by Pamela Powers Hannley
I spent Memorial Day puttering around on the back patio and listening to KXCI. At noon, Democracy Now began as it does on most weekdays. Although Democracy Now is always thought-provoking, yesterday's broadcast was particularly poignant-- a Memorial Day special: "Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars."
Instead of honoring the fallen by glorifying war, the show aired audio footage from a recent protest in which dozens of Afganistan and Iraq War veterans returned their military medals and called for an end to war.
Here is a snipet...
AMY GOODMAN: Today we bring you a Memorial Day special, "Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars." That was the demand of veterans who gathered in Chicago May 20th at the site of the largest NATO summit in the organization’s six-decade history. The veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as women from Afghans for Peace led a peace march of thousands of people to the summit gates. Iraq Veterans Against the War held a ceremony where more than 40 veterans hurled their war medals toward the gates of the NATO summit...
ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: At this time, one by one, veterans of the wars of NATO will walk up on stage. They will tell us why they chose to return their medals to NATO. I urge you to honor them by listening to their stories. Nowhere else will you hear from so many who fought these wars about their journey from fighting a war to demanding peace. Some of us killed innocents. Some of us helped in continuing these wars from home. Some of us watched our friends die. Some of us are not here, because we took our own lives. We did not get the care promised to us by our government. All of us watched failed policies turn into bloodshed. Listen to us, hear us, and think: was any of this worth it?
ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: Do these medals thank us for a job well done?
ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: Do they mask lies, corruption, and abuse of young men and women who swore to defend their country?
CROWD: Yes! ALEJANDRO VILLATORO: We tear off this mask. Hear us.
IRIS FELICIANO: My name is Iris Feliciano. I served in the Marine Corps. And in January of 2002, I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. And I want to tell the folks behind us, in these enclosed walls, where they build more policies based on lies and fear, that we no longer stand for them. We no longer stand for their lies, their failed policies and these unjust wars. Bring our troops home and end the war now. They can have these back...
ERICA SLONE: My name is Erica Slone. I’m from Ohio. I served in the Air Force from 2002 to 2008. I’m an Iraq veteran. In the military is where I learned what integrity meant, and I believe I served with integrity. And at this point in my life, if I want to continue to live with integrity, I must get rid of these.
GREG MILLER: My name is Greg Miller. I’m a veteran of the United States Army infantry with service in Iraq 2009. The military hands out cheap tokens like this to soldiers, servicemembers, in an attempt to fill the void where their conscience used to be once they indoctrinate it out of you. But that didn’t work on me, so I’m here to return my Global War on Terrorism Medal and my National Defense Medal, because they’re both lies.
JERRY: My name is Jerry. I’m from New York City. I served in the Army from 2005 to 2009. I fought in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I, today, am giving back my Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, because I realized that after a while that it was just nothing but an idea made by a bunch of politicians, money-hungry politicians in Washington who will do nothing and have a complete disregard for human life and will do anything in their power to just make more money in the end. Now, if it’s just an idea, then therefore it was just an idea that sparked two wars that I had to fight in. And I don’t want any part of it anymore. And I choose human life over war, militarism and imperialism.
SCOTT KIMBALL: My name is Scott Kimball. I’m an Iraq war vet. And I’m turning in these medals today for the people of Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world. And also, for all the servicemembers and veterans who are against these wars, you are not alone!
CHRISTOPHER MAY: My name is Christopher May. I left the Army as a conscientious objector. We were told that these medals represented, you know, democracy and justice and hope and change for the world. These medals represent a failure on behalf of the leaders of NATO to accurately represent the will of their own people. It represents a failure on the leaders of NATO to do what’s right by the disenfranchised people of this world. Instead of helping them, they take advantage of them, and they’re making things worse. I will not be a part of that anymore. These medals don’t mean anything to me, and they can have them back.
TY: Hello. My name is Ty, and thank you all for coming out. I’m letting go and releasing this medal because love is the most powerful force that we can employ as human beings on this planet, and we cannot love holding weapons.
ASH WOOLSON: My name is Ash Woolson. I was a sergeant. I was in Iraq in '03, and what I saw there crushed me. I don't want us to suffer this again, and I don’t want our children to suffer this again, and so I’m giving these back!
MAGGIE MARTIN: My name is Maggie Martin. I was a sergeant in the Army. I did two tours in Iraq. No amount of medals, ribbons or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage. We want our human rights. We want our right to heal...
DAVID VAN DAM: I’m David Van Dam. I was in the U.S. Navy. I’m a GI resister. I got a other-than-honorable discharge. And I want to say that their policies are other than honorable. And I’m honorable, and all the GI resisters that refuse to fight in unjust wars are honorable. This is in solidarity for all GI resisters of unjust wars!
For the full transcript of the show and a video, click here.
Give peace a chance.