Category Archives: Member Blog

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

Diplomacy best way to deal with Iran

The Record: Letters, March 25, 2013

Regarding “Lessons of Iraq guide us as we confront Iran” (Other Views, March 19):

The recent column by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J, describes lessons he says he has learned since the U.S. invasion of Iraq 10 years ago. New Jersey Peace Action applauded Menendez then, but we cannot applaud support for military action against Iran today under any circumstances.

The last 10 years of war in Iraq and 11 years of war in Afghanistan taught us that war is costly. More than 8,000 U.S. and coalition members lost their lives, with thousands more injured or diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. More than 4 million Iraqis were made into refugees. We’ve spent more than $1.7 trillion on both wars during a time of economic recession.

Rather than put “all options on the table,” let’s pick one — diplomacy — and stop threatening Iran. This fight isn’t just about Iran not having nuclear weapons. It’s about all countries in the Middle East becoming nuclear-weapons-free. Parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty planned a conference on this topic in December 2012 in Helsinki, but it was postponed. The United States claimed that political instability in the Middle East made it the wrong time.

But it is exactly the right time. Domestic opposition to a U.S.-led invasion of Iran would be tremendous, as many Americans are war-weary. War against Iran through either the front or the back door would be disastrous. When will we learn that diplomacy will work better than war to create a genuinely secure Middle East?

Madelyn Hoffman

Bloomfield, March 22

The writer is executive director of NJ Peace Action. The letter was also signed by Paula Rogovin of Bergen County Military Families Speak Out.

Read original article here

How Many U.S. Troops Have Been Targeted by ANA Troops?

When a NATO troop is killed by an Afghan in uniform, that death is reported. But The Associated Press has learned from a U.S. official granted anonymity in order to give a fuller picture of the “insider” problem, that when an Afghan in uniform wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target, the attack is not reported. Nor are the number of troops wounded who were attacked alongside those who were killed reported.

In recent weeks a soldier in the Afghan National Army (“ANA”) opened fire on a group of American soldiers but missed the group entirely. The Americans quickly shot him to death. Not a word about this was reported by the International Security Assistance Force (“ISAF”).

ISAF also said nothing about an April attack in which two Afghan policemen in Kandahar province fired on U.S. soldiers, wounding two. Reporters learned of it from Afghan officials and from U.S. officials in Washington. The two Afghan policemen were shot to death by the Americans present.

The April attack that killed U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Brittonmihalo, 25, of Simi Valley, Calif., also wounded three other American soldiers. The death was reported by ISAF as an insider attack, but it made no mention of the wounded — or that an Afghan civilian also was killed.

The attacker was an Afghan Special Forces soldier who opened fire with a machine gun at a base in Kandahar province. He was killed by return fire. That attack apparently was the first by a member of the Afghan Special Forces, who are more closely vetted than conventional Afghan forces, and are often described by American officials as the most effective and reliable in the Afghan military.

Coalition officials do not dispute that such non-fatal attacks happen, but they have not provided a full accounting.

Jamie Graybeal, an ISAF spokesman in Kabul, disclosed that in most of the fatal attacks a number of other NATO troops were wounded. By policy, the fact that the attacks resulted in wounded as well as a fatality is not reported because the coalition does not have consent from all coalition governments to do so. “All releases must be consistent with the national policies of troop contributing nations.”

 Graybeal said a new review of this year’s data showed that the 10 fatal attacks this year resulted in the deaths of 19 ISAF service members. Most of those killed this year have been Americans but France, Britain and other coalition member countries also have suffered fatalities.

Graybeal said each attack in 2012 and 2011 was “an isolated incident and has its own underlying circumstances and motives.” Last May, however, an unclassified internal ISAF study, called “A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility,” concluded, “Such fratricide-murder incidents are no longer isolated; they reflect a growing systemic threat.” It said many attacks stemmed from Afghan grievances related to cultural and other conflicts with U.S. troops.

Until now there has been little public notice of non-fatal insider attacks, even though they would appear to reflect the same deadly intent as that of Afghans who succeed in killing their foreign partners.

The insider threat has existed for years but has grown more deadly. The U.S. and its military partners are working more closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility to them by the end of 2014. Training ANA troops will be a major emphasis of U.S. military personnel in the next 12 years. It is likely that many more of our troops will be killed or wounded by Afghans in uniform.

[see http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/2012/04/ap-isaf-under-reporting-attacks-afghan-allies-043012/ for full story]

What malaria meds may be doing to our troops

by: Anna Berlinrut, Mid-Atlantic MFSO Board Representative

Nine days after Staff Sgt. Robert Bales allegedly massacred 17 unarmed civilians in Afghanistan, including young children, a top-level Pentagon health official ordered an emergency review of the military’s use of mefloquine an anti-malaria drug, commonly known under the trade name of Lariam (made by Hoffman-LaRoche).

The normal dosage of Lariam is one pill before going into an area known to have malaria-infected mosquitoes and one pill each week the patient is in that area. Normally, tourists take only a couple of Lariam pills during a vacation. But our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan take many more pills — the average deployment for Marines is seven months and the average Army deployment is twelve months. Many troops have been deployed over five times in the war zones in more than a decade of war.

Scientific journals reported dangers associated with Lariam to tourists as early as the 1980s. A study in the British Medical Journal (August 31, 1996) found a significant excess of adverse neuropsychiatric events of intermediate degrees of severity associated with the use of mefloquine compared with alternative drugs.

A 2006 study conducted at Walter Reed Medical Center found that rats given a single dose suffered impairment of motor function and degeneration of brain stem nuclei, as well as activity that suggested sleep disorders. The data also suggested the drug could lead to permanent damage to the central nervous system.

The FDA’s website reports: Mefloquine may cause psychiatric symptoms in a number of patients, ranging from anxiety, paranoia, and depression to hallucinations and psychotic behavior. Rare cases of suicidal ideation and suicide have been reported.

“Lariam Action” support groups have been formed in the U.K., the U.S., New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Denmark and Switzerland by victims of side-effects of this drug. The Roche (Australia) product information website lists side-effects including panic attacks,“epileptic type” seizures, headaches, visual and auditory hallucinations, aggression and thoughts of suicide which have been reported to continue long after Lariam has been stopped.

A recently released report by the U.S. Army entitled “Generating Health and Discipline in the Force” describes a fighting force more prone to inexcusable violence and an “epidemic” of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). An average of 18 veterans commit suicide every day. Military analysts credit more than a decade of war with repeated deployments as a cause. The report notes that the average infantryman in World War II in the South Pacific experienced a total of 40 days of combat during the entire war. Our troops are in constant danger from IEDs and snipers in a very different type of war. But could Lariam also be a cause of personality changes?

The Army nearly stopped using mefloquine in 2009 because of its dangers and the fact that it should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder, which describes many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army’s new choice for anti-malarial protection is doxycycline, a generic antibiotic. The Air Force is no longer giving it to Air Force pilots.

Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a former Army psychiatrist wrote in the Time magazine “Battleland” blog, “One obvious question to consider is whether he [Bales] was on mefloquine .” “This mediation has been increasingly associated with neuropsychiatric side effects, including depression, psychosis, and suicidal ideation.”

The Army has refused to say whether Staff Sgt. Bales was taking mefloquine, citing medical privacy issues, but they did leak that Bales had at least one traumatic brain injury and that he was using alcohol the night before the massacre. The Army apparently picks and chooses what information it considers to be a privacy concern.

Knowing the side-effects of mefloquine, should it ever be given to our troops?