Thursday, October 27, 2005

Members of Veterans For Peace stand around 2000 candles in Oakland, California, October 25, 2005 in memory of the 2,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. (Kimberly White/Reuters)
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

If You're Not Attending a Vigil Today, Please see this video

Many will attend candlelight vigils today in memoriam of 2,000 US soldiers killed in Iraq. If you are not among them, please view this video; extremely moving photo essay of 27 funerals, soldiers killed in Iraq. Remember them all, they and their families have given so much......

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Ohio War Veteran, Paul Hackett, Democratic veteran of the Iraq war Running for Senate

CINCINNATI Oct 24, 2005 — Paul Hackett, the Democratic veteran of the Iraq war who narrowly lost in a special election in a heavily Republican congressional district in August, prepared Monday to officially jump into the U.S. Senate race.

Hackett planned a noon news conference at his home in suburban Indian Hill. He faces a tough Democratic primary with Rep. Sherrod Brown in the race for the nomination to challenge second-term Republican incumbent Mike DeWine next year.

read more at ABC News: Ohio War Veteran Running for Senate
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Another soldier in Iraq blog shut down....muted voices.

Noting this soldier's last post as his blog is shut down; but first read his story posted to Operation Truth as veteran of the week

Then contrast it with same soldier's last post in his blog which is being shut down All The King's Horses

Wishing you well soldier, get home safe; and when you do, I sincerely hope you and your comrades will apply your skills to taking back America; we seem to have lost her along the way.

All The King's Horses
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Colonel quits as troops are denied armoured land rovers in Iraq

THE commanding officer of a battalion serving in Iraq has resigned after failing to obtain armoured Land Rovers for his patrols.

Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Henderson, commander of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, is understood to have been furious last week after one of his senior sergeants died as a direct result of the failure to supply “armour protected” Land Rovers for his men, defence sources said.

Sergeant Christian Hickey was killed when his vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb on patrol in Basra late on Tuesday night.

The Ministry of Defence says frontline troops cannot have the armoured Land Rovers because they are not unsuitable for use off-road, but six weeks ago Britain supplied a number of the vehicles to Iraqi police in Basra.

British troops are equipped with the “snatch vehicle”, a Land Rover protected by composite fibre glass designed to stop rifle fire. One senior source who has recently been in Iraq said: “They [the insurgents] have weapons that go right through the composite.”

The source added that British troops were now using tanks or convoys of up to 12 Warrior armoured vehicles to mount patrols with some areas deemed too dangerous to be patrolled at all. “We’re in survival mode right now, we can’t do anything at all,” he said.

The Ministry of Defence insisted that Henderson, 43, decided some time ago to leave but news of his resignation comes amid growing anger among senior officers.

Commanders recently asked for two extra battalions totalling around 1,200 men to help them regain control of Basra but claim the request was denied on political grounds. Instead they were sent one company of fewer than 200 men from the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

Colonel quits as troops are denied armoured land rovers in Iraq - Sunday Times - Times Online
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45% = 7 Million Iraqis believe attacks on 140,000 Coalition troops justified

Think about the odds...........

From Reuters

Poll shows Iraqis back attacks on UK, US forces

Sat Oct 22, 5:45 PM ET

Forty-five percent of Iraqis believe attacks on U.S. and British troops are justified, according to a secret poll said to have been commissioned by British defense leaders and cited by The Sunday Telegraph.

Less than 1 percent of those polled believed that the forces were responsible for any improvement in security, according to poll figures.

Eighty-two percent of those polled said they were "strongly opposed" to the presence of the troops.

The paper said the poll, conducted in August by an Iraqi university research team, was commissioned by the Ministry of Defense.

Britain has more than 8,000 troops stationed in the south of Iraq, and has had 97 soldiers killed, the most recent the victim of a roadside bomb on Tuesday night.
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

I Can’t Bear Another Vigil; 2,000 Killed and Still Counting..

There will be vigils across the nation this week commemorating Dept of Defense report of 2,000 US soldiers killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Plans are underway amongst peace and activist groups to stage vigils in local communities across the nation when that fatal number is published. Already I’ve received media phone calls about these upcoming events as it seems media also wants to mark the tragic occasion. They phone me as a member family representing Military Families Speak Out. Will I be participating one wants to know; another wants to know if I can refer names of other military family members who are willing to speak in media, specifically, who’s loved one has been killed.

