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VOICES of VETERANS

War Memorial Veterans Building
401 Van Ness Ave (at McAllister)
San Francisco, CA

James Janko   |   Suel Jones   |   UXOs | Jon Turner   |  
Josh and Conor  |   Sharon Kufeldt & Gail Sredanovic  |  
Tama Adelmanc
  |   John Wike  |   George Lymburn  |  
Warren Langley

Our wordpress site vfpsf.wordpress.com has the most recent stories, event updates, and posts.

Veterans Telling Their Stories—A Celebration of the Americans With Disabilities Act
ILRCSF ADA Anniversary Event: Art and exhibition and literary reading.
Thursday July 26, 2012, 5:30–8:30pm
Veterans Building
401 Van Ness Ave, Rms 207 & 212
Open to the public.

An evening art exhibition and literary works celebrating the creative spirit and talent of our military Veterans with disabilities. The evening also celebrates the 22nd birthday of the American with Disabilities Act's (ADA), June 26, 1990, and is hosted in the Veterans Building — a space created to memorialize military service and service to the nation. In addition to the exhibition and reading—the Independent Living Center San Francisco (ILRCSF) is announcing the grantees of the 2012 Herb Levine Legacy Fund, named after the ILRCSF's former Executive Director who retired in 2011.

Real time captioning and ASL service will be available for attendees and participants from the Deaf community.

There are an estimated 3.4 American military veterans living with disabilities related to their service for our country. Many Veterans live with disabilities that are not clearly evident to us, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and other psychological disabilities. Unfortunately, it is all too common for military Veterans be be disenfranchised from the wider community and, too often, their stories go untold.

Veterans Telling Their Stories is a collaborative project of the Independent Living Resource Center San Francisco (ILRCSF), American Legion Post 315, and the Veteran's Art Guild, the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Veterans Media Center of San Francisco


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James Janko—Getting It Right In Afghanistan

Meeting the Enemy, By Suel Jones If we can get the war right, distill it to just the right mixture of things, say a presidential speech to begin with, a unified executive branch, then a Predator Drone attack on a far away village in the early evening, an attack so secret only the dead hear its rumble when it’s too late to complain.

The next morning we appear like genies of compassion, Marines and two corpsmen patrolling the ruins, smiling and handing out candy, bandages, energy drinks, duct tape, IV fluids, jigsaw puzzles for the children. Our captain will show the village chief architectural designs to build a state-of-the-art health clinic in this painfully primitive place that was primitive even before we bombed it to pieces. “At a glance,” he will tell the chief, “you may mistake us for destroyers of worlds. Our mission, however, is to help you because you’re poor and your need is great and we have in our grasp everything the human species can conceive: spies in the black air, invisible raptors, bombs more lethal than a zillion suicide vests, plus treasure chests of humane stuff, too, because when war is right it is a vice through which everything is squeezed in measured amounts––terror mostly, all hell at the reach of buttons, computer keys, triggers, but restrained in part by generosity in the form of bandages and candy and duct tape and plans for rural gentrification. You see that school in the village square that was built from the ribs of a mountain? Yes, it is skeletal now, out of service. A bomb broke through its roof, gutted its rooms, but we will replace it with steel beams and bright lighting and will send teachers to improve test scores. If our Marines break down the wrong doors at night, they are instructed to shake hands and share tea in the morning. They are studying languages, Pashto and Dari, and they can greet you properly and say "We are your friends," but they will not ask, Do you want us in your country? because this obfuscates the mission. If we get the war right, our soldiers will light candles this Christmas Eve and walk through ancient villages singing Silent Night––don’t touch them or you and they may explode––and they’ll hand out cookies and candy and bandages and IV fluids and architectural designs for hospitals and mosques and schools and sports stadiums and hydroelectric dams and paved streets and tunnels through impassable mountains and all these necessary things will prove our planners and certain CEOs make your warlords look like a pack of pikers picking through leftovers at a second-rate picnic! Yes, I promise you, good sir, that in a decade, or a century––the light bright at the end of the tunnel––you will ask that we bestow on your nation a new, more powerful name––the United States of Afghanistan––and we will do so if we get the war right.”

