Tuesday, July 29, 2008
One of the projects that I was involved with was The Longest Walk II. This is a commemorative walk from San Francisco to Washington DC of the original walk that took place in 1978. The purpose of the walk was to bring forth, in a positive way, concerns about pollution of Mother Earth, the idea that all life is Sacred, Peace and Justice, the degeneration of the people from sickness, the failure of the government to adhere to treaties and to keep Sacred sites Sacred.
Read all about the Longest Walk II, see the pictures and read the stories at this site:
One of the purposes of the walk was to assemble a Manifesto and deliver this document to Congress. The ideas set forth in the Manifesto were from the actual lives of people across the United States as we walked.
As a Veteran, my duty was to prepare a piece to address the growing concern over benefits and benefit changes to soldiers returning home from the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters of war.
The entire Manifesto is also available to read at the above listed site. Here is the article I presented to Congress on behalf of my Veteran Bothers and Sisters:
Manifesto For Change
“All Life Is Sacred”
THE COST OF WAR: Message from a Veteran
By Joe Spado, member of Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and The American Patriot Institute.
As we crossed the United States, we on The Longest Walk II heard many concerns from a wide variety of citizens. Most of these concerns dealt with environmental problems like poisons or cancer causing substances in the drinking water, or pollution of water supply reservoirs and air quality. Problems related to health issues and access to adequate healthcare. Problems with the cost of food, gasoline and drugs. Problems dealing with discrimination based on skin color or spoken language for jobs and/or housing opportunities. Problems with the treatment of areas and sites that are considered Culturally Sacred, or actual burial sites of family members and ancestors of the Native Indigenous people of America.
These matters are of extreme importance to the individuals that are exposed, but affect all people in one way or another. Another problem that needs to be addressed is the treatment and access to benefits for Veterans who served in the armed forces of the United States. The Veterans from wars of the past, World War II, Korea and Vietnam and returning Veterans from the current war activity in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As I spoke with Veterans I heard their accounts of rejection for benefits and the long waiting period even the denial takes. One Veteran told me he was refused health care as his home was being foreclosed upon.
It is hard to get benefits. The application process is flawed and inaccessible to many. The bureaucracy and long waiting periods, rules and regulations make it hard for Veterans to make and keep appointments or persevere in their attempt to see their claims through to a fair conclusion.
In most cases, the burden of proof lies on the shoulders of the Veterans to prove they were even in a battle zone or that they were injured while on active duty. Laws have been changed and benefits have been reduced or taken away from Veterans.
When I speak of benefits, I am talking about health care as a priority, but also benefits relating to job seeking and job keeping skills, the teaching of real life technical and liberal education and readjustment counseling after a Veteran has served in a combat zone or in any theater where combat and the violence and destruction that goes along with it are present. I speak of housing benefits, educational benefits, mental health treatment benefits and other benefits that were implemented to help the Veteran get back to a normal life after serving in the military.
I speak of legal help and relief from creditors. Many Veterans were taken from their everyday routine and put into repeated tours of duty, disrupting their income. They return to face bankruptcy or credit problems so severe there is no escape.
Obviously, one solution is to sign onto law the needed bills to rectify these problems for Veterans. This would cost money to the taxpayers. In an attempt to keep taxation low, benefits were cut and measures taken to reduce the cost of care for any Veteran. But spending less on war and war related armament and activities would offset the additional cost that would be needed to take proper care of our Veterans.
Another solution is to work harder and create laws that allow for peace and peaceful settlements of disputes with other countries and adopt this as a main ideal in our framework of foreign policy.
As a member of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and having fought as a combat infantry soldier in Vietnam, I speak from the first hand experience of being in war and seeing it up close. Peoples’ lives are shattered, both the lives of the soldiers on both “sides”, and the lives of their close friends and family members. The lives of the civilians caught up as war has its collateral damage and their close friends and family members.
The death and destruction to people and property. The after effects of wounds received and inflicted, both physical and emotional wounds. The obvious and blatant war profiteering by the arms companies and others that partake in such crime. The continuing effects of weapons and arms left behind like unexploded bombs and depleted uranium armaments. The destruction of lives from the behavior that results from such trauma, like drug addiction and alcoholism, spousal brutality, anxiety, anger, depression and panic attacks.
Society decides and allows war, through the officials they elect. It is societies burden then, to pay for it before it starts, while it is happening and when the conflict is over. The cost of war isn’t the billions that the President asks for from the legislature to fight the war. It is ongoing as the wounds of war to the people of the world never cease, even years after the conflict.