A gruesome time; gruesome media requests. A morbid reason to even have to think about planning or participating in another memoriam vigil. Since August 2005 through September 22, 2005 I have participated in vigil after vigil at the Camp Casey that sprung up in Crawford, Texas and again for nearly 4 weeks on the Bring Them Home Now Tour, central route from Crawford to DC. In DC, I was one among approximately 300,000 to 600,000 who participated in the 3 mile march to the White House.

I was in the contingent representing Military Families Speak Out, which was one of four contingents comprising a collective military community voice calling to bring our troops home. With the young Iraq Veterans Against The War; the seasoned veterans of Veterans for Peace, and the families who have had loved one killed, Gold Star Families for Peace, we stood together in front of the White House in commonality and purpose. Never mind whatever else was reported about that rally and march; our four contingents knew why we were there and what our collective represented…the experience of being in military or connected to military by the fact of our deployed loved ones. Our voice is a valid voice and cannot be dismissed away as it is representative of our collective authentic experience and truth. It is an essential part of the dialogue. While it is not in itself a singular truth, it is indeed another perspective of the authenticity of truthful experience regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that light, no matter the perceptions and opinions, our’s is a critical part of the ongoing dialogue.

When I came home, it was a transition from high energy, high profile daily activities, morning to night; in sharing the message with a wider American public to the quiet of the life I share with my family in our quaint little fishing village on the bay. And yet amongst the communities in our state there are new military family voices coming forward to share their truth. Vigils continue amongst our state communities, and last weekend an Arlington Northwest Memorial was staged on our state capitol grounds. Last weekend the number of killed was in the neighborhood of 1977 . Crosses numbering 1970 had been crafted and were erected to honor the fallen. There was no political message whatsoever except the tradition of veterans to honor veterans, living and dead. I could not make myself attend; chiding myself for not attending and knowing my heart could not take another field of so many crosses.

I write this on a Saturday knowing in a matter of a few days, maybe even sooner, there will be memorial vigils in communities across the nation to mark the passing of now 2,000 of our fallen troops. I cannot make myself participate. In one short week, from the 1970 erected crosses to the need now for 2,000 crosses only a week later to mark the immediately coming number of killed.

But I don’t carry the burden of the war on my shoulders alone, and perhaps it is timely that my individual participation is less needed as more and more Americans see the need to take up the burden on their own backs. People who aren’t typically from peace and activist movements step forth to share their personal truths. People who have never before given opinion in public venues now see a need to lend their voice and actions. People talk now of being less content to be about the busy-ness of daily life are trying to make adjustments to free up time to give in lending voice and action. People talk of being weary of trying to be in denial about what they see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears.

Isn’t that the desired outcome in calling attention to our troops and their families who carry the burden of the wars every day without relent? To call out to Americans to lend their own voices and actions to relieving the troops and their families from carrying the weight of the war ensnarled now in an undefined mission with no clarity of purpose or outcome? I excuse my temporary lapse into my own human-ness as I forgive myself for being unable or unwilling to participate in yet another vigil and memoriam to commemorate the loss of 2,000 of our troops. As Americans across our country now pick up their own civilian duty and carry it forward to challenge not only the basis of the initiated wars, but to challenge the mission and duration, I take some comfort that my own work in this endeavor has been the contribution of one military family in a collective of voices coming from military families.

As each of you who are reading go about the business of your daily lives, what will you do this week to commemorate the marking of 2,000 loved ones killed in the wars? What will you do different tomorrow than you did today to contribute your own voice and action? As it goes without saying that this number doesn’t begin to measure the rest of the human cost of war. It doesn’t take into account the number wounded, without limbs, disfigured, paralyzed, mentally destroyed, nor the unreported carnages to the people who try to live their lives in Iraq. They too are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, who carry a burden daily of living life in midst of war.

What is the measure for when enough is enough?

by Lietta Ruger, Oct 22, 2005


Military Families Speak Out

Gold Star Families for Peace

Iraq Veterans Against The War

Veterans for Peace

Bring Them Home Now Tour

Not One More Death, Not One More Dollar

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad / Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits

Back in April, 05, I placed this news item on Dying to Preserve the Lies blog. I have since referenced the data contained in the article many times as opportunities have presented for me to speak out, representing Military Families Speak Out.

