For immediate release:

Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Time: 1-3 PM and 6:30-9:00 PM
Location: 5th & Main
then Fraps and Wraps on Main (150 W Main St)
Suggested Donation: $10

Join Iraq Veterans Against the War in Grand Junction, CO on Tuesday, March 19th at 1:00 PM on Main Street to chalk the names of Colorado natives who have died since the start of the occupation in Iraq and at 6:30 PM at Fraps and Wraps on Main for a film screening that will highlight the epidemic of rape in the military followed by a discussion about the continued struggles that our servicemembers’ are facing at the V.A. after returning from the battlefield.  Following the screening, Iraq veterans will lead a discussion about the ongoing trauma caused by the Iraq War and the organizing work currently underway to improve veteran care here in Colorado.

The Invisible War – Film Screening –

Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of rape victims, The Invisible War is a moving indictment of the systemic cover-up of military sex crimes, chronicling the women’s struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. It also features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm of conditions that exist for rape in the military, its long-hidden history, and what can be done to bring about much needed change.

March 19 will mark the 10 year anniversary of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.  While the war may officially be “over” and has faded from the minds of many Americans, the casualties continue to mount.  Thousands of veterans, service members, and Iraqi and Afghan civilians continue to deal with the mental and physical trauma that they suffered as a result of the war and daily violence. These attacks continue in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the legacy of U.S. invasion.

Many of our veterans and service members have suffered injuries that will eventually claim their lives as their physical and mental health deteriorates.  These deaths will never be included in any official War on Terror casualty count.  Returning veterans who seek health care through the underfunded and understaffed Department of Veterans Affairs face long wait times, confusing bureaucracy, and  inconsistent quality and availability of healthcare.  Currently we are experiencing a veteran suicide epidemic with 22 veterans committing suicide every day.  The men and women who have served our country deserve the care and resources to heal from trauma they’ve suffered due to their military service.

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Welcome Aboard: An essay about leaving the military and joining the transnational world.

Each and every person is different in their experiences and knowledge; however servicemembers’ and veterans alike share a common bond that most civilian will not understand.  Transiting from one life to another is difficult no matter the situation but when you have been taught to do as you’re told and not think, returning home is complicated.  Joining the corporate world as soon as possible may help to ease the transition but is it the best option? For some it may be, for myself it was an eye-opening experience for sure.

Joining the military is something that is often undertaken as a youth and, although most everyone talked to about it says to really think the decision through, we jump without true contemplation.  I can only talk to my experience and a little to those that I have talked with about this but having dealt with students and Truth in Recruiting most stories are quite similar.  Joining the military is an experience that many will agree changed them and the shared experience of Boot camp and reporting to the first command create a culture of close knit comradery that extends beyond time served.  No matter the experiences gained through service one thing is true about all who transition from servicemember to veteran; there are no training programs to teach how to be a civilian again.

As time counts down to the final days attached to the command feeling are aflutter thinking and planning ones return to the life they left before joining.  Returning gear and partying harder than ever before, then when that final day comes and the last signature is put on the service record, which is if you’re not Stop-lossed, you’re given copy 4 of the DD214 and told to have a good day.  The thought of freedom sets in and the idea that one no longer has to shave twice a day to simply stay in regulations dawns and life seems pretty good.

Returning home is a great pleasure and people around town will thank the veteran for their service, only not truly understanding what their job was or what they did in the name or patriotism but they thank them anyway.  If ones lucky then a job will fall into their lap which pays better than the military, hourly at least, and just like leaving your parents’ house for the first time, freedom sets in again and crazy nights follow.  Slowly learning that the people you are spending time with have little in common and can’t even understand that sticking together and taking care of one another is all you know at this point.

Speaking from my experience leaving the military and turning straight to the corporate world was easy, for a while.  Taking advantage of the “tools and skills” that I learned while in the service and how they looked on paper I found myself working for one of the largest service provider in the world of oil and gas.  I was like many still quite brainwashed into believing that the means were justified by the ends.  I felt right at home in the hierarchy and how the system worked listening and doing whatever my managers asked of me.  Striving to make a higher wage and reach the next milestone of status within the organization.

Working hard and showing that I was not just Joe Schmo but that the military taught me how to work and treat others I quickly found myself watching after the managers in all that they did.  Knowing the job of the person below and above you has always come easy but when the lines are pushed and one tells their manager that they can do their job and they are not needed it puts a damper on the moral.  Finding little things wrong with paperwork and having more experience than the manager are not bad things, but voicing them can be detrimental.

