Category Archives: MFSO in the News

Military families find solace through Memorial Day retreat

KOTA Territory News – This Memorial Day weekend, military families across the nation and even Canada come together in the black hills to find the healing they so desperately need.

Music from the drums help Arturo Cambron find healing.  He and his wife Rossana suffer a daily battle while their son fights a war in Iraq.

“All of the pain I feel as a mother whose son has just deployed for the third time and taking that deep breathe that you never let out until they come home,” said Rossana.

This weekend they learn how to pray, spiritually connect and most importantly how to exhale, even when they know they have more challenges ahead.

“It’s one type of burden but when he gets home it’s another type of burden because we don’t know the affects it will have on him,” said Rossana.

Something April Somdahl knows all too well.  After failing a psychological test Somdahl says her brother was sent back to Iraq for his second tour.

“He returned in August, he committed suicide on February 20th of 2007,” said Somdahl.

“The way I can describe it, my son returned home alive but dead inside,” said He Sapa coordinator, Georgia Stillwell.

The He Sapa or Heart of the People retreat helps military families find solace through Lakota ceremonies.  For four days, 20 people from all over the country and Canada learn how to release their trauma and sorrow.

“I wanted to help them to grieve and feel like their prayers are being answered somehow,” said Michael Bissonette, one of the event coordinators.

And family members say that’s just what this music and these rituals are doing for them.

The four day retreat ends Sunday with a closing talking circle and sunrise ceremony.  The Oglala Sioux Tribe will also host a Memorial Day ceremony at Black Hills National Cemetery.

GSFSO Member Meets with Obama on Memorial Day

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -The mother of a Bay Area man who died in Iraq in 2004 was one of the “Gold Star” moms invited to the White House Monday to mark Memorial Day and pay tribute to the soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gold Star mothers like Karen Meredith of Mountain View come to Washington each Memorial Day to honor their children who died while serving their country. Meredith came for her son Ken, an Army Lieutenant killed in Iraq in 2004.

”It’s very hard to see Ken’s name on a headstone because it just doesn’t belong there,” said Meredith.

Meredith was one of 60 Gold Star mothers who attended a breakfast at the White House with the President and First Lady and later was stunned when Obama visited Section 60 at Arlington Cemetery where vets who died in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

”For him to come out, and I believe honor us with his presence, and to take the time to meet with some of the families, to me showed an understanding that this is a huge sacrifice that we’ve all paid,” said Meredith.

Earlier at the amphitheater of the cemetery, the President said the nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay. It was the first time a president has visited Section 60 on Memorial Day.

War Is Not A Hollywood Movie

March 19, 2011 – Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested for civil trespass today in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where they staged a sit in on the 8th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq. They brought with them the photographs and boots of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq.  The family members brought a block of cement with them when they sat among the hand and footprints of Hollywood legends and pressed the foot prints of an empty pair of combat boots into the cement signing the footprints ‘Forgotten Dead.’ copying what the stars do when they get their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Purple Heart veteran Ed Garza wrote “5,945 & 1.5 million Iraqis and Afghanis. The Forgotten Dead.’ The family members managed to close the area for tourists for over an hour while the police arrested them in front of crowds of tourists.

Tourists stopped and took pictures as though this were part of a Hollywood skit, but soon realized that protestors were making a strong, heartfelt statement.

“We had to do this,”’ said Pat Alviso, mother of a Marine who is currently on his fourth deployment and currently in Afghanistan. “We have done everything we can think of to let our representative and the president know that we want our troops home now. We want them to know we are serious about this and not going to stop until they are all home”

Also arrested was Laurie Loving who commented,” My son enlisted 8 years ago and I can’t believe we are still trying to bring our loved ones home. Closing down Grauman’s Chinese Theater was a minor inconvenience when compared to the horrors our families are experiencing every day.”

Dede Miller, another protester who was arrested in front of the theater added, “What we, as military families did today was important. If citizens do not step out of our comfort zones and put it all on the line as we did today, then they too will suffer the heartache we military families and veterans suffer on a daily basis”

Lisa Blank attended the protest with her daughter Alanna.  “War affects families and I was happy to march today with my daughter as she participated in her first March and action.  We teach our children to trust their hearts when making moral decisions and follow their conscience. That is what we are doing here today.”

Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Invisible to Most

Earlier this month, MFSO was part of launching a new “Cost of War” sign in Rochester, NY. This is part of a growing effort to raise awareness about the financial costs of war. But we military families never forget the human costs of war, as it is our families that bear them. For more information on our True Costs of War campaign, go here.

Iraq and Afghanistan wars invisible to most

Mark Hare, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
November 16, 2010

A few dozen veterans gathered with friends and family in the parking lot of St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality last Thursday to mark the observation of Veterans Day with a solemn reading of the names of New Yorkers who have lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflictss.

When they were done, they plugged in a borrowed “Cost of the War” electronic sign that will travel to several locations around Rochester over the next few weeks. Three messages scroll across the screen: “160,000
veterans are homeless tonight; 18 veterans commit suicide every day; all veterans need our support.”

The reading was organized by the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 23, who were joined by the local chapter of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Military Families Speak Out (against war) and the MK Gandhi
Center for Nonviolence at the University of Rochester.

“We just had an election and the war never came up for discussion,” said Paul Meagher of Rochester, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran who repaired Navy planes and radar. The troops today, he said, “are in a state of
perpetual deployment,” going back again and again to the war zone.

The Iraq combat vets Jim Bloom knows “are not doing too well,” says the 27-year-old Rochesterian, who served as a Navy corpsman in Iraq in 2004-05. “They don’t get the mental health services they need.”

Asked about his own health, Bloom said, “I have my days. I don’t really sleep.” He takes prescription muscle relaxants, he says, to keep him from “grinding my teeth so much that my eardrums become inverted.”

More than 4,400 service men and women have died in Iraq; more than 1,300 more have died in Afghanistan. Somewhere near 100,000 civilians have died in Iraq alone. The cost of the wars has already topped $1 trillion; caring for the physical and psychological injuries to veterans could cost another trillion.

Despite all the years of bravado about a war on terrorism and preserving American freedom, I have no idea what “victory” would look like in either place.

The best, maybe the only, way to end these wars and protect America against future misadventures, is to reinstate the draft, said Jim Swarts, an ordained Episcopalian priest who teaches history at the State
University College at Geneseo. “A draft would bring in the middle class,” he said, “and provide a balance, a different point of view.”

I spent my youth protesting the Vietnam War and the draft that conscripted so many of my generation into the meat grinder. As the father of two sons of prime military age, I can barely imagine calling for its reinstatement. But these wars are invisible, paid for with credit cards, waged largely off the TV screen, inflicting death and trauma on a tiny segment of our population — on beautiful young men and
women who will never recover from three and four and five tours in combat. The conflict drags on because most Americans have no stake in it.

There is no guarantee that a draft — with Vietnam-era exemptions for students, and those who know how to work the system — would be any fairer today. But without a draft, our leaders have been free to wage undeclared wars with no clear purpose, but with no consequences — except for those forced to fight them.