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On the day I heard that President Obama had officially declared the Iraq war over, I was at the Danville Veterans’ Administration hospital (VA) with my partner S, an Iraq War veteran. S is six months into a disability application, a request for benefits and compensation for disabilities sustained during military service, which will likely take another year to process.
We found ourselves navigating through a maze of yellowed walkways and drab interiors, shuttled from admissions offices to mental health clinics. While we were not the only ones moving through that system, we were perhaps moving faster than the others. Many veterans of previous wars—the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, World War I—lined the route, being pushed in wheelchairs, walking on canes, some perhaps visiting for the day with their families, some completely alone. S was one of the only young people I saw in this wing of the VA, and based on the way people looked at us, they clearly knew that he was a “hero” of the war that President Obama had just declared “completed.”
It took S five years to work up the guts to apply for disability status after getting home, and now I understand why. Anyone who has ever spent time in the military knows that there is a stigma against saying you are hurt, especially if those wounds are not visible. And then to go back to the institution that hurt you, with no record of the injuries you have sustained, to ask for help, to say you are not OK, runs the risk of adding insult to injury.
But being there with S, I realized there is another dimension to VA visits enough to keep you away for a lifetime: the proof that war is a lifetime for those who survive, that it traps you in its drab hallways, in its medical appointments and slow-moving applications and appeals, in its memory and worldview, in its wounds. Long after the war is declared over and the country stops paying attention to their suffering, veterans still walk those hallways, go to those appointments, and take those pills.
Even though Obama ran on the anti-war ticket, he ended up declaring the war a success. All day, I turned over in my head the President’s speech from that morning: “We knew this day would come. We’ve known it for some time. But still there is something profound about the end of a war that has lasted so long. It’s harder to end a war than begin one. Everything that American troops have done in Iraq—all the fighting, all the dying, the bleeding and the building and the training and the partnering, all of it has landed to this moment of success.”
The toll of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is catching up with the Washington state communities near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the form of suicides, slayings and more.
Mary Coghill Kirkland said she asked her son, 21-year-old Army Spc. Derrick Kirkland, what was wrong as soon as he came back from his first deployment to Iraq in 2008.
He had a ready answer: "Mom, I'm a murderer."
He told her how his team had kicked in the door of an Iraqi house and quickly shot a man inside. With the man lying wounded on the floor, "my son got ordered by his sergeant to stand on his chest to make him bleed out faster," Kirkland said. "He said, 'We've got to move, and he's got to die before we move.'"
Not long after, Derrick told her, he had fallen asleep on guard duty, awakening as a car was driving through his checkpoint. He yelled for it to stop, but the family in the car spoke no English. "So my son shot up the car," she said.
POSITION AVAILABLE - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Veterans For Peace (VFP) seeks an Executive Director to lead the organization in a new period of growth and achievement, building from a strong base of existing organizational assets. The ideal candidate will have solid fundraising and non-profit management skills and a passion for VFP’s Statement of Purpose. The VFP national office is in Saint Louis, MO. Residence in St. Louis is desired but not mandatory. Past military experience is required.
I'm torn between the pleasure of having just read a brilliant and moving first-person stream-of-consciousness account of a true story of one woman's childhood, and the deep sadness that comes from learning about the absolutely horrific hell that this woman is extremely lucky to have survived — a hell that many others have known and will know, despite the ease with which it might be prevented.
This time of year is ideal for reflecting on the miracle of Christmas 1914, that famous temporary truce and friendship between opposing sides in the midst of a war. Here was a new type of slaughter confronted with a new type of humanism, the leading edges of two opposing trends.
An op-ed in the New York Times last week by Steven Pinker and Joshua Goldstein argues that peace, rather than war, was the dominant development, and that over the millennia, centuries, decades, and right up to this moment, "War Really Is Going Out of Style."
By John Grant
Ft. Meade -- Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.
By David Lindorff Sr.
Veterans unplugged: Hoosier anti-war activist connects
returning veterans to the 99%
By Harry Targ / The Rag Blog
“I grew up in Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Working-class family, father was a Union Ironworker... mother was a stay at home Mom.” Vince Emanuele joined the Marines after graduating from high school. “I came out of boot camp a hard chargin’ Devil Dog.”