                                        Janko

Written in response to President Obama’s speech announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan.

 

Buffalo Boy And Geronimo by James JankoJames Janko, who studied Conservation of National Resources at the University of California in Berkeley, was a medic in the Vietnam War. He writes that his love of the natural world and his desire for peace are the forces behind his first published novel, Buffalo Boy and Geronimo. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals and was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Currently he teaches English as a Second Language and Native Language Literacy at City College of San Francisco and lives with his wife, Uong Chanpidor, in Oakland, California.

Works by James Janko from Curbstone Press: 
Buffalo Boy and Geronimo
"A stunning affirmation of the wonder of human joy and the importance of hope in the midst of the chaos, brutality and desperation of war." —Alan Miller



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Suel Jones—Meeting The Enemy: A Marine Goes Home
New Book by Vietnam Vet Living and Volunteering in Vietnam

Meeting the Enemy, By Suel JonesSuel Jones is the president of the Viet Nam Chapter of Veterans For Peace. His new book is titled, Meeting The Enemy: A Marine Goes Home. The first part is about his war experience, the second about returning to the US confused, damaged and wondering what had just happened and why. The last part is about returning to Vietnam to live and work for more than 10 years while "meeting the enemy."

Suel is a former Marine combat vet of the Viet Nam war from East Texas who returned exactly 30 years later to Viet Nam to volunteer with Agent Orange/dioxin victims, both former soldiers, and their children & grandchildren. Suel’s a great character and entertaining raconteur He speaks Viet Namese and has a rare perspective – about the Vietnam War, America, Americans living and volunteering abroad and our present wars.

Suel Jone In VietnamMeeting The Enemy: A Marine Goes Home
Suel D. Jones

Read what others have to say:

Suel Jones volunteers with the Vietnam Friendship Village Project www.vietnamfriendship.org

Veterans For Peace - Book Tour May 2-9, 2010.
Suel's recent Bay Area readings: San Francisco, Berkely, Oakland, Sonoma and Santa Clara.


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UXOs: The “Gift That Keeps on Giving”—to South East Asia
by Nadya Williams, April, 2010

Two daughters
UXO stands for Unexploded Ordinance—bombs dropped from the air or land mines placed in the earth—that remain dormant, often for decades, until touched off by contact or by heat to do their deadly work long after war’s end. Such was the fate of Ho Nguyen, a 40-year-old farmer in Viet Nam’s Quang Tri Province on February 12th, just two days before Tet, the joyous Asian Lunar New Year celebration He was killed while weeding the banana trees in his field by a UXO cluster bomb, dropped by our military perhaps before he was born. There are estimates that 30% of cluster bombs do not explode on initial impact. Mr. Nguyen leaves behind a wife and six young daughters. Photo shows two of Mr. Nguyen's daughters leaving the funeral.

Just three weeks before, in the same province of Quang Tri, 550 middle school children narrowly escaped death and injury when a buried 105 mm missile exploded in their school play yard, shattering windows and hurling shrapnel. (An over-sized tree had been felled and the remaining stump was being burned—detonating the hidden UXO.) This happened on Wednesday, January 27th, the day Howard Zinn died. Perhaps The Great Humanitarian’s departing spirit intervened to spare the 13 to 15-year-olds, who would have been out on the playground a mere 5 minutes later for recess. 

The first sentence of the Boston Globe’s obituary for Zinn reads, “Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam….died today. He was 87.” Zinn knew that more explosive power than World War I and II combined— including Hiroshima and Nagasaki—was dropped on South East Asia in the form of conventional bombs….450 Hiroshimas on Viet Nam alone, to say nothing of Laos and Cambodia.

On February 7th, just five days before the farmer’s death, a Sunday afternoon explosion of old wartime ordnance seriously wounded four Van Kieu men, all in their 20s, while they were weeding a coffee plantation near the former U.S. Marine Combat Base of Khe Sanh—again in Western Quang Tri.  The accident occurred in Tram Village, where the Van Kieu and Paco ethnic minorities make up most of the local population.