A first shot should never be fired by our Nation. We should stand ready to defend, but not be the reason for war. Standing as the worlds strongest Nation has a responsibility to the rest of the world, and that is to help promote peace at all costs.
The cost of war is staggering in dollar value, but the cost to humanity is even more as lives lost and the lost lives of the survivors can’t be counted with dollars. The best and easiest investment is in real peace through diplomacy and negotiations. The best and easiest solution to the problem of providing for our Veterans is peace.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Well, one organization, the Disabled American Veterans, have told VP Cheney to take a hike and do not bother to come to their convention in Las Vegas in August.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Reminiscent of Kiplings poem Tommy (which can be found here), we have the Republican nominee trying to balance the budget on the backs of the veterans, the very people he supposedly understands.
From a post at Blue Girl In A Red State comes this
Blue Wren, a blogging buddy and a female veteran who served in the Air Force during peacetime, writes:
John McCain, a Vietnam war veteran and POW who has supported Bush Administration cuts in VA health care funding and service for veterans in the past, has a new bright idea about how to save America money.
"Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s call to "concentrate veterans’ health care on those with combat injuries" is raising questions about the Arizona senator’s commitment to funding the ailing VA system."
Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., said a system that treats combat veterans and non-combat veterans differently is inherently unfair. “We can care for both combat veterans and non-combat veterans if we just decide it is an important thing to do,” Filner said Thursday, one day after McCain talked at a Dover, N.H., town hall meeting about the need to concentrate veterans’ health care on people with injuries that 'are a direct result of combat.'"
It's infuriating that people like Bush and McCain would even consider trying to economize by refusing or delaying health care to veterans who've served their country honorably and in good faith while at the same time spending billions on a war that was started through dishonesty, hubris and greed.
Count me in among those who responded to this news with an emphatic "You've got to be shitting me."
Read the rest of Blue Wren's post, McCain would ration VA medical care. Make sure you read the comments, too.
McCain touts himself as a support the troops person, visit the troops, photo ops shaking hands with the troops but in his left hand is the knife with which he is stabbing the troops in the back.
McCain has turned into a lying, sniveling coward who will do anything, say anything in his pathetic attempt to win the general election in November.
As a retired career member of the U.S. Navy, I would much rather serve under an honest person who never wore the uniform, such as Senator Obama, than a boot licking appeaser like Senator McCain.
Cross posted at Liberty Street
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Thanks for all of your support.
Iraq War Veteran
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
A photograph taken in the first days of the war had made the medic from New York's Long Island a symbol of the United States' good intentions in the Middle East. When he returned home, he was hailed as a hero.
But for most of the past five years, the 31-year-old soldier had writhed in a private hell, shooting at imaginary enemies and dodging nonexistent roadside bombs, sleeping in a closet bunker and trying desperately to huff away the "demons" in his head. When his personal problems became public, efforts were made to help him, but nothing seemed to work.
This broken, frightened man had once been the embodiment of American might and compassion. If the military couldn't save him, Knapp thought, what hope was there for the thousands suffering in anonymity?
In July 2007, Dwyer checked into an inpatient program at New York's Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He stayed for six months.
He came home in March with more than a dozen prescriptions. He was so medicated that his feet flopped when he walked, as if he were wearing oversized clown shoes.
The VA's solution was a "pharmaceutical lobotomy," his father thought.
"And so it's a dance between the clinicians and the patient."
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, feels the VA is a lousy dance partner.
Rieckhoff said the VA's is a "passive system" whose arcane rules and regulations make it hard for veterans to find help. And when they do get help, he said, it is often inadequate.
"I consider (Dwyer) a battlefield casualty," he said, "because he was still fighting the war in his head."
There are tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of cases out there like Specialist Dwyer's, and more to come. We don't hear about them until someone investigates and reports on them, and not all of them will end like that, of course, but even one is too many.
Until more than lip service is given to fixing the problems in the military and VA mental health care systems, the problem will exist until all the Iraq Vets are dead.
It's going to take more than yellow ribbons on cars. It's going to take guilt and anger by millions of people to fix the aftermath of a warmongering imperialistic ideology that is still sending Americans to a criminal war and then throwing them away in repayment for their service.
Crossposted at Alternate Brain.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Young men seek the uniform, the weapon, and the attendant glory, for they will live forever, with stories of glory to pass on to their children, and put to rest any accusations of less than manly character. But the ranks swell with those that look no further beyond this characteristic hormone storm; very few that seek the whys and wherefores and context of their adventures. Most, I think thankfully, will have the impact of their actions realized as their friends drop beside them, or return home with pieces missing, or have children drill looks of hatred into their soul for having taken their parents. This is a price needing to be paid if we are to remain citizen soldiers called to defense of our own, rather than centurion mercenaries who find death a mere commodity. and become accustomed to the stench the rest of us could never tolerate.