Take a look now at this latest article, to better understand how the multi-million dollar ad campaigns to recruit your kids is working. Be ready when your children come to you to 'have a discussion' about enlisting. Seems the ad campaigns are teaching the young how to have a discussion with their parents, not the other way around. Since it's been determined that parents are the major resistance to the decreased recruitment numbers, recruiters shift focus to parents

I don't want my two having to serve yet another deployment, and many military families will tell you about second and third deployments for their loved ones. Clear facts are there are not enough troops to do the job...a mission not clearly defined, and our loved ones continue to be maimed and killed to 'stay the course'. How is this dilema to resolve... supporting the troops by not sending over any more, requiring the ones who did step up to the plate to serve rotated and repeat tours? It's beyond time to really think about what we're doing in Iraq, what is support, what is patriotic and stop the 'go nowhere' dialogue about staying or leaving Iraq. While the political positioning goes on back and forth, our troops on the ground in combat are in serious need of something resembling Real Support. They continue to die for the cause, meanwhile no fresh troops incoming, and no definitions as to exactly what the mission is for our loved ones already there, and entrapped with repeat tours via the draft called 'stop loss'.

Ready to read what the 'discussions' your children will be having with you will look like? Read on.....

Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad

Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits

- Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

With public support for the Iraq war dropping and military recruits becoming harder to attract, the Pentagon started an ad campaign Monday that skips patriotic images and focuses on the difficult conversations that young people have with their parents about joining up.

The $10 million campaign by the military's marketing arm urges parents to "make it a two-way conversation" with children looking to join the military. In four 30-second spots on cable networks and in print ads in publications ranging from O, The Oprah Magazine to Field and Stream, the appeals urge parents -- many of whom, the Pentagon realizes, have never served in the military -- to learn more about the services.

Military officials say the ads aren't a response to falling poll numbers and emphasize that they have long tried to connect with people the Pentagon calls influencers -- parents, coaches, teachers and other adults who affect a potential recruit's life.

However, in contrast to past campaigns, the new ads focus less on a patriotic call to military service ("Uncle Sam Wants You") and opportunities for self-advancement ("Be all you can be"). The military's market surveys told them that families wanted a different reason for their children to join.

"Patriotism resonates with everybody," said Air Force Maj. Rene Stockwell, chief of joint advertisements for the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, which helped produce the advertisements. "But just because it resonates with someone doesn't mean that they'll recommend military service."

The ads are being released at a time when peace activists are trying to limit the military's access to potential recruits in public schools. One such activist, Gail Sredanovic of the group Raging Grannies, said the new campaign glosses over the disadvantages of serving in the military, especially during a war.

"If you want information about a car, you don't ask the used car dealer," said Sredanovic, who lives in Menlo Park. "You ask Consumer Reports."

In all of the four TV commercials released Monday, the camera takes the point of view of the parents. Shot in the no-frills style of a public service announcement, each ad features a teenage boy or girl looking directly into the camera and pleading the case for joining the military.

The parents are silent, their gaze occasionally wandering to a child's bicycle in the yard, or to their hands fumbling nervously with a salt shaker, or to people gathering on a street corner. Stockwell said this was meant to convey the awkwardness of the conversations.

"Mom, you know how I love being on the water, right? How I love the environment?" a young man asks his mother as they talk on their back porch. "I can be part of an environmental response team working on oil cleanups and stuff. I'm serious about this.

"So what do you think?" the young man asks. A voice-over urges parents to "make it a two-way conversation" and points them to the military's Web site

The site, Stockwell said, is aimed at a generation of parents who "aren't as likely to have served in the military and don't have that firsthand knowledge." The site is designed to supply that knowledge with sections like, "Myths vs. Reality."

Another spot begins with a mother scanning a kitchen table covered with bills and calculator as her daughter tells her that she wants to join as a way to gain experience for medical school. "It will be good for my career," the daughter says.

In another, a young man is working on a car in front of a home.

"C'mon, Dad," he says into the camera, "You always said, 'Finish what you start.' " The son says he already has discipline and determination -- "I need a place where they can come out, where they matter.