All three recent incidents happened in Quang Tri, the northern most province of southern Viet Nam—hard up against the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone, or 17th parallel—the Western Power’s arbitrary division of North from South in the mid-1950s). Quang Tri remains the most heavily bombed area of the country, accounting for 7,000 (1.2% of the population) of the more than 105,000 Viet Namese children and adults killed or injured since the war’s “end” in 1975. Fully one third of those casualties are victims of cluster munitions.

Ho Nguyen died in the Western part of Quang Tri, just 5 kilometers southwest from the infamous “Rockpile”—a huge, natural out cropping of stone used by our Army and Marines as an observation post and artillery base from 1966 to 1968. “The big guns were there, too: 175 Long Toms, 8-inchers on tracks and of course a bevy of 105s and 155s,” reads the webpage on the Rockpile. It was perhaps one of those 105 mm shells that landed over 40 years ago near Dong Ha City in the Eastern part of Quang Tri, the present-day location of the middle school. Back then the Department of Defense estimated that such missiles had a 10% failure rate (this rate has been lowered since then).

Mr. Nguyen’s uncle heard the explosion and was the first to rush to the accident scene. When he arrived, he saw his nephew lying lifeless on the ground. Both his hands were severed, his eyes were badly damaged, his skin scorched from the chest up to his face. His wife and six daughters, the youngest only three years old, are facing shock and grief, and an uncertain future. The family’s emotional tragedy is compounded by the loss of their only breadwinner, who also supported his aging parents. “I married twice but have only that son,” lamented Nguyen’s father, Mr. Ho Van Mong, who was a guerrilla fighter during the war. “How can I live on without him?”

It is too late for Mr. Nguyen and his family, but Project Renew is pressing forward in an heroic effort to clean up Quang Tri Province. Founded in 2001 and directed by an American veteran, Chuck Searcy, Project Renew is supported by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (the group that built The Wall in Washington, D.C.) and by individual donations. The Project has removed thousands of UXOs—you can see their exemplary work at:  www.landmines.org.vn. Much remains to be done, and donations are very much needed and can be made in the following ways:

If, for tax purposes, donations need to passed along to a 501(c)(3) under the I.R.S. code, the funds can go through VVMF (the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund). For more information, check out this link: https://www.vvmf.org/index.cfm?SectionID=36.

Send a check (US$) directly to:
Project RENEW Coordination Office
Attn: Ngo Xuan Hien – Public Relations and Development Officer
103 Nguyen Binh Khiem St.
Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province, Viet Nam

Bank transfer
Bank Name: ANZ
Account Name: RENEW Donor
Account No: 4370488
Currency: VND
Swift Code: ANZBVNVX
Bank Address: ANZ Bank, Hanoi Branch, 14 Le Thai To St.
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Viet Nam


Nadya Williams, freelance journalistNadya Williams is a freelance journalist and former study-tour coordinator for Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights and peace non-profit. She is an active associate member of Veterans for Peace, San Francisco chapter, and is on the national board of the New York-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign.

Photo: http://contagiousloveexperiment.wordpress.com


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Jon Michael Turner: Carrying A Backpack of Sorrow....Soldiers On The Edge Of Suicide
by Nadya Williams, March, 2010

Jack Hirschman and Jon Turner

 

Jack Hirschman, 2006 Poet Laureate of San Francisco, with Iraq War vet, Jon Michael Turner.

More of our young soldiers are now killing themselves than are being killed in our wars in the Middle East. The sad statistics are at the end of this article, but the following poem by a 24-year-old former Marine, who slashed his wrists twice after four years of duty and two tours of combat, tells it all.


You fell off the seat as the handlebars turned
sharp left, throwing your body onto

the hot coals of Ramadi pavement,
intertwining your legs within your bicycle.
Lifeless eyes looking to the sky,
your neck muscles twitched turning your head
directly towards us. Nothing escaped your
lips except for the blood in the left corner
of your mouth that briefly moistened them
until the sand and dust dried them out.
The blood trail went behind the stone wall
where your body was placed, weighed down
by your blue bicycle and we laughed.
I used to fall asleep to the pictures and now
I can’t even bear to get a glimpse.

