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.

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.

Right to Heal

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is currently working on bring back to the life the Appeal for Redress as a national part of Operation Recovery.  The current proposed process will include active duty members protected under the US Whistleblower Act as well as give a voice to veterans and families affected by current militarism.  The Appeal for Redress is being used during outreach in the Bay Area, JBLM, and Under the Hood at Fort hood.  We are planning to launch our national campaign around the 10 year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.  We are timing this to coincide with the release of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hearing press release to look into the abuse and mistreatment of soldiers currently serving and how have served during OIF and OEF.

Operation Recovery brings some concrete wins to the table as well that will tie into the release of the Appeal for Redress as The Jesse Brown VA in Chicago has already been swayed by the threat of IVAW working hand in hand with National Nurses United (NNU) (union in the VA) and we have been able to secure multiple sit-downs with upper management, added 20 more nurses to the full time staff, secured a dedicated women’s center rather than shared space, and the resignation of the director effective today, Jan 4, 2013. As the start of the new year is upon us we are looking to increase pressure on the VA’s across the county including cities such as San Diego CA, Denver CO, and Madison VA.

IVAW is now reaching out to work with many other grassroots organizations and are looking to expand our reach and stand in solidarity to change the current culture and reduce the militarist mindset that has set in so deep.

Please feel free to contact:

IVAW-news@googlegroups.com

Appeal for Redress

I was able to have a conversation with Jonathan Hutto this evening about the original Appeal for Redress.  I spent a good 30 minutes on the phone and was able to get a feel for some of what they did.  He is also sending a copy of his book and I hope to have it before convention.

In regards to confidentiality – They set the website up and used that as the main source of active duty members signing.  No one outside of the webmaster (who did the task pro bono) and congress men and women knew the names of those who had signed.  Jonathan knew only the numbers and had the numbers broken down into areas and bases as well as totals.

In regards to set goals of numbers – When they started they did not have a set goal for the number of signatures that they were looking for.  When they went public, to the best of his knowledge, they had around 600 signatures.  One point that he made very clear was that the numbers are not the most important part, but having the interest and support from active duty members shows that there is an issue that needs to be addressed.

When asked about pushback from active duty members or supporters Jonathan stated that in his experience there were no issues.  The PAO (Public Affairs Officer) of the ship did however sit him down and explain the Navy’s stance that as long as he was off duty, out of uniform, and not on base, he could say and do what he wanted.  This was in contrast with two other supporters; one faced minimal pushback from the command in an informal manner while the second faced formal reprisal.  Making the point that strong ties with the GI rights hotline is an important and needed step to have in place prior to going public.

The last question centered around how he felt they did at accomplishing their goal and if any changes could have been made what would they be.  in light of these questions Jonathan felt that the process as a whole went well and he was pleased with the results.  One thing that he would change was how they implemented the process.  Starting as a task force initiative they did not have the proper backing to create an institutionalized basis for continued work.  Set as a moving model there was no infrastructure in place for them to start setting up actual spaces for continued organizing.  Having a space that can be set up as a base for advocacy and continued training for active duty members and helping transition from active to veteran would have been a long range goal.  The focus was on enlisted members and they did not target officers at all.  From talking with Jonathan, this still seems to be the basis of how he would move forward but with an understanding that officers may also be included and targeted but in a lesser extent.

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.

UniversiTea with the Humanists Doing Good in Colorado

I had the chance to speak at one of the local humanists events a few months ago.  Below are the topics covered and just a few of the highlights from the conversations that followed.