Politicians who never served, who never went in harms way, who never stared down a barrel or bomb sight or periscope need not imagine themselves capable of crafting policy that will place warriors at the reapers disposal, yet they do, and the results of such blasphemy is now evident in the mounting toll of this big mistake we call a war on terrorism. The learned warrior knows a twisted truth, and will speak against it at first opportune. Not enough learned warriors seem to be with us these days, and that is the shame we will suffer for, for generations to come.
No, I did not wear gold braid upon my shoulders. No, I did not happen upon circumstance which would have branded me with valor. And no, I was not tested in such a way that I dare not dream for the horrors it could visit upon my slumbers. But I remember the mission, I remember how we carried it out, and I now know of the honor I wished we had realized in those days spent on a razor's edge. I am a learned warrior after the fact, and I second-guess with reckless abandon, and will continue to do so with confidence in my right and ability to do so, until such time that a learned man steps to the forefront and puts right this waste of lives and waste of honor which is Iraq. I am a veteran, and I stand by my judgement.
Monday, July 14, 2008
A yearlong examination of military and civilian records by The Sacramento Bee involving hundreds of troops who entered the services since the Iraq war began identified 120 cases of people whose backgrounds should have raised the suspicions of military recruiters, including felony convitions and serious drug, alcohol or mental health problems.
Of those, 70 later were involved in controversial or criminal incidents in Iraq.
The 70 were among the tens of thousands of military personnel recruited or retained as the armed services, entering the sixth year of the Iraq war, lowered educational, age and moral standards and granted a growing number of waivers to applicants whose backgrounds previously would have barred them from serving.
That's it. Take violent, anti-social offenders, hand them a rifle, and tell 'em it's okay to kill brown folks. And we wonder when shit like Abu Graib happens, or when they come home and commit violent crimes against American citizens.
These clowns shouldn't be allowed to possess a BB gun, let alone be put in a war zone, and is a testament to how badly the situation in Iraq has crippled our military. The latest line from the White House this weekend is that there will be "a drawdown" of troops from Iraq, but that's only to send them to Afghanistan because we don't have the reserves to fill in the gaps (though Afghanistan was treated like the red-headed step-child from Day One) our half-assed commitment created.
... The Bush spin machine was quick to declare that the administration is considering increasing the pace of the pullout from Iraq (as if they were actually considering "pulling out" in the first place), not as a reaction to Maliki's invitation to pack sand, or because the force is collapsing from the deployment tempo, but because the extra troops are needed in Afghanistan.
The real moral waiver came when the U.S. Congress gave these assholes carte blanche to start this war and continue to fund it into its sixth year. Unfortunately, the way things are going, any grip we get on Morality is a long time coming. As long as insane foreign policy is considered mainstream, we will continue to field a military made up of convicts, gang bangers, and low lifes. Atrocities will continue and American credibility will continue to circle the bowl.
John McCain wants to stay in Iraq forever? Answer me this. Where is he gonna get the troops? Or is he just gonna empty out the prisons?
Cross-posted at the Brain.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
By all accounts, the news coming out lately about Iran is scary. Iran is testing more missiles, and the Bush administration is promising swift retribution for any attack on the US or our allies.
To top it off, John McCain keeps joking about killing the Iranian people—discussing rising U.S. exports of cigarettes to Iran, he joked, "Maybe that's a way of killing them." And we all remember McCain's infamous, "Bomb Iran" song. (See video below)1
War is not a joke. The truth is that the Bush-McCain policy of reckless saber-rattling and threatening doesn't work—it just makes things worse and increases tensions in the region. What we need is serious, tough, and smart diplomacy—not another war.
Right now, Congress is considering bills that could clear the way for escalation or war. But they can act to make sure President Bush and John McCain don't lead us into another reckless war. Can you sign this petition asking Congress to push for diplomacy and demand Congressional authorization before getting us into another war? Clicking here will add your name:
The petition reads: "Saber-rattling and threats towards Iran without diplomacy is not working. Please support a new direction towards Iran and demand President Bush get Congressional authorization before getting us into another war."
For years, the Bush administration's policy has been the same—tough talk and no real diplomacy. So far, that hasn't helped curtail Iran's apparent nuclear ambitions or advanced American interests.
Unfortunately, John McCain's belligerent comments only make matters worse—at a moment when the Persian Gulf is on the brink of war because of leaders who dehumanize and demonize folks on the other side, John McCain is offering more of the same old approach.