Excerpted from “The Bicycle” by Jon Michael Turner

The military “broke me down into a not-good person, wearing a huge mask,” Turner told the audience at his poetry reading in San Francisco’s Beat Museum, in North Beach. The March 12 event – on the birthday of ‘Beatnik’ literary icon Jack Kerouac – was organized by the venerable Jack Hirschman, San Francisco’s 2006 Poet Laureate, and by the local IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). Jon read from his small, self-published book “Eat the Apple” and from several large pages of dark green hand-made paper – the product of The Combat Paper Book Project, where 125 vets, ranging from World War II through Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, shredded their uniforms to make books for their poetry.  “Poetry saved my life,” Jon told us, more than once.

The Burlington, Vermont native was accompanied by his father and step-mother on a coast to coast series of readings from the little book whose name comes from a play on the word “core.” The flyer for the evening reading stated:

“There’s a term ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine,’” Turner says, ripping his medals off and flinging them to the ground. As the room explodes in applause he adds, “But there’s also the expression:
‘Eat the apple, f*ck the corps.
I don’t work for you no more!’”

Jon walks with a cane and was physically injured in battle, but only his poetry reveals his invisible wounds, as in these excerpts from

A Night in the Mind of Me – part 1

The train hits you head on when you hear of another
friend whose life was just taken.
Pulling his cold lifeless body from the cooler,
unzipping the bag and seeing his forehead,
caved in like a cereal bowl from the sniper’s bullet
that touched his brain.
His skin was pale and cold.

It becomes difficult to sleep even after being
physically drained from patrols, post,
overwatches and carrying five hundred
sandbags up eighty feet of stairs after
each post cycle.

The psychiatrists still wonder why we
drink so heavy when we get home.
We need something to take us away
from the gunfire, explosions,
sand, nightmares and screams……….
I still can’t cry.
The tears build up but no weight is shed.
Anger kicks in and something else
becomes broken.
A cabinet
An empty bottle of liquor
A heart
A soul.

People still look away as we submit ourselves
to drugs and alcohol to suppress these
feelings of loneliness and sadness,
leading to self mutilation and
self destruction on the gift of a human body.
The ditch that we dug starts to cave in.

A Night in the Mind of Me  –  part 2:

Laughter pours out from the house as if nothing
were the matter, when outside in a chair, underneath
a tree, next to the chickens, I sit,
engulfed in my own sorrows... ... ...


Resting on the ground is my glass,
half filled with water but I don’t have
enough courage to pick it up and smash it against
my skull so that everyone can watch blood
pool in the pockets where my collar
bones meet my dead weighted shoulders,…
Every time I’m up, something pulls me down,
whenever I relax, something stresses me out,
every time a smile tugs on my heart, an
iron fist crushes it, and I sit outside in a chair,
underneath a tree, next to the chickens,
away from the ones that I love so
that my disease won’t infect them.
Sorrow and self-pity should be detained,
thrown into an empty bottle and given to the
ocean so that the waves can wash away the pain. 

One wonders why this slightly-built, sensitive young man joined the Marines in 2004 at the age of 18 (he was sent first to Haiti at the time of the US-backed February coup that ousted the populist and democratic President Jean-Bertrand Aristide). Jon revealed that he came from a military family whose participation in every American conflict stretches back to the Revolutionary War. His father is clearly too young to have gone to Vietnam, but could have easily been in one or both of the Bushes’ wars. Jon’s big brother is also a soldier, ironically now in Haiti after the earthquake. Of the American military, Jon now writes in these two poems.