Military

  • Working with military and veterans
    • There is a difference between military and civilians when it comes to a work environment.
    • Military, from my observations, have a different way and different culture that is ok when it comes to working with others.  Military will expect those around them to know the job they are assigned to do and how to do that job.  We are also trained to understand that we may have to do the job of those above or below us.  Understanding and being able to do the job above yours is what got me into trouble in my current employment.
    • Busy work is despised when it comes to simply filling time.  spending hours cleaning, stripping paint, painting, preparing for war, and so on has build a distaste for needless tasks like re-mopping an area that was just mopped.  In these cases we will tend to work much slower and use that power to show a kind of disrespect toward whomever tasks us with that task.
    • It was brought up that most of what we talked about could be compared to shared experience.  Not only a shared experience type of setting but also the upbringing of each other.  One member stated that his upbringing has played into his discipline in taking care of others.
    • Talking about transiting from one chapter to another, substance abuse is the topic, there has to be some sort of training that will indoctrinate the person as to how to act around others and not become selfish.
  • Differences between civilian and military
    • There are certain things that military have gone through that act as a kind of glue.  When you talk to a vet or active duty member, you know that they have spent time being beaten down and then built back up on the same basic principles.  every member of the armed forces goes through boot camp and that is one thing that most civilians will never understand.
    • For that reason, most military can fight with one another and the next day carry on like there was never an issue.
    • There is an unspoken understanding between veterans and military personnel that should something happen then they will not be left behind or forgotten about.  This will play heavily when talking about a large workload or partying.
    • We talked about one experience that a fellow veteran had where a friend was left at the airport and he had to drive to get him.  He was later accused of drug use because of the drive and lack of sleep that hindered his next day’s performance.
  • Differences between moral or ethical standards
    • What is moral in the civilian world is very different when in a closed system such as the military.  There are many different actions that can and will be taken in the military that would be looked at as unethical or immoral in a civilian stance.
      • Wire brush experience
    • Shared a story about one of my shipmates that chose to never shower or wash his clothing.  The process that we used to change this behavior was to throw him into the shower and attack him what wire brushes.
      • This behavior was allowed and even endorsed by the chain of command.  Dealing with things at the lowest level meant that we were to deal with the issue ourselves and correct that deficiency using any means necessary.
    • The use of ostracism was one of the main tools that we used to correct issues that we were unable to solve otherwise.  One of the most utilized and overlooked of all tools that we were trained in.
    • The cycle perpetuates itself.  crossing the equator or passing through the arctic circle are huge hazing accomplishments.

Transition: Civ to Sol, Sol to Civ

    • The transition going from a civilian to a soldier is one that each member will go through.  Boot camp is something that each of us completes before being called a soldier.
    • Boot camp = breakdown of the civilian and then the rebuilding of the soldier
    • No transition from active to civilian.  When you get out you sign the DD214 and then walk out with just what you are wearing.  All gear is returned and that is the close of that chapter.  There is no training, military feels that it is a waste of time as they do not receive any benefit from the time spent.
  • Organizations for veterans
    • There are many different organizations for veterans.  There are two major problems with the way that they are set up.  Much money is spent on advertising leaving a lack of funding for the actual program.  Or on the flip side, there is no money spent on advertising and an excess of funding at the end of the year.
    • VETS CAFE
    • IVAW
    • Wounded Warriors
    • America’s Wounded
    • Welcome Home Montrose
    • VA Rehab center
    • VA hospital
    • Veterans Court (in the works for mesa county)
    • Voc rehab through VA
  • Reasons for ways of thinking
    • Everything we have already talked about
    • The culture is aggressive and the members are trained to think and act in a certin way that will allow others to learn the ways either by choice or through actions taken against them.
    • Trained to not show weakness.
    • Hazing
    • Physical abuse
    • Mental abuse
    • Ostracism
  • Post 9/11 compared to pre 9/11 veterans
    • PTSD
    • No Gulf War Syndrome
    • TBI
    • Civilian murders
    • First war fought in the streets (urban)
    • MTS

Environmental

  • Community gardening
    • Guy works over 12 plots in Denver (land that is not his but gained the approval to use), he is able to produce enough food for 33 employees and still sell $400 a week at the stand.
  • Guerrilla gardening
    • Using others land to grow food
    • Repurpose land usage to grow food
    • Grow food not lawns
  • Burn scars and the effect they are now having on the communities near Colorado Springs
    • Landowners near Co Springs are needing help with the burn scars.  The city is not willing to help the landowners pay to have mulch laid on the property.  They are laying mulch on the forest.  1600 an acre.  The burn scars have allowed the rain water to create mud flows that have washed out many of the private roads in the area.

I would like to hear the opinions of those in the group about the local police force as well as if anyone feels the nation is heading toward a society that is accustomed to dealing with violence in the community and if that is justification to allow officers to act with current levels of force.