we are to end these wars once and for all. Please reach out to other military families who are currently in the military – they need support and have a story to tell!
MFSO continues to call for quality health and mental health care for veterans and military families within the Veterans Administration. No privatization of the VA. We continue to demand education, jobs, housing, and other services for veterans. As always, we support the troops, want them home now and work hard to take care of them while abroad and when they return home. MFSO is a 501c3 non-profit and does not endorse any political candidate. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or gender. Please consider a tax deductible donation at this time.
(Open Letter to Mr. Trump)
In the past few days, you have disrespected the father of a soldier who died in combat in Iraq. You not only disrespected him but you disrespected his wife, a woman so filled with grief that she could not speak. You know absolutely nothing about the pain of losing a child to war. You disrespect thousands of parents who. like Mr. Khan and I, have paid the ultimate sacrifice–our child’s life in the name of American freedom and democracy.
You have said that Mexico sends criminals, rapists, and drug dealers. You either have bad information or your handlers are lying to you about immigration. Thousands of us who are of Mexican origin have paid the high cost of giving our children’s blood for all of the wars prosecuted by the United States around the world. Are you aware of how many ethnic Mexican soldiers and Marines have received the highest honor this nation bestows on its fallen heroes? I can give you all the names but you would not understand their courage and sacrifice; their love of family and country.
I am but one more immigrant who came from Mexico to work–not to rob or rape–but to work and provide for my family. What did I give in return? The life of my son Jesús A. Suarez del Solar who died in Iraq “defending our freedom” including your right to insult us. My son died a U.S. Marine in the illegal invasion of Iraq and you mock and disrespect that fact when you say that you have “sacrificed a lot” by creating jobs with your shady businesses. Clearly, you do not understand the word “sacrifice.”
Millions of immigrants from all over the world chose to come to the United States and adopt this country as our own. Many of us have given our children’s blood in return. You never served and have never known war. Your sons have not served and only use weapons against defenseless animals. And yet you insult us by claiming to be the only one who can fix America’s problems.
Stop being cynical. You have no moral authority to speak on democracy, sacrifice or heroism. We thousands who are Gold Star parents do. If you were a man of integrity, you would apologize to us now and give up your insane scheme to become President of this great nation.
Fernando Suarez del Solar
Father of Lcpl Jesus Suarez del Solar, KIA Iraq
Founder & Director, Guerrero Azteca Peace Project
By Rosemarie Slavenas
His boots are empty now, the hopeful one who wore them ground beneath the juggernaut of war.
Where we laid him, a stone will stay, flags flutter, and flowers sway, watered by tears and rain.
War is cruel, and love must suffer long. But can it suffer so in vain?
Do you hear their voices calling from out those empty boots? We went where we were sent, and there we faced the worst.
Upon our broken bodies, dare you take a stand? Or will our deaths, just like our lives be lost in desert sand.