"Dad," the son says, "talk to me."

As advertising, the spots are "quite powerful and emotional," said Betsy DePalma Sperry, managing director of Grey San Francisco, an advertising firm.

But Sperry said the ads skirt the issue that would worry a parent most -- the possibility their son or daughter will die in combat.

"I think there's a need, therefore, to call a spade a spade: You're going in to serve a higher calling at great risk," Sperry wrote in an e-mail. "I know this would recall earlier messaging of patriotism, which may not play to current audiences, but I question whether any such conversation -- informed or otherwise -- could address the main barriers (to recruiting)."

The military is slightly behind its active duty recruiting goals for the year, October statistics from the Department of Defense show. Four of the military's six reserve components are behind their targets.

Polls show that some parents have their doubts about the military, too. A survey of 1,500 adults this month by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 44 percent felt that the United States made the right decision in using military force against Iraq, compared with 51 percent who felt that way in January.

Brian Hurley, a partner with the San Francisco advertising firm Grant, Scott & Hurley, said the ads were honest in that they "there are so many people between 18 and 24 in the U.S. for whom life is bleak enough that the military seems a good option. Or, as these ads imply, the only option."

But Hurley said they made him wonder whether the "military, like our government in general, is in such sorry shape that thoughtful, well-intentioned people have thrown up their hands and said, 'We can't show people jumping out of planes or helicopters anymore, we can't tell them about the great training they'll get, or how people the world over will admire them.' We have to be plain and honest that today's military is at least a choice."

Although the ads may not contain patriotic images or "I want you!" calls to service, the military's core values such as discipline, determination and commitment are conveyed in the dialogue, said David Swaebe, a spokesman for Mullen, the Boston-area ad firm that created the campaign for the military.

Megan Matson, an organizer with San Francisco-based Leave My Child Alone, which focuses on controlling the release of student information to military recruiters, found the ads encouraging in that the military "has spent all this money on focus groups, and they're recognizing that they need to take a different tack."

"The focus groups must have shown that no one over 19 is falling for the glitz anymore (Army rodeo teams, babes on humvees, the adventure of it all, etc.) and they had better look real, and look like they care," Matson wrote in a separate e-mail. The Bolinas resident is a former creative director at a New York advertising agency.

One military historian said advertising campaigns can only do so much.

"I don't think it's going to work as long as there's a war still going on," said Larry Suid, a military historian and co-author of "Stars & Stripes on Screen: A Comprehensive Guide to Portrayals of American Military on Film." "They're trying to market at a time when the market isn't that good."

E-mail Joe Garofoli at

Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad / Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wounds no one was able to see

Wounds no one was able to see

Photographed carrying a terrified, half-naked Iraqi child to safety in March of 2003, Army Spc. Joseph Dwyer, of Mount Sinai, was on front pages across the country, a potent symbol of American heroism.

Friday morning, Dwyer, 29, was arrested in El Paso, Texas, after a three-hour standoff in which he fired a 9-millimeter handgun in his apartment.

Dwyer's family says he's suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and that he's fallen through the cracks of the Army mental health system since he returned two years ago to Fort Bliss, Texas, from his tour of duty as a medic in Iraq.

"If you look at the picture, he's holding this baby, but he's got an M-16 on his back," said Dwyer's older sister, Christine Dwyer-Ogno, 38, of Mount Sinai, crying. "These guys need help ... I didn't know how much pain he was in. I don't want him to be in any more pain."

El Paso Police said Dwyer was arrested early Friday after the standoff, in which no one was injured, and charged with discharging a firearm in a municipality, a class-A misdemeanor. An Army spokeswoman for Fort Bliss, Jean Offutt, said Dwyer was released from police custody Friday and is being treated at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. "They will determine whether or not he can be released," she said.

Dwyer, who joined the Army on Sept. 13, 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks, was married a month before he was deployed to Iraq, in March of 2003. His wife, Matina Dwyer, who was not in the off-base apartment during the incident Thursday night, is pregnant, Dwyer's family members said. She has since been evicted and is staying at the base, they said.

Offutt said Dwyer was evaluated upon his return from Iraq, in June of 2003, and has been treated by mental health specialists. She said that she did not have details of his diagnosis or treatment but that when she met him, she found him "an intelligent, charming young man, very proud of his profession as a medic in the United States Army ... But then, you can never judge what will prey on another person's mind."