Open door policies and handling things at the lowest level are preached in the corporate world as well as on board ship but they are not followed.  There are no shared experiences, communication, and a lack of trust is felt in a workforce that has nothing to bind it together.  Many veterans hold with them a feeling of isolation due to their experiences as well as the token “thank you” received when they come home.  In the corporate world there is little difference, unless other veterans or active reserve members are also working there no amount of explaining can make civilians understand just what we were a part of.  Paying attention to detail will most likely be the trait that moves to the forefront which sets veterans aside in the corporate workplace.  Being able to understand and follow procedures and write them if they are not there proved to one of the few useful skills that transferred into the corporate world in my experience.  Those same traits were the reason why I am where I am today.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that no person should be subject to discrimination in hiring, promotion, or pay due to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  These laws have been in place for almost 50 years now.  One area that is not covered is discrimination due to military service.  Having the manager call you into a meeting with HR to tell you that “your military background is influencing your thinking and performance to much” is not touchable from a standpoint of the EEOC.  Although this treatment can be seen as discriminatory, abusive, unethical, or immoral there is no protection under the current law that protects the veteran in the workforce. When an action or comment like that is made to a someone who has relied on their training in situations that could never be understood by the person saying them it may tend to make the veteran question what they actually know.  Or think they know.

Questioning the impact of the military experience and how the current culture of America has shifted is a slow process and one that will take a veteran by surprise over and over again.  Finding a reason to break out of the comfortable and into something that is not so is hard but one thing that we share as a community is just what we miss in the civilian world; comradery.  Iraq Veterans Against the War is the community that I truly call home.  Production is seen through the work that we are currently undertaking and shows true resolve and the real character of each and every one of us; weather veteran, active duty, civilian, or supporter.

Pressure mounts on the GJPD

During the year 2011, the Grand Junction Police Department (GJPD) of Grand Junction, Colorado, was asked to look into creating a plan to relocate around 500 homeless persons within its operating area by 2023.  This ten year plan was to be implemented starting 2013 in light of an 11 percent increase (KJCT, 2012) and create safe places for the homeless and transients which occupied areas near the Colorado River and other public areas throughout city limits.  The first step that the GJPD took was to create a Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and start building relationships with the local homeless persons.

GJPD Hot Team

GJPD Hot Team

As the HOT team started to get to know some the locals they found that there were camps settled along the river near the train yard, and that some of the camps had been there for much longer than they had thought.  The rivers bends were littered with debris and, although the sites were unable to be seen from the roadways, some people and business owners started to complain about the “unsightly trash” and pressure started to build on the city council members.  Although Police Chief John Camper had modeled the HOT team after a successful program in Colorado Springs he had not expected for such a blowback from the local community to the city council (Sullivan, 2012).

As business owners started hearing about the HOT team and what its proposed goals were they started to voice more opposition to the local homeless and increased the amount of time taken up during the city council meetings.  This added pressure then turned from the elected city council members to the Police Chief. The Chief had no other option than to give into the demands of the city council and move away from the proposed 10 year plan in an attempt to ratify what the local populous wanted, a cleaner river basin and fewer if any homeless persons visible.  The HOT team then set out to remove or evict those who lived along the river.

It Happens

It Happens

“The evections came without warning. Notices were stapled to the peoples tents, and when the day came to have everything out, some of the Police Officers slashed the tents clean through with knifes, leaving only shards of fabric.” Eric Niederkruger said while talking to one of the local groups about the differences between what is seen on the media and what actions actually took place (Personal correspondence with Eric Niederkruger).

Although the actions of the officers in the HOT team and other supporting officers were not direct reflections of the police chief himself, as the pressure built on the organization the set plans went out the window.  Business owners put pressure on the city council to “clean up the town” only after the initial phase of the ten year plan was already set into motion but that pressure boiled over.  The Police Chief was then put into a situation where the pressure from the elected body that governed his jurisdiction influenced his decision making and causing what some people would consider an unethical course of events; the destruction of personal property by those sworn to uphold the law.  When pressure can be put on someone with decision making opportunity there is a chance of unethical behavior, even if the victims are victims already.