What May Come”:

tap, tap
That’s the sound of the man
at your door,

I’m sorry but you won’t
see your son alive anymore,
my name is Uncle Sam and
I made your boy a whore

Just Thoughts

… … … …I often wonder
if this will be the rest of my life.
Schizophrenic, paranoid, anxious.
That guy that walks around the city center that
people steer their children away from.
“Mommy, who’s that man walking next
to the crazy guy?”
“Oh that’s just Uncle Sam sweetheart, he takes
the souls from young men so that
they have trouble sleeping at night”

It takes the Courage and Strength of a Warrior to ask for Help” – we’ve all seen the ads, on billboards and busses, with the silhouette of a down-cast soldier against a back drop of the stars and stripes, and a 1-800 Help Line just for vets, provided by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. But “The Surge” in self-inflicted deaths continues, with our military reporting 350 suicides of active duty personnel in 2009, compared to 340 combat deaths in Afghanistan, and 160 in Iraq during the same year – the highest active duty military suicide numbers since records began to be kept in 1980. And for every death, at least five serving personnel are hospitalized for attempting to take their life, according to the military’s own studies. 

But these statistics do not include the far larger number of post-active duty veterans who kill themselves after discharge, or, like Jon Michael Turner, who make the attempt. (Vietnam veteran suicides number easily in the tens of thousands.) A CBS study put the current suicide rate among male veterans aged 20 to 24 at four times the national average. According to CNN, total combat deaths since 2001 (8+ years) in Afghanistan are now 1,016; since 2003 (7 years) in Iraq 4,390 – totaling 5,406 as of March 21, 2010. However the Veteran’s Administration estimates that 6,400 veterans take their own lives each year – an ever growing proportion of them from the recent Mid-East wars – with this figure widely disputed as being way too low. Multiply 6,400 by seven or eight years to compare the numbers of our young soldiers that are now killing themselves, to those being killed in our wars and occupations.  

The last word belongs to Jon Michael Turner, from “Taught How To Love

I’m sick of carrying this pain
everywhere I go. I’m sick of being
thanked for my service. I’d rather
have society thank the people that
don’t believe in war, or thank
the people that get arrested for
an act of civil disobedience, or
thank the people that resist.

To buy Eat the Apple
Contact Jon M. Turner
Seven Star Press
4 Howard Street Suite 12, Burlington, VT 05401
Email: smbmx2@aol.com
www.sevenstarart.com

Nadya Williams, freelance journalistNadya Williams is a free-lance journalist and a former study-tour coordinator for Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights and peace non-profit.  She is an active associate member of Veterans for Peace, San Francisco chapter, and is on the national board of the New York-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign.


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Josh and Conor—Home From War In Iraq
by Nadya Williams, January 26, 2010


Veterans For Peace members left to right: Conor Curran, Fred Ptucha, (Vietnam War veteran from Santa Rosa), and Josh Stieber.
Veterans For Peace members left to right: Conor Curran, Fred Ptucha, (Vietnam War veteran from Santa Rosa), and Josh Stieber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand up and repeat these words in marching cadence:
"I went down to the market
Where all the people shop
I pulled out my machete
And I began to chop
I went down to the park
Where all the children play
I took out my machine gun
And I began to spray"

This is a chant our young are taught to march to in our military today, and this is how two young veterans of the Iraq War begin their presentations to groups across the country.

Late last fall, Josh Stieber and Conor Curran spoke to a gathering of Veterans For Peace and civilian peace activists in San Francisco, as part of their six months of walking and biking from the East Coast to the West to engage in dialogue about war and to become involved in community service along the way.

Both young men are from small American heartland towns - Josh from Maryland and Conor from Ohio. They did not know each other until after they got themselves out of the military. They spoke of their motivations for joining the Marines, their experiences in Iraq and the turning points that made them reject violence.

The two called their cross-country odyssey, "The Contagious Love Experiment" - certainly a retro, ‘60s "Hippie Haight-Ashbury" moniker to more mature ears. The tag is both innocent and naive, but on a deeper level, it is their counterbalance to the brutality and disillusionment they experienced. Their story and reasoning are worth listening to.

Josh, a tall, blond, "all-American-type" in his early 20s, was in junior high school in Maryland when September 11th happened. His determination to, as he saw it, protect his country was initiated when his parents took him to see the damage at the Pentagon, and so he joined the Marines straight out of high school. Raised as a devout Christian, he pushed aside doubts while in basic training and forced himself to answer "yes" when asked, "Will you kill a ‘hostile' even if lots of civilians are around who will get hurt?"

