Progressive Writers Bloc

Veterans for Peace in Tulare County

Uncle Bill Warner

What do you think of when you think of veterans? Patriotic soldiers who have selflessly defended our shores from invading enemies? Tools of business interests keeping US interests safe? Crusaders bringing Capitalism, Christianity, and Democracy to the world? Brutal invaders? Heroes or victims?

Obviously even a veteran's answer to the above question is going to vary. Draftees may differ from enlistees. Enlistees who join up for college money might not answer the same as enlistees who just want to "kill the bad guys." Soldiers who came back whole may not have the same perspective as those who were maimed. Veterans who have studied history may have a different view than those who have not. The vets who compose the majority of the homeless on our streets are most certainly going to have interesting views, not necessarily what you are used to hearing in 4th of July speaches.

Veteran's organizations abound. Some believe that war is inevitable, necessary and a reasonable way to make America safe. Others think it should be just for defense. Many are in the middle, just trying to make sure that returning vets get not only recognition for their sacrifices, but access to disabilities and medical services.

The American Legion, is one of the oldest and largest. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is also prominent, as is the AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans, The Marine Corps League, etc. Less well-known are the groups like the Vietnam Veterans Against War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and the Veterans for Peace are not featured in the annual pro-war parades on the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, or Veteran's Day. There is no "Peace Day" parade, so many Americans are not even aware that there are anti-war veterans.

As a veteran, and as the father of a veteran, I certainly support veterans! I think many of them are paying a price that those who sent them off to fight are not. None of the top folks in Washington that I know of are suffering from the effects of Agent Orange from the Vietnam War, or depleted uranium radiation sickness from the Gulf Wars. Not many of them are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD, called "shell shock" back in the World War One days). It deeply grieves me to know that as many soldiers committed suicide after the Vietnam War as were killed in battle. It bothers me that the Bush administration is proposing cutting Veterans' access to health benefits, including the closing of 30 veterans hospitals.

I have personally come to oppose war on many grounds, from the inhumanity of killing people, who have never done anything to us, in their own back yards, to the incredible monetary waste which is sacrificing our own children's futures. In my opinion, wars do not make the world a safer place. World War I was not, as advertised, "the war to end all wars": it laid the groundwork for World War II. World War II was just the gateway to the "Cold War" hot conflicts in Korea and Vietnam and an arms race that led the USSR to collapse and the US to the poor house. The current conflict has been fraudulent from the start. Our attack upon and occupation of a country which had nothing to do with terrorism or 9-11 only helped make the work of Al Quaeda recruiters easier.

A local chapter of Veterans for Peace is presently forming within the South Valley Peace Center. The following statement of purpose is from this group (www.veteransforpeace.org):

"We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end, we will work, with others"

a) Toward increasing public awareness of the costs of war. b) To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations. c) To end the arms race and to reduce and to eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. d) To seek justice for veterans and victims of war. e) To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

You might want to look at some of the activities they are involved in on their website which range all the way from sending election observers into Central America to actively participating in the fight to save VA healthcare, defend veterans' rights, and protect our civil liberties under the Constitution.

I believe veterans should be in the forefront of the struggle not only to assist veterans and their families, but to oppose the very wars that are undermining us morally and financially. If you can support the goals of the VFP, you might like to contact us about becoming a member of the Tulare County chapter.

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