References

KJCT. Dec 11, 2012. KJCT News 8. Colorado homeless numbers increase, local shelters not surprised. Retrieved from http://www.kjct8.com/news/Colorado-homeless-numbers-increase-local-shelter-not-surprised/-/163152/17740960/-/y8ivyqz/-/index.html

S. Sullivan. May 25, 2012. Grand Junction Free Press. HOT pursuit: GJPD’s Homeless Outreach Team promotes rehabilitation, understanding. Retrieved from http://www.gjfreepress.com/article/20120525/COMMUNITY_NEWS/120529960

2012 Convention

It has been about a week since the Iraq Veterans Against the War national convention came to a close and what a week it has been.  Sorting through everything that was talked about, finding ways of dealing with members that seem to be set in their way, at least to some of us newer members, and finishing up paperwork in support of expanding the member idea base have made for a long week.  Being able to meet and converse with some of the other prominent groups around the country that made it out to the convention was an outstanding opportunity. The Poverty Initiative, National Nurses United, and United Workers all had representatives there to tell a little about their stories and show that we are not fighting alone or against a single target but rather at the roots, we are all fighting the same problem.  Opening the lines of communication and allowing for these groups to work hand in hand will open doors that alone our organizations would not be able to find.

This convention was the first that I have been able to attend and from the sound of all the conversations it was a good one to start with.  From the conversations that I was a part of this year went without a hitch, only minor hiccups, and the weekend progressed better than it had ever before.  This is even in light of some major projected changes to the organization.  Losing staff, changing almost the entire board of directors, a by-law amendment, proposing a process to change the name, and overall looking at the model of organizing to see if there is a way to optimize persons in their direct locations.

From the active members that were able to attend there was a fairly good showing from around the nation.  Chicago, Colorado, the Bay area, and Texas had an outstanding showing, not to mention other members from across the US.  CivSol showed that they are down to do whatever is needed to help us in any actions we need and a big shout out needs to go to Anna and Sergio.  Both members of CivSol made the convention happen for us.  Now down to my opinions and observations of the events that took place.

The proposed process that would allow for the name to be looked at, not necessarily changing the name but looking at the possible pros and cons of a name change, went fairly well.  A straw poll was taken and the majority of the member body voted to move forward with the process.  There were only 4 blocks and two of those blocks came from either a prospective board member or a current member of the staff who is currently involved with the committee that was underwriting this process coming into the convention.  These two members were the spokespersons for, and possibly influenced negatively other members who are either new or look up these veterans of the organization.  That being said I am not discounting that other veteran members did not have any influence on the body but rather the flow was not stopped and the forward momentum could be continued.

Although hurricane Sandy had taken its toll across the eastern seaboard, one staff member could not make it to the start of the convention, this member was also one of two blocks on the vote for the new overarching scope and direction of the VVM, which was covered on the day that was missed.  The block was based on, from my understanding, on the use of a single term, militarism.

There were also workshops that took place throughout the weekend.  Three that stick out as ones to be mentions are the fundraising workshop where Amadee covered how to create a budget on a local chapter level and ways of funding chapters.  Things from throwing a house party and inviting current or possible donors to finding new donors in the community were all covered.  The Warrior Writers workshop which I was unable to attend but heard that the work coming out of the sessions were amazing and the use of tools like this can allow for healing and sustained self care.  And lastly was the Popular Education workshop put on by the Poverty Initiative.  This was one of the most informative and mind opening workshops that I have had a chance to be at.  The discussion was able to flow at the lowest level in groups of two or three where each member of the group was encouraged to discuss how the topic was observed in their life experience.  after the experiences were shared the larger group would then weed through them and see if a root cause could be found.  This was explained to be how organic individuals were / are  developed.  The opening of minds to see the root causes of the problems takes more time than that of traditional schooling but the results are much greater and worth nurturing.

As the weekend was coming to a close people were starting to get tired and emotions were running high and hot in some cases.  And as such there were a few people that decided to take some time to themselves, which is not a bad thing in any case, but may have put more of a burden on others than was really needed.  As the shifts in the organization started happening there were members that now were finding themselves jobless and feeling alone or without a cause.  These feelings are not good ones to have but trying to deal with them alone can become troublesome.  Even someone who I consider a good friend tried to deal with this alone and refused to talk at the time.  Even in light of these issues there were other members who took the changes in an optimistic frame of mind.  There were three other members who iI had not had a chance to meet until this weekend and all three members gained much respect.  The way that these members held themselves and worked with every other member to make the weekend go almost as well as hopped helped to create the greatest community that I have been able to become a part of.

All in all the convention was one that I am glad I was able to attend.  I am looking forward to next year as well as the other two possible training that are currently planned throughout next year.  I appreciate everyone who came together to make this convention possible and was able to move through the barriers presented.

Solidarity with Afghanistan

In any given situation, if we chose to judge a group of people because they look differently than we do, then we are wrong; the culture is wrong.