Family members say they saw Dwyer changed from the cheerful kid who loved to fish and played golf for Mount Sinai High School. The first sign was the 50 pounds he put on in six weeks after he returned from Iraq, more than making up for the 30 pounds he lost during his deployment. Then there was the car accident in El Paso, caused by Dwyer swerving to avoid what he thought was a roadside bomb detonating device. Friends told the El Paso Times that Dwyer had been having nightmares and had been abusing alcohol and sniffing inhalants.

Friday's incident was the most alarming, said his father, Patrick Dwyer of North Carolina.

"When he was in the apartment, he was calling for air strikes," Patrick Dwyer said. "He put a mirror out the window to see what was going on. He was being very defensive. Totally not connected to reality. And that's not like him."

Dwyer-Ogno said she doesn't blame the Army for what's happened to her younger brother, but she wants him to get the psychiatric help he needs now.

When the picture of him saving the Iraqi child came out, she said, Dwyer didn't like the fame it earned him.

"He wished he had never been identified," she said. "He said everyone over there was doing the same thing." Now, she said, he has a different perspective.

"With everything he's going through," she said, "he's hoping that that picture can be associated with post-traumatic stress."

See also this article; Friends: Man who fired shots has stress disorder

A Fort Bliss soldier who gained national attention two years ago when he was photographed carrying a wounded Iraqi boy to safety is the same man behind a shooting that terrified an East Side apartment complex Thursday, police and friends said.

Spc. Joseph Dwyer, 29, repeatedly fired a 9-mm handgun inside his second-floor apartment starting around 9:15 p.m. Thursday in a more-than-three-hour standoff friends described as a violent episode brought on by drug abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the war in Iraq.

No one was injured in the incident at the Vista Village apartments, 10535 Montwood. Dwyer surrendered just before 1 a.m. Friday.

He was jailed in lieu of a $10,000 bond on a Class-A misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm inside the city limits, police said.

"I'm angry because Joseph, when he came back from Iraq, he was a hero, and now when he needs help, nobody is helping him," said friend Dionne Knapp, a former Army medic who served with Dwyer at Fort Bliss.

"We gave (military and mental-health authorities) warning after warning after warning. ... All this could have been prevented," Knapp said.

Dwyer is a friendly, humorous person who loves children, his friends said.

"Joseph is the sweetest, most good-hearted man I've ever met in my life," said Angela Barraza, who worked with Knapp and Dwyer. Both Barraza, now living in New York, and Knapp of El Paso left the Army in April.

Dwyer, a native of Mount Sinai, N.Y., joined the Army as a medic two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to news accounts.

When the war began in Iraq, Dwyer, a newlywed, volunteered to take Knapp's spot in a deployment of medics because she was a single mother, Knapp said. Dwyer served four months in Iraq attached to the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Bliss officials said.

March 23, 2003, Dwyer was among soldiers who rushed to help an Iraqi family caught in the crossfire in a fierce battle near the village of Al Faysaliyah.

An Army Times photographer captured the moment Dwyer carried a young boy to safety. The photo was published around the world, including in the El Paso Times.

But friends said Dwyer returned from the war a changed man. He came back "very religious," but problems slowly emerged. Nightmares, drinking and sniffing inhalants, they said.

"He basically saw the ugliest part of the war," Barraza said.

Earlier this year, Dwyer crashed his car. "He (said he) saw a box on the street and thought it was a bomb and he swerved," she said.

A Fort Bliss spokeswoman said Dwyer had no disciplinary issues but confirmed he had seen mental-health experts.

Dwyer's friends said they were disappointed with the mental help he was receiving, saying he lacked supervision.

Last Wednesday, Barraza, Knapp and other friends met with Dwyer, whose condition they say had worsened since April when their close-knit group was broken up as individuals left the Army.

They said they tried but failed to take away three handguns Dwyer had in the home. "He was paranoid people would attack him. He answers his door with his weapon," Knapp said.

Thursday night, Dwyer's wife told his friends he became angry when he was told he had to return to the hospital. His wife left before Dwyer allegedly began shooting in the apartment.