Conor, thin and tall with black curly hair, also became a Marine, but spoke more of being alienated during and after high school, wanting to fit in and be accepted, using "lots of drugs," getting into debt, and not having a skill or education to direct him. So at 20 years old, "The Few and The Proud" seemed to give him all the answers. At the time, he said, being in the Marines helped him to change his values and gave him a "mission accomplished" feeling. He became a good soldier. But Conor's second tour was when ‘it got heavy.'

Josh spoke frequently of his Christian upbringing that taught him principles in complete opposition to the killing, fear and hatred he learned in Iraq. (To say nothing of the disconnect of being told that America was "liberating Iraq and bringing Freedom and Democracy" and the "chop and spray" chant!)

He said fear of and hatred for the Iraqi people would build up in the troops to the point where ripping apart homes, wrecking gardens and property, and arresting and abusing prisoners became commonplace. On the street, going out of the way to run a truck through mud to spray old people, or, during house searches, taking the dolls of little girls, twisting their heads off then giving them back became acceptable behavior. "Why do we make the locals fear the U.S. military more than the insurgents?" he wanted to know. "We out-terrorized the terrorists!"

Josh vividly recalled pulling guard duty on a prisoner with another young American soldier right after coming from a church service. Josh thought of the moral and religious lessons he learned at home in Maryland: "blessed are the peace makers;" "turn the other cheek;" and "love thine enemy," as his buddy talked of how he was going to brutalize the prisoner. "Jesus wouldn't let himself get punked around," his friend replied when Josh objected on Christian principles.

The insanity of war gradually became apparent to Josh during his 14-month tour of duty, as when he and his squad detained a man with ample evidence that the Iraqi had been involved in attacks on American soldiers. This man turned out to be the mayor of the town, and U.S. military authorities' regular "payments" of school supplies and cash ensured a halt in attacks on Josh and his men, at least in that part of town. So much for "we will not negotiate with terrorists," he thought.

These revelations led this idealistic youth into a "bleak" period, he said, with feelings of hopelessness, "always looking over my shoulder," and the realization that he'd always let others tell him how to think and how to live up to their expectations.

Neither young man spoke of killing anyone, and no one from the audience asked. But each spoke of turning points when they decided they could not continue as soldiers. For Josh this was a gradual process, but for Conor it came during his second tour while conducting random searches with his squad for weapons caches in Ramadi, without adequate intelligence. They set upon a home with an exceptionally beautiful garden and proceeded to tear it apart and dig it up. "Then the man of the house came out with a tray and served us all tea!" said Conor. "He spoke English and wanted to be our friend. He showed love to us and we were terrorizing him."

Thus the seed for "The Contagious Love Experiment" was planted.

Conor and Josh had many encounters along the roads of America since the spring, but the one that stood out for them was meeting a Vietnam War veteran who told them, "Instead of uniting against a common enemy, we should unite for a common goal - peace."

For more information,
see: www.contagiousloveexperiment.wordpress.com
Also: www.ivaw.org (Iraq Veterans Against the War) and
www.veteransforpeace.org


Part Two will be an interview with Salam Talib, an Iraqi refugee and Pacifica journalist who hosted Josh Stieber and Conor Curran in his home.

Nadya Williams, freelance journalistNadya Williams is a freelance journalist and former study-tour coordinator for Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based human rights and peace non-profit. She is an active associate member of Veterans for Peace, San Francisco chapter, and is on the national board of the New York-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign.

Photo: http://contagiousloveexperiment.wordpress.com


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By Sharon Kufeldt and Gail Sredanovic

The joys and relaxation of summer vacation come with some extra safety concerns for parents. One you may not have considered is the presence of military recruiters looking to meet their quotas with your children. During the school year, recruiters are a heavy presence on campus, with games, small gifts and other inducements, military aptitude tests and a database that includes information on children as young as 16.

However, they do not stop their efforts during school vacation. They are present where children gather, especially targeting youth of color and low-income youth.

Earlier this month, responding to an ACLU report on recruiter abuses, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a report urging the U.S. to make sweeping policy changes regarding domestic military recruitment practices.