As NPR reported this morning, "McCain believes that the Bush administration's approach has been the right one."2
What we need right now from this administration, and from our next president, is serious diplomacy. As Barack Obama said, "The United States has to gather up others in the region, as well as internationally, to apply pressure on Iran. But it's very difficult for us to do so when we haven't shown a willingness to engage in the sort of direct negotiations with Iran that would give them carrots and sticks for a change in behavior."3
We don't need more saber-rattling, belligerent rhetoric or jokes about killing Iranians.
Too many lives—American, Israeli, and Iranian—are at stake. Please click here to tell Congress to help avoid another war:
Thanks for all you do.
–Nita, Wes, Peter, Eli and the rest of the team
P.S. Check out Video of McCain's comments:
1. "Bad Joke," Progressive Accountability, July 9, 2008
2. "Candidates Diverge On How To Handle Iran," NPR, July 10, 2008
3. "Iran Tests Missiles Able To Reach Israel." US News and World Report, July 10, 2008
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Monday, July 7, 2008
WASHINGTON - Congress should repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy because the presence of gays in the military is unlikely to undermine the ability to fight and win, according to a new study released by a California-based research center.
The study was conducted by four retired military officers, including the three-star Air Force lieutenant general who in early 1993 was tasked with implementing President Clinton's policy that the military stop questioning recruits on their sexual orientation.
"Evidence shows that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly is unlikely to pose any significant risk to morale, good order, discipline or cohesion," the officers states.
Now, let' em fucking serve if they want. There is no reason to marginalize any segment of our population, in any capacity, let alone denying them the chance to serve the country they love.
Great thanks to Mr. Aravosis for the link.
Cross-posted at the Brain.
Friday, July 4, 2008
However, the world that all this angst was flavoring was a different one than the ones our fathers and grandfathers served, for this was not the life and death struggle between two distinct philosophies brought to a head, but a slow, simmering bickering between two superpowers with Armageddon at their disposal. Then, it was us or them. In this new "cold war", it could easily be us AND them. Our superiors knew it, we knew it, and perhaps that knowing kept us from having a hair trigger. None of us savored the possibility of our own families suffering their own private Hiroshima.
On top of all this posturing of man and machine above and beneath the waves, was the entanglement that the United States found itself involved with in Vietnam. I can safely say that a good portion of the ranks of both the Navy AND the Air Force was filled with patriotic young Americans who were not quite patriotic enough to wish to find themselves wading through rice paddies with no earthly idea who their enemy really was. The fly boys dropped their bombs on coordinates; THAT was their enemy, and most of the time they never had to actually SEE that enemy. Likewise, out here in the oceans, our targets were ships of designs different than ours with a different flag flying from the mast. Our torpedos would seek out a THING, a great big STEEL thing that was going to kill us if we didn't kill it first. We could not afford to worry about the flesh and bone within those steel hulls, just as they couldn't afford to worry about us. So, you had at least ONE branch of the service facing down an easily identifiable enemy, a cadre of sailors who felt much more comfortable risking annihilation by an easily understood enemy than those in Vietnam who increasingly found themselves BECOMING the enemy, against all those ideals they thought they had been raised with and measured by.
I was just one of a crew of a hundred-odd individuals who found themselves in a decade of transitions, who didn't quite understand the history they were making, who in a very human way were more worried about running out of cigarettes on a long deployment and getting laid back in port than they were with the geopolitical implications of the missions they were participating in. It wasn't until long after I had satisfied my active duty requirements and did a few years of Reserve duty did I finally come across a book that spelled out in startling detail some of the dangers I had been exposed to and didn't even know it. You see, loose lips sank ships, and there was so much secrecy involved in OUR branch of the Navy that half the time we didn't even know ourselves half the stuff we weren't allowed to talk to anyone about, including our own spouses. If you want to know how fast and how deep my submarine could go, you can find out in this book, but we were never allowed to divulge that information, no matter how common knowledge we suspected it might actually be. So, years after the fact, instead of the disaffected Personnelman who served aboard two nuclear attack submarines who could not wait to get back to civilian life in order to find some sort of respect, I have become the enlightened veteran, who had no idea that yes, I actually played a major part in contributing to the ultimate downfall and disillusion of the Mighty Soviet Empire. Contrast against those fine young men who survived a FUBAR only to watch the North Vietnamese Army drive a tank through the gates of the South Vietnamese Presidential Palace. How do you come to grips with THAT?