"He started shooting and calling for backup (while talking to his wife on the phone) and that he needed direct fire and other things you hear in combat," Knapp said.

Yessika Varela and her two children, ages 2 and 8, were among the dozens of residents in surrounding apartments who heard volley upon volley of gunfire. "Each (burst) was like five shots. You could hear tah-tah-tah-tah. I wouldn't even look out the window. I was very scared," Varela said.

Friday afternoon, children at the complex walked up to see a broken window and a bullet hole in the front door of the Dwyers' apartment, which management said had suffered ceiling damage. Dwyer is no longer allowed on the property.

El Paso police spokesman Javier Sambrano would not confirm whether Dwyer's service in Iraq was a factor in the shooting.

Dwyer's friends hope the publicity of the shooting will prompt the military to provide improved mental-health treatment for Dwyer and other troops returning from combat.

"If he doesn't get help -- I'm afraid he will end up in the streets selling Pixy Stix (candy) on corners," Barraza said. " ... And this is going on around the nation, not just at Fort Bliss."

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

Reflections from the bus; Bring Them Home Now Tour

Reflections on Bring Them Home Now Tour, Central Route;
participant; Lietta Ruger, Military Families Speak Out,

Opportunities that might never have crossed my path were afforded by the Bring Them Home Now Tour, Crawford, TX to Washington DC, September 2005. I was fortunate to be included and participated in the central route, through the central Eastern states. There are two stories that emerged from my experiences. The story of interaction with thousands of people at each of our city stops is amazing in itself. The story, though, of being a part of the birthing of our 4 young panel speakers is yet another story. And of course, there is yet another story; the behind-the-scenes story of 6-12 adults travelling on an RV for almost 4 weeks on a whirlwind schedule of stops in cities across the states. Amusing anectodal storylines developed in our travels together and that's another time, another story.

In my 54 years, I've had a lot of life experiences, yet this historical adventure of time spent in Crawford, Texas supporting Cindy Sheehan's stand and the 4 weeks of the Bring Them Home Now Tour will be at the top of my list as both memorable and significant. When I went to Crawford in that first week of Camp Casey, I left my home state of Washington feeling an almost hopeless despair that America, generally speaking, had given up on and abandoned our deployed troops. At the very least, I felt, as a military family with deployed loved ones, I could stand with Cindy, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq. Expecting little to come of this effort, it was nothing short of astounding to experience what grew out of Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. I learned that America does care and enough to discomfort themselves to stand up for their convictions. I learned this over and over again on the Bring Them Home Now tour and yet again at the rally in Washington DC on Sept 24 where an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 people gathered and marched based on their convictions to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home.

Having no guide book to how the tour would emerge, I reconciled with myself that my own efforts would stand as a historical testament on behalf of our adult children and our 12 grandchildren that their mother and grandmother did choose to act regarding the issue of the war in Iraq. At best, I could hope my own example would serve in some measure as a mentoring or model for them as they inherit this America and the ongoing war in Iraq and Middle East. Yet my own are not the only young who will inherit what has been unleashed and it was of interest to me to see up close how Americans in other states, largely considered of the conservative bent, were feeling and reacting to the issue of the war in Iraq. What I learned is that it is imperative not to give up on our young and that they are indeed the leaders of tomorrow and that they can be impassioned to act in their own best interest, given the opportunity to be heard.

So it is with the 4 young participants on our central bus tour, ages in early to late 20s and early 30s. By tours end these 4 are polished and powerful speakers with a passionate message of their own experiences related to war, particularly the war in Iraq. They will carry their own message to the young in this country and reach far and beyond where some of us elders are unable to connect. It is fitting that the young will be the messengers to the young in our country who are the avenue for change in the coming years. It is fitting, therefore, that I name with pride our 4 young messengers who have learned from our tour the power of their own experiences and message. Pay attention to these names, and hear their message. Hart Viges, an Iraq veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Kallisa Stanley, a young military wife and member of Military Families Speak Out. Beatriz Saldivar, aunt to nephew killed in Iraq on his second tour and herself a member of Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. Chris Snively, a veteran and member of Veterans for Peace.