Although the U.S. signed the U.N.'s Optional Protocol on the involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2002, military recruiters still target children under 18 years of age for enlistment with techniques that include false promises and coercion.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, said that "to claim the high moral ground and assert leadership on the issue of human rights, the U.S. must take vigorous action to bring its current conduct in line with the committee's recommendations." The recommended changes that we fully support include the following:

The U.S. government must closely monitor domestic military recruiters and investigate and punish misconduct by recruiters.

It must ensure that military recruitment does not particularly target racial and ethnic minorities and children of low income families.

Furthermore, the No Child Left Behind Act must be amended to protect students' privacy rights and the rights of parents and legal guardians. Any child currently signed up under the Delayed Enlistment Program must be adequately informed of their right to withdraw from enlistment.

Perhaps most important to put the U.S. in compliance with the protocol is to raise the minimum age for recruitment to 18.

This summer you may see members of the Raging Grannies Action League as we continue our public information campaign to reach children and parents with facts about military enlistment.

Meanwhile, it is up to parents to make themselves informed and know who is influencing their child. Should your student come home with a military contract, be sure to read carefully both sides of any document he or she may sign.

The enlistment contract is cleverly formatted to disguise that although it is binding on the recruit, nothing in it is actually binding on the military.

Sharon Kufeldt is national vice president of Veterans for Peace and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Both she and Gail Sredanovic are members of the Raging Grannies Action League.

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Tama Adelman: Army combat nurse in Vietnam.
My name is Tama. And I'm just a regular, middle-class working single mom. I was raised in this city. In the late '60s, I joined the Army as an Army nurse, thinking I was doing the right thing, thinking I was going to be of service. I was 21 when I went to Vietnam.

Those 12 months defined who I am today. Thirty-six years later, it is with me like it was yesterday: the sadness, the tears, the depression, the smells. I carry that war in a very private place. But what is happening today, by my country, requires that I bring my very private pain to a very public arena.

Maybe had I not spent my year patching the wounded or bagging the dead, I wouldn't believe so strongly. Maybe if I didn't have an 18-year-old son, I wouldn't feel so strongly about the damage we're inflicting on the next generation of young men and women, who have been asked to go to war and possibly sacrifice their life -- and if not their life, certainly their soul.

Maybe if I hadn't seen the devastation of a country and the permanent damage to a people and a land, I wouldn't believe so strongly. But I have seen, and I do believe what our government is doing is morally wrong.

I see every person, whether Iraqi or American, as some mother's son or daughter. And since I would die to protect my own son, I am morally obligated to speak out against this egregious use of power by our country.

In Vietnam, our mission was to win their hearts and minds. Today I say hearts and minds can't be won through violence. This is a sad time for those of us who see the great potential in this experiment called a democracy. Yet we must weep at our inability to take this potential greatness and translate it into solutions other than war.

And I have to say, I'm confused and I have no answers. What is the message we're sending to our kids about conflict resolution? And what does it really look like when it says I support the troops but I don't support the war? I struggle to understand.

But what I do know with certainty is my own experience with war. I have seen firsthand not only the futility of the violence, but the devastation it brings to lives and countries. And it seems ironic, with all our accomplishments, from landing on the moon to mapping the human genome, that we still haven't learned how to resolve conflict without war.

How far have we come in these years? I ask each of you, will those people in harm's way today, both Iraqi and American, look back in the rear-view mirror, 36 years from now, and face the same pain that I feel today? I fear that answer.

Thank you.

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John Wike: Army combat veteran of the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic.
Everybody has their war -- big wars, little wars. My grandfather fought in the British artillery in World War I. My father was a RAF pilot in World War II, shot down at the battle of Dunkirk.

When I went to the Dominican Republic, I ended up guarding a sugar mill -- American-owned. I want to read you first something from General Smedley Butler, U.S. Marine Corps. He says:

I helped make Mexico, and especially Tempico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of a half-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long.
I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909 to 1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

Looking back on it, I felt I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was operate his racket in three city districts. We Marines operated on three continents.