He served in the Marines from 2003 until 2005 stationed in California, Kuwait, and Iraq. His eight month deployment in Iraq involved him in street patrols, looking for snipers and land mines, “along with shooting at innocent civilians, destroying their property and beating up prisoners.”
While in Iraq the fascination with war that he had acquired as a kid playing video games dissipated. His father sent him reading material -- Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Hunter Thompson, The Nation -- and he and friends began to reflect on what they were doing in Iraq. He came to the view that the war was “illegal, immoral, unjustified, and unneeded.” He was not spreading “democracy” or “peace” and the U.S. war effort was not winning the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.
After returning to the U.S., Emanuele joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, has been organizing vets in Indiana and Illinois, created a weekly radio show called “Veterans Unplugged” which is available online, and has become a prominent activist for social, economic, and political justice in the heartland of America while finishing an undergraduate political science degree.
Not yet 30, Evan Knappenberger has already lived several lives. His story destroys the U.S. government's case against whistleblower Bradley Manning, exposes the toxic mix of fraud and incompetence that creates U.S. war policies, and highlights the damage so often done to soldiers who come home without visible injuries.
Knappenberger, seen in this video, was trained as an "intelligence analyst" at the U.S. Army's Intelligence Training Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona in 2003 and 2004, the same school attended by Bradley Manning. In April of this year, the PBS show Frontline, responding to an article Knappenberger had published, flew him to Los Angeles on a private jet, and interviewed him for four hours.
The risk of suicide in military children nearly doubles during a parent's deployment. Daniel killed himself during his father's last tour. He was 12 years old.
He hung himself from the bunkbed he shared with his brother.
His mom, Tricia, is wondering how Daniel's brother will cope with his father's upcoming deployment.
So is another military spouse whose boy tried to kill himself during his dad's last tour - who also learned that her soldier will be deployed again in 2012.
Isolated incidents? Not if you're a military family member.
These two moms will join other military family members on November 17 in this nation's Capitol to present Homefront 911: Military Family Monologues. True stories about how 10 years of war is really coming home.
12:00 noon at the US Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium free & open to the public.
What struck me in reading Cville Weekly's excellent new profile of an Afghanistan War veteran, and in writing this profile of another Army veteran who never made it into (foreign) combat, is how many times I've heard the same story. Kids grow up admiring their parents' and grandparents' military "service," then join the military, and then afterwards find out how traumatic and horrific their family members' experiences were. What if veterans told their kids the truth early on, in an age-appropriate manner as their children grew up? Some studies say a majority of recruits are from military families. What if those potential recruits had known the truth prior to having to learn it first-hand?
Oct. 28: Rachel Maddow expresses exasperation that Paul Wolfowitz is still treated by the media as if he has credibility on foreign policy matters despite his infamous history of disastrously poor judgment.
Never More Proud to Be in a Courtroom
by Kathleen Kirwin
October 28, 2011
“AS THE FATHER OF A YOUNG SON, I WENT TO THE WHITE HOUSE ON MARCH 19TH TO BE A VOICE FOR SHAHIDULLAH.” From the closing argument of Defendant Art Laffin in DC Superior Court.
caskets of dead
soldiers coming home;
cameras out of
They did not count
all they killed;
they did not count
They said the
mission was accomplished.
They said the
mission was through.
Missions made of only lies.
Murder and maim,
Murder and maim
and use our name.
Death for sale by enterprise.
Devil’s bargains stealing souls.
We know. We know. We know.
CODE ORANGE: Amendments missing!
If you see them,
Their mother is worried.
Reward for their safe return.
Supreme Court fire sale:
Half off for
Politicians while they last.
By Allison Gamble
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects 8% of men and 20% of women at some point in their lives. Military veterans, however, have a dramatically increased percentage of PTSD: as many as 55% will experience symptoms at some point. 30% of these diagnosed will experience chronic symptoms, which may last their entire life if untreated.
Soldiers in the Army and Marine Corps are most likely to experience PTSD. From a forensic psychology perspective, those in the trenches are closest to the horrors of war, have the most exposure to dangerous and traumatic experiences. However, less than half ever seek treatment. Many refuse to acknowledge their problems due to fear of hurting their military careers.