I am a veteran of the Global War on Terror and served in support of both OIF and OEF, as such I have come to question the actions that the military has taken in nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq.  Having the opportunity to speak with people from Afghanistan and knowing Suraia personally, has allowed me to understand to a greater extent how my actions and the actions of the current UN forces are having in oppressing the people of these nations.  I am an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and I call into question the expansionist ideals and militarist mindsets that are driving the U.S., and consequently the UN, to oppress people of other nations while not focusing on the problems at home.  Peace starts at home in our local communities, not in a distant land forcing others to struggle to survive.  I stand in solidarity with Suraia Sahar, Laila Rashide, as well as Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Luke Daniel
U.S. Navy 2004-2008
OIF / OEF

A poem from APV to IVAW (11/4/12):

Sleepless nights
Wondering if tomorrow will be like today
Futureless,
driving a dirge without music

Lost
On an upside down weighing scale
As if the world were
somewhere else

Even promising young hearts
choose the one doomed road
out of the hundred other
more imaginative ways.

But warm hands from friends
offer a shift
out of stubborn uncertainty,
suggesting that not all men are corrupt.

The changes in your lives,
your decisions to leave the frenzy,
and to tell and to cry,
are revolutionary.

How can we not hope
that the human family will awake
because each of you
worked to preserve love.

This time, I decided to piece together the sentiments of the APVs in the verses below.
Thank you for gathering together in solidarity.

Love and thanks,
Hakim and the Afghan Peace Volunteers

Link to a fellow Afghanistan veterans Statement: Afghan Women

The original story that brought this to light: Remembrance Day protest an insult to Canada’s war dead

The follow-up statement by Suraia and Laila.

WHORES Signs

Today we gathered together at a local park to make some signs.  About seven of us meet up and started making signs that will be used during the equality march in Denver, Colorado on October 6th.  Each of us a member of Women Helping Others Resist Exploitation and Sexism, both male and female, WHORES strive to create a world of equality for all genders.

A little about the WHORES, they are a group of people that shared a common interest and that thought sparked an cause that has grown from just a handful of women to what is now a group of over 140 people.  There are members from all walks of life and any event that is carried out by WHORES is sure to be all ages friendly.  From a local business owner to a retired philosophy instructor to a mother of 4 who works two jobs there are all types included in the group.  There has even been the occasional 5 year old that carries a sign that says “Girl Power.”

The first outing that I was part of with the group was on Mayday 2012.  They had a booth set up near the may pole and were handing out literature about the current war on women.  During the Mayday celebration I was able to meet many great people and get some firsthand experience as to how the media can slant any story to what they want the general public to see.  I digress; we will save that conversation for another day.  The WHORES table was great and they were even able to get up in front of the mob of people and share some of their stories.

The equality rally in Denver, Colorado on October 6th is set to be a kind of show in force here in Colorado that there are people who do have a voice and will come together in solidarity to use their voices.  They walk together and shout that they are in control of their bodies and that no man should have or try and take control for something that is not theirs nor have any experience with.  But these wars on women’s issues are not the only topics that will be covered at the march.  It is an equality march, meaning that every person who attends at least leans toward creating and treating each gender as an equal.  This is not to segregate any of the LGBTQ supporters.  No matter what your gender, all should be treated as an equal.  This means anything from stopping legislation on reproductive health to removing the stigma that a father cannot be a stay at home parent, or that in a case such as that the child will somehow turnout differently than if the mother was the one staying home.

Back to the sign making, we created signs that read:  Make Love, Not War on Women, Keep Your Laws Off my Body, I Can Say Vagina, Sexism is a Social Disease, and My Choice My Right.  I am looking forward to seeing the turn out for the march and see how much support we have on these issues here in Colorado.  We are all free and should be treated as such.  We are all equal.

After the Showing

We were able to have our first showing of “The Invisible War” last night.  Our showing was a closed one that was intended to be by invitation only.  It went over with only a few speed bumps.  The DVD player in the facility was hot and caused the film to skip and freeze a few times but from the talking of those involved this did not detract from the experience too much.  The pauses were either a comedic relief of added to the suspense of the viewing and as the room was mostly women it may have been a good thing.

The film stirred quite a few emotions in many of the people who attended, everything from anger to a kind of laughter about how the military dealt with these types of issues.  The anger is warranted and understood but the laughter stemmed from the misunderstanding of how the military and civilian worlds differed.  It seems that most of the women that were at the viewing had not gained much experience dealing with the military of people in the military, this lead to a sizeable gap of knowledge between the four vets and the 12 civilians but it was one that we were able to work through before we broke for the night.

All in all I feel that this was a great event and one that we look forward to putting on again.  I do have to give a shout out to one of the people who gave me a push to get things moving along; Graham, thank you for everything you have done to get things moving out here.