When I was guarding that sugar mill, people were shooting at us and we didn't know why. We called higher headquarters and we said, "We're getting shot at. Can we get some support down here?" And they said, "There are no rebels down in that district, so we can't send anyone down." We said, "Well they're shooting at us."

So we organized ourselves and we went out and we found the people who were shooting at us and we killed most of them and we captured some of them. And we asked them why were they shooting at us. And they said, "Because in 1916 you killed our grandfathers, you raped our grandmothers." It keeps going.


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George Lymburn: Army Air Corps veteran of World War II, was shot down and held as a POW in Germany for 14 months.
If a man makes a fist and hits a woman in the face, I call that momentary insanity that leads to violence. You remember about a year ago, they showed [on TV] a women in a parking lot and she was hitting her daughter in the back seat of her car? Do you remember that? That's what I call momentary insanity that leads to violence.

But if you were appalled at that woman striking that child, what in the world do you think is going on in Iraq right now, this moment? Think about that. You're offended to see a woman strike a child. What's going on over there?

And when a nation rises up and has a war with another nation, I call that momentary insanity that leads to violence.

I was a B-24 pilot during World War II. I got shot down over Berlin. The 10 people in our crew were taken to be prisoners of war. We were finally liberated by the Russians on March 8, 1945. The rest of the crew now, are all dead. My co-pilot died a year ago, on January first. So I feel there's a voice left to speak for them, so therefore I do feel some responsibility about that.

We're here to share what we think, as veterans, to you. And I'd like to quote three veterans right now.

The first is the four-star general Omar Bradley. He said, "Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace. We know more about killing than we know about living."

Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, and those who are cold and are not clothed." And let's not just think of this country. He was talking about a world condition; those who are not fed, those who are not clothed.

John F. Kennedy said, "War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation in prestige that the warrior does today."

Well I heard some interesting information on a talk show the other day. I found out that I was an un-American, left-wing idiot. Thank you....

One thing I've observed about this country during the years that I've had here, is that I think we're a very bored country. I think we're a very isolated country. Look at the cell phones going and so forth. What one thing might have the possibility of uniting us all? Take us out of our boredom? Take us out of our isolation? It's war, isn't it? Isn't it perfect?

So I think there obviously must be another answer, because I would see some day, like Kennedy, in the future, when this globe experiences so much pain -- everybody experiences so much pain -- we say, 'Enough. I give up. There must be a better way.'

I'd like to conclude by saying may God bless all the people of this magnificent planet.

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Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Warren Langley is also a former president of the Pacific Stock Exchange.
I have to say that I'm really proud to be standing here with this group of people today, making ourselves heard about this war and how we feel about it. This is a group of people who understands war. As you've heard from their stories, they've been in war. They know why you don't want to go to war.

My 84-year-old father, who was a prisoner of war in the second World War, captured in North Africa, said to me in December, when I was very surprised how strongly opposed to this war he was, "This war was being decided on by people who've never been to war." And we know that's the truth.

I've had a little trouble in the last few days dealing with the fact that I think a lot of effective voices were protesting the war [from] starting -- and then it started, and I haven't been able to deal very well with 'what do we do now?'

But I think being here with this group of people helps me. It helps me understand that we have to do more. We have to make sure that this is the only war that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld start.

We have to be sure that they don't carry out their grand plan, which looks to me like North Korea, Iran, Yemen and several other places that they think they know how to do better. We can't let that happen.

And as I saw on one of the signs here among us, saying the way to stop this war is to march to the polls in 2004. It's got to be all of us here, and everybody else that we can make come with us. And understand that we need to find the leadership that will make decisions that won't take us to war, that will look for ways that stop short of war -- to get diplomatic means -- and to help us rejoin the international community.

There are so many places in this world that just think America is George Bush, and we've got to change their minds.

Thanks you very much for letting me be a part of this group. Thanks you very much for coming out and supporting our troops, because I think all of us here know how important it is to differentiate between opposing the war, and opposing the politicians, and opposing the people who made the decision to go to war, and supporting the troops who are in harms way and fighting the war.

Thanks very much and I'll see you at the next rally.

 

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