These four already had a message when they began the tour, and over the course of the weeks, as they participated with us who are older and part of the panel speakers, these young ones engaged our audiences beyond what we elders could have done less their efforts. It was the tribal elder model, where our elder experience was valued by them, yet it was their own vitality, youth and passion that was sent forth on the mission to engage the young of this country and astound the elders of this country. Surely, it was for me, a likeness to laboring to give birth to the babes who are the new light of our America. It is difficult to ignore their message, their experience, their courage, their determination, their compassion, their deep concern and their optimistic hope that they can make a difference in speaking and sharing their message. It is difficult to dismiss their message as being a throwback to an earlier time in our history. Their message is a message for today and for today's America. It is a powerful message and I am deeply honored and priviledged to have been a part of their lives for the 4 weeks on tour. I expect America will be hearing from them often as it is unlikely they can return home and easily forget their own experiences while on tour.

The reception our central tour received as we stopped in city after city to participate in planned rallies, town-hall meetings, events and vigils was warm, embracing and heartening. My assessment would be that ordinary citizens where ever we stopped were hungry for information and eager to hear our own experiences as a military community. I'm mindful of the words of one woman where we stopped in Ohio, who said they don't get much opportunity in their community to have legitimate discussions about the war in Iraq and sometimes don't even know how to frame the questions or the enter the discussion. I asked her to say more and she explained that the rhetorical 'support the troops by not challenging the President' took precedence over generating further authentic discussion. She further pointed out that our example as panelists on the tour, served to help them not only ask the questions, but also bolstered their courage and determination to have the discussion despite oppositional rhetoric intended to shut down discussion. I took her comments to heart as we continued the tour, recognizing that we were serving a function above and beyond what even we were aware of as we shared our experiences, stories and message.

I'm mindful too of our experience of two Marine Moms with deployed sons in the Lima unit which experienced 22 killed in August, 1/3rd of that Marine unit killed. They shared the usual concerns of keeping their silence on behalf of feared repercussions to their deployed sons if they did speak out. Most all our military families have this concern and fear and it can be a very real consequence to our active and deployed loved ones. They followed along with our tour through the rest of Ohio, and were resolved to speak out in their own communities. By the next stop, one of the Marine Moms spoke on our panel, and before we left Ohio, had sent along her own written article speaking out on her experience which has been published online. I'm fairly positive, we left these two Marine Moms feeling more empowered to act in their and their loved ones own best interest than before we arrived. And that is what we found true throughout our tour. People felt more empowered to not only speak out, but to act and in action, often times, the feelings of helplessness in the face of great odds begins to dissipate. Our ongoing message at all of our stops was to thank the people who turned out as the real power lies with the people and to encourage them take an action today and tomorrow that they didn't take yesterday to end the war and bring out troops home, now. It was a well-received encouragement, I think, gauging by reactions of the people we encountered.

There are far too many anectodal stories of our experiences on the tour to share in a short missive, yet each and every one is an important part of the larger story. What is the larger story? For me, it is that after 2 + years of 24/7 attention to bringing our troops home and feeling an almost utter despair that America, Congress and this Commander-in-Chief has abandoned our troops, I am pleased to know how wrong I was to have arrived at the conclusion. A conclusion, in great part formed, by the absence of accurate or adequate media reporting and by the deliberate efforts of this Administration to put forth an alternative storyline masking the harsh truths of the war in Iraq. Ordinary American citizens across this nation DO care, and care enough to ask and act and are stepping up to the plate to honor their requirement to have a civilian duty in time of war which is to challenge the Commander-in-Chief always on the necessity, validity and value of sending troops into combat and war. This is more especially true when such a war is waged on foreign soil and the origin reasons for invasion or pre-emptive war are at best speculative and in the case of Iraq shown to be outright deception on the part of this Administration.

I believe our Bring Them Home Now Tour did have a large impact in the growth of the grass-roots level movement as was demonstrated by the numbers who turned out for the rally in Washington DC on Sept 24, 2005. Yet that rally was only a beginning, I do believe. I do not think America will go quietly into the night again. I am proud of our four coalitons, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace and Veterans for Peace and proud to have been a part of carrying our collective military community voice with our singular message 'support the troops, bring them home now, and take care of them when they get home'. In the two months that have passed since that beginning vigil in Crawford, Texas, I do not believe there has been an adequate defined answer to the original question that was posited 'what is the noble cause?'

