Friday, November 11, 2011

We are all Veterans - A Personal Perspective

Now this might offend some people.  As we honor the men and women who put on a uniform to serve their country in foreign wars, let’s reflect on those who resist, who stand up for their principles of non-violence and take another path.  My husband is such a man. In the Vietnam War, he resisted being drafted, refusing more than once to take his physical when called to his small local draft board in Illinois.

He stated his beliefs as conscientious objector, and was punished by having his status rejected by the Board.  He joined forces with the Quakers, who took up his case and filed suit against the United States Government.  There was a man with principles.  

He won that case and went on to accept alternative service in the Chicago ghetto, working as a trained carpenter, teaching others skills that could help them get jobs and find their way out of a life of violence, drugs and despair.  

Violence found him, though, as bullets came flying through the window of the training center, a not uncommon occurrence, he was told by those who ran it. Violence was all around then, as it is now. 

In the time of Vietnam, I served with the New England Resistance, an organization who spoke out against the War and the draft, who counseled youth and who worked with enlisted men to open a dialogue on what the War meant to us, to them, to the small nation they were sent to ravage.

We helped those who took a public stand against the war machine, men who left the Military because they realized the war was wrong and they could no longer serve its cause.  These men took Sanctuary in local churches and did not resist when U.S Marshals in all their finery swept in to carry their limp bodies off to Federal prison.

We marched and protested; we chanted and we talked. We wrote articles and we counseled. We spoke at churches, schools and rallies.

One thing we did not do, as much as this urban myth persists today.  We never, ever spit on returning veterans.  We never treated those who served overseas with anything but the respect they deserved.  It was not the veterans who started the war; but it was they who suffered, who died and who were maimed, physically and mentally.  Who still to this day stand on street corners with signs around their necks asking for a little help, a little understanding.

Now they are joined by veterans of newer wars, Iraq I and II, Afghanistan.  The war on drugs, the class war the Republicans wage against poor people, sending jobs overseas and giving the fat cats fat payouts.

We are all veterans, today and everyday.  Veterans of a cynical America fighting wars foreign  and domestic.  

Scott Olsen, the Iraq War vet, who was struck on the head, suffering serious injuries from a flying police canister at the Occupy Oakland rally last week, took one for all of us.
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