Those with PTSD often experience a number of debilitating symptoms: depression, numbness, anxiety. Frequently, they remove themselves from situations that might trigger memories of trauma. People diagnosed with PTSD have higher rates of aggression, domestic violence, and occupational problems, and often self-medicate with drug and alcohol abuse: approximately 88% of men and 79% of women with PTSD have a co-occuring addictive disorder.
RAY CITY, Ga. — April and Tom Marcum were high school sweethearts who married after graduation. For years, she recalls, he was a doting husband who would leave love notes for her to discover on the computer or in her purse. Now the closest thing to notes that they exchange are the reminders she set up on his cellphone that direct him to take his medicine four times a day.
He usually ignores them, and she ends up having to make him do it.
Since Mr. Marcum came back in 2008 from two tours in Iraq with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, his wife has quit her job as a teacher to care for him. She has watched their life savings drain away. And she has had to adjust to an entirely new relationship with her husband, who faces a range of debilitating problems including short-term memory loss and difficulties with impulse control and anger.
It is difficult to watch this video without both crying and being inspired. Ashley Joppa-Hagemann recounts her husband's struggles before he killed himself to avoid an eighth or ninth tour in the Iraq-Afghanistan Wars. Ashley confronted Donald Rumsfeld last week over the lies that led her husband to enlist. This led to her appearing on Democracy Now on Tuesday and being featured in Amy Goodman's column:
"One person convinced by Rumsfeld’s rhetoric was Jared August Hagemann.
Standard would reduce dangerous US oil dependence, save Americans billions at the pump
At its 26th Annual Convention in Portland, Oregon, last week, members of Veterans For Peace huddled with a wide range of experts – on everything from how to deal with military recruiters in schools, to how to deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – and everything in between.
Some 300 VFP members from 36 states were joined by 100 members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and several members from Military Families Speak Out.
With veterans' unemployment rising, President Barack Obama is scheduled on Friday in a visit Washington's Navy Yard to announce initiatives to prepare vets for civilian jobs.
Those boomers born during WWII and in the few years directly after may or may not remember their childhood years, I do. What your parents, coming out of the military, no higher education needed to fight our wars, or moms coming out of the factories, quickly taught the jobs needed to work in by those who for many reasons couldn't serve in the military. You grew up into that working world that had quickly grown a prosperous middle class, and with usually small but regular raises and improved benefits and safety you were prospering better then your parents.
Now over a decade with two wars of choice and added to the previous decades of ignored issues and not fully funding the Veterans Administration, thus saving monies instead of increased costs to catchup with the needs, as to the results of our wars. Easier to lay blame on the agency rather then the country, the 99% who don't serve it, who collectively don't look in the mirror at their total lack of Sacrifice as they wave those flags!
Last night, 30 July 2011, the Congressional House (T)'s did exactly what many thought they would and now the Congressional Senate (T)'s, going into their oft used filibuster, follow the Houses lead, and their Supporters Cheer, a day after this:
A Country that is willing to 'Sacrifice', Not the U.S.!
As we've seen since Korea and especially from our long War of Choice, Vietnam and since! To easy to ignore the Veterans of and the few really concerned citizens, PTS, Agent Orange/Defoliant poisoning, Suicides, Gulf War Syndrome and so much more of the not so distant past and the now rising concerns of the present. Way to easy to lay blame on the Agency especially by congressional representatives, calling that conservatism, and the people, then to fund on the front end, knowing the long term results of our invasions and occupations will have costs similar to the ever growing defense costs, thus saving money long term than to Demand the Same Sacrifice demanded of the soldier, sailor and marine and their families, now over a decade of No Sacrifice and certainly No Demand For!
Crystal Nicely, Caregiver and Spouse of OEF veteran
Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Heidi Golding, Principal Analyst, National Security Division, Congressional Budget Office
James Hosek, PhD, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation
Veterans and the Veterans Administration have been short changed for decades now, costing much more in fighting to catch up then if funded properly at the beginning and into, and throughout, our wars of choice, instead it's easier for the people, their reps and some veterans to lay blame on the agency. Magnetic ribbons, wordy patriotic meme's, flag waving and historic costumes, lapel flag pins and purple heart bandages is Not Sacrificing after Demanding the Soldiers and their Families do!!