As we visited with Congressional aides, Legislators and Congress people at our every stop and blitzed Congress when we got to Washington DC, we did ask the hard questions of each of them. Despite efforts by some to blow us off, my own evaluation, is that for the most part we were listened to and heard. That in itself is a small measure of accomplishment, but is hardly enough. Essentially the challenge to Congress is that the time for sitting on the fence has ended, and as one of our internal slogans on our bus was 'you're either on the bus or you're not' modelled after the President's own message of you're either for or against; for Congress it is time to do their own Congressional duty on behalf of their representation of citizens of this America and on behalf of the deployed troops and step up to the plate regarding the issue of the war in Iraq.

There is a clearly defined mission for our deployed troops, and it has yet to be defined. In the absence of a clearly defined mission, our troops then have no reason to be deployed. Staying the course is not a clearly defined mission. Fighting them there so we don't have to fight them there is not a clearly defined mission. Waiting for the training of the Iraqi military so they can take over their own security is questionable when it takes approximately 6 weeks to 4 months to train a recruit fresh out of high school in America to be deployed to combat in Iraq. There has been considerably longer period of time to train an Iraqi military than is permitted for training our own young American troops. Fighting terrorism is not a clearly defined mission as the definition of terrorism is far too broad and non-specific in it's definitions. Rebuilding Iraq because our invasion destroyed the infrastructure is not a clearly defined mission for combat troops; rather begs quite the opposite in international and political resolution instead of military resolution. Most of these are the reasons we heard from the Congressionals we visited. We are hopeful that our own heartfelt and passionate messages served to show these same Congressionals that the arguments for remaining in Iraq are weak.

And speaking for myself only, my own last message in our visits was all the way out of Iraq now, anything else is a strategy of delay and placating the public and itself a non-plan serving to continue the war in Iraq. Asking for a reasonable reaction from unreasonable Administration and expecting a reasonable reaction is unreasonable. I also offered up a few facts for consideration;

1) The current mass marketing campaign by high profile marketers to target parents of children at elementary school level for recruitment into the military points to a decade or longer effort of war in Iraq and Middle East

2) As 341,000 troops have served two or more tours in Iraq, it is apparant by simple math that there are not enough troops to do the undefined mission for which they were sent. With the reported 150,000 standing troops, the remarkable incidence of forced retention via stop loss, extended tours, repeat tours for Active, Guard and Reserve troops demonstrates an involuntary military and an under-the-radar use of a draft of forced conscription.

3) America is losing a battalion of troops a month, killed and wounded, according to Senator Jack Reed in the Senate Armed Forces Committee Report in June 2003. A battalion size is approximately 800 troops.

4) One million children in America have a deployed parent.

5) The estimated number of 23,533 Iraq and Afghan veterans requiring VA care has been revised upwards by 103,000 additional Iraq and Afghan veterans needing VA care. That would total 126,533 Iraq and Afghan returning vets requiring VA services in addition to the veterans of previous wars. At this time we know VA is seriously underfunded.

6) The triangle model of accountability, responsibility, trust of the troops to the Commander-in-Chief and citizens, the Commander-in-Chief to the citizens and troops, and the citizens to the troops and Commander-in-Chief demands more of our civilian citizens and Congress in holding the Commander-in-Chief accountable and responsible on behalf of our deployed troops.

Overall, my own assessment is that Congress is reacheable, and more has to be done by ordinary citizens everywhere to reach their Representatives and Senators and express their own experiences, concerns, and well-stated arguments for why it is necessary to bring the troops home now and expect Congress to act accordingly. As I travelled through the offices and halls of Congress in my shorts and tank top, instead of the impressive blazer, shirt and slacks I planned to wear, I can say simply the illusion of power is an illusion. Our message asks for people in positions of power to return to decency and do the right thing, that partisan politics be set aside and an expectation that higher ground is possible beyond political gaming.

Lastly, given what I believe is the success of our tour, I'm among those who believe the tour should continue to the Western states, to Canada, and abroad. Where's the bus, I want to get on the bus again. What about you, do you want to get on the bus, too, figuratively speaking?

Lietta Ruger, member Military Families Speak Out
military family with 2 Iraq veterans, stop lossed for second deployments
Bay Center, WA
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