The decades since have passed beyond us much faster than any of us imagined they could. WE are now the older men, with memories to pass on to younger generations who perhaps think of us more as the baby boomer hippies rather than the young men out to change the world for the better, who both utterly failed and succeeded beyond our wildest expectations. Old threats vanquished, we now face new and confusing challenges, and once again finding those in power failing us and this fresh new generation paying THEIR price for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The mantle has been passed to US; shall we stand idly by while caskets draped in American flags continue to return across oceans that no longer protect us, while people in places most of us can't find on maps learn to hate us for manufactured reasons having nothing to do with who we are as a people? America STILL can stand for something precious in this world; it remains to us to lend voice to that truth.
My brothers, thank you for finding me worthy to join you here, practicing with full force the rights we served to protect, in one capacity or another. You will find me a harsh practitioner of those rights, for I have lived long enough to actually think that I could be called to arms to protect those same rights, only this time from DOMESTIC threats, which I never in my wildest dreamed imaginable. No, I doubt very seriously that any of us will find ourselves becoming involved in some sort of insurgency against our own brothers, as we did back in the civil war, but I do believe that those now here will utilize this amazing and powerful forum to speak out and shine the bright light of reason on these outrages perpetrated by our present administration and those in congress who enable them to do such damage to our precious constitution, our armed forces, and the prestige that we once enjoyed around the world as that "shining city on the hill".
So, once again, thank you, and you can be rest assured they can shut me up when they pull this keyboard out of my cold, dead fingers.
Our little ragtag bunch has grown. What started out as a "Rogues Gallery" is becoming something of a minor force in the socio-political blogosphere. When Moderate Man took the Rogue's Gallery one step further, and founded the American Patriot Institute, it was more of an inside joke than anything-else. Why shouldn't we, he reasoned, who have served our nation and believe in the oath we swore to defend the Constitution of The United States of America, have an "umbrella organization" from which we could "issue papers" countering the propaganda of other "patriotic" organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, and none has done so more effectively than the Moderate Man himself. (With the possible exception of Kitchen Window Woman, whose posts continue to amaze me.) Yet we all have something to contribute in our own way, and we all do. Whether it be Spadoman regaling us with details of "The Longest Walk" or the Ashland Peace Vigil, or Buffalo spinning a tale that takes us back to our lost youth, we have all continued to "fight" for the America we were once so proud to serve. We are all in accordance that the path this current Administration has chosen is terribly wrong for America and we are united in our efforts to change it for the better. While we don't always agree on all things, we do agree that we love our country and that our meager efforts to restore her to her once great glory is Patriotic and that by doing so, we are fulfilling the oaths we swore, (for some of us), so long ago.
Michael's voice will strengthen us. His writing is poignant and insightful. His dedication to our cause is clearly evident in his posts. His service in the United States Navy provides him with a perspective no chickenhawk can ever have.
Welcome aboard, Michael.
At some time in the near future, please post a your "baby picture" (boot graduation pic or any pic of you in uniform), for inclusion in the image map posted in the sidebar of many of our sites. Your pic will be included and will link directly to your site, These Thoughts Escape Me. You may copy and paste the Flag and Eagle logo of the API in your sidebar, as evidence of your membership. You may also copy the link-list to the other members from my site, (I believe I have the most recent list). Shortly, you will receive an invitation to post here with full admin rights. This site is a "we" thing, so feel free to add links, change the template, whatever. This site will only grow if we all water and feed it.
Once again, welcome. Welcome home, Brother.
Michael posts at These Thoughts Escape Me.
Please update your API linklists to include Michaels' website.
Oh, and Happy Independence Day Brothers and Sisters! Let us continue our efforts to win our Independence from those who have abused our nation and it's Constitution!
Also posted at deuddersun says...
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Here it is: www.embracedemocracy.org
I paid for the fresh peaches, tomatoes and green beans Mrs. Chief picked up at this farmer’s market and proceeded to put them in the car while she went to find her mother. In the parking lot I spotted a red pickup with a license plate that only a career Marine would have.
He was just finished paying for his fresh strawberries so I asked him, “That your red pickup?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“How many years,” I queried.
“Holy shit,” I said, “ I only did 21.”
“That’s a long time.”
So we chatted a bit. His 32 years had taken him to a tour in Kuwait, two tours in Tunisia, two aboard the Forrestal. He was on the Forrestal in ’67 when they had the big fire.
As we parted, he said, “Thank you for your service.”
I was somewhat surprised by that, because he had served more than fifty percent longer than I. I said, “But you gave more than I did.”
“But some gave more than either of us,” he said.
On that note we waved good-bye.