Category Archives: Member Blog

Member Blog: Mary Hladky

State of the Union & True Costs of War

Yes I believe in America’s ability to “do big things” to move our country forward.  I also believe we can face the hard facts about Afghanistan.   We spend $2 billion every week in Afghanistan for a war that 63% of Americans do not support.  The war does not make us safer,  in fact, our military intervention is creating many more enemies. Afghanistan is a landlocked, primitive, poor country with no nuclear weapons. Al Qaeda has left Afghanistan, moving to Pakistan, Yemen and  Somalia. Deaths, injuries, and billions are being wasted on a mess we can’t fix.  So where are our voices?  Few speak out because Americans have been asked to sacrifice nothing. Institute a draft or significantly increase taxes to pay the upfront costs of war (instead of borrowing money which adds to the deficit) either would cause  a deafening  uproar. Currently only our military and their families pay war’s overwhelming price.

We have overextended our armed services creating a crisis – military suicides and PTSD  are at alarmingly high rates.  Our professional military is suffering from 10 years of unrelenting, horrific  war – too many redeployments with disastrous human results.  Deaths are approaching 6,000 but significant injuries are almost 10x the death rate.  We have never expected so much from such a small military force before.  Apathy is no longer acceptable.

President Obama needs to show real courage and pull out of Afghanistan, protect our ports, railways & airways, rebuild our economy and take care of our troops when they return.

Mary Hladky
Military Families Speak Out

Member Blog: Sarah Fuhro

As a member of a family with a son in the military, I had my sense of reality twisted around last night by President Obama.  When he finally got around to the two wars which eat up billions of our tax dollars and, which have killed and maimed thousands of our young men and women, he spoke as if they are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace.  He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but forgot to mention the 50,000 who remain.  He mentioned civilians who ‘will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,’ but did not mention that they can only move about the country in a military convoy.  This does not sound like a US and Iraqi peoples friendship pact to me!   And many of those ‘civilians’ are in fact highly paid private industry security guards, needed for the huge embassy we all built with our tax dollars.   We’re not talking about teachers and aid workers here.  If, and when, we leave that devastated country, we will leave it without medical or educational or civilian infrastructure.  We will leave it with millions of Iraqis homeless refugees unable to return to ethnically cleansed neighborhoods. We will leave it with millions of unemployed and angry people who cannot possibly contribute to their own security let alone ours.

And then in a few short sentences we hear about the great success of our war in Afghanistan. This is a war where it costs a million dollars to keep one American soldier there for one year. When our military leaders say the war is not going well in Afghanistan, why do our political leaders tell us otherwise?  We have more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.  You would never know from President Obama’s speech that many are the same troops that were taken out of Iraq.  We can’t win this war and we can’t afford it.   We can’t even afford to take care of the desperately wounded veterans returning with limbs blown off and minds in chaos.   Meanwhile Afghan women have the second highest rate of death from childbirth of any place on earth.  Instead of ‘shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity,’ we deliver misery and death.

Believe me, President Obama those of us with loved ones involved in these wars know that they will never end except in bankruptcy, financial and moral.  We know at the personal level what the 23% unemployment rate for returning troops feels like.  That deep knowledge of  a lie when you hear one, will only grow until you and Congress have the honesty to admit it is not Medicare and Medicaid which is driving up the debt we are leaving to our families, it is open ended, never ending war and preparation for war.

Sarah Fuhro
MFSO Board Member

Gold Star Mother Responds to the State of the Union

Like many Americans I watched the state of the Union. The Presidents said that we were all part of something greater- the American Family. As a Gold Star mother and an advocate for Military Families I hope that we are truly now a full part of the American Family. The initiatives announced the day before to help families look promising. I am worried about the effects of multiple deployments on the education of our military children. Never in our history have families had such stress as these multiple deployments. We have studies showing the effects of divorce or incarceration on the education of children, but none that I know of the effect of multiple deployments. Children on a military base going to a DOD school may show less educational loss that a student of a guardsman in a school where he/she is the only child dealing with the issue. On the other hand children on base are more likely to know a child who has had a parent killed in the war. I would have liked to hear the president talk about the part of the American Family who has given the most.

As we heard about the deficit I could not help think about how much of this was started in the Bush years with having wars that were not only unnecessary but also unfunded. Had we not squandered on treasure and our precious family members this union would be in a better state.

Diane Davis Santoriello
proud mom
of 1st Lt. Neil A. Santoriello Jr. KIA 8-13-04

President Obama Should Meet the Real Needs of Veterans & their Families – Military Families Speak Out Respond to the State of the Union

Last night, President Obama called for support of our troops and their families, yet he painted far too rosy a picture of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and stopped short of offering any real plans to ensure jobs and mental health services for veterans.

Since the supposed end of combat operations in Iraq last summer, 18 U.S. troops and at least 649 Iraqi civilians have been killed.  According to many analysts, Obama will likely maintain 5 U.S. bases and 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinetly.1 According to the National Priorities Project, U.S. taxpayers will contribute $65 billion to the war in Iraq, money that could instead pay for over 1 million jobs, or 13.4 million people receiving low-income health care.2

President Obama stated that troops would start coming home from Afghanistan this July, but Pat Alviso, who’s son is currently serving in Afghanistan, asks: “The withdrawal may start in July, but when will it end? My son is in Afghanistan now, and almost 30,000 more troops are scheduled to deploy before July.  When will they come home?”  She continued, “If President Obama, wants to keep his promise of ‘shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity,’ he needs to bring my son and all the troops home now – and take care of them when they get here.”

The president also made sweeping promises about improving education, health care, clean energy, and creating jobs.  However, at the same time he is proposing a 5-year freeze in domestic spending, with only minor cuts to the military budget.  “My community is suffering from cuts to health care, failing schools, and a rising unemployment rate.  My husband was discharged from the Army in Nov. 2010. He is 75% disabled now and just had his 3rd operation.  He is not able to work.  His unemployment benefits have been cut, and his disability pay does not cover our expenses.  I am working full time, but can not make ends meet.” said MFSO member Tammara Rosenleaf from Montana. “Congress and the President may clap to show their gratitude, but I’d rather be able to actually pay my bills.”

Members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out are available for interviews about the State of the Union. If you are looking for a family with a specific story, please contact Samantha Miller, MFSO’s Communications Coordinator – Samantha@mfso.org or 818-419-6994

MFSO is a national organization of thousands of military families working to bring all U.S. troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, secure the care that our troops, veterans, and military families need, and support a foreign policy that will not lead us into such wars again. Gold Star Families Speak Out is a chapter of Military Families Speak Out made up of families whose loved ones died as a result of these wars.

MFSO has recently launched a new national campaign, The True Costs of War, highlighting the human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Using online tools, local events, media outreach and grassroots lobbying, we are working to strengthen the voices of military families and build alliances with other organizations who agree that our troops and tax dollars belong at home.

For more information about Military Families Speak Out, please visit: http://www.mfso.org
For more information about Gold Star Families Speak Out, please visit http://www.gsfso.org

1. Jamail, Dahr “Iraq: Operation Enduring Occupation,” http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18204 and Schwartz, Michael “Will the U.S. Military Leave Iraq in 2011?” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-schwartz/will-the-us-military-leav_b_498579.html

2. National Priorities Project, Trade-Offs Database, http://nationalpriorities.org/tools/tradeoffs/