Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘veteran’

Kill Them & Save Them

Permanent Change of Station: Vietnam by Christopher Rector.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51PIZO485lLPermanent Change of Station: Vietnam is a well-informed blend of fiction, autobiography, and memoir. It gets under your skin, takes you back to the war, and brings to mind a number of scenes from films and other books about America’s political deception and the soldiers and families who paid the price for it. Some of the characters, such as General Abrams, are historical, and the rest appear to be fictional, though act and sound as if they are the real thing. The author is a retired army veteran and his knowledge and experience bleed throughout the pages. There is little preamble, as we follow a new arrival meeting his superiors at the 240th Intelligence Detachment based at the U.S installation of Long Binh.

Everyone in this story has their story, and personal view of how they got to Vietnam, what they believe, and/or what they are fighting for. Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Bull” Basham sees everything as fleeting, and lives for the momentary pleasure and profit. “Bull knew there was no permanence to any of this – the hotel, Lien (his mistress), or the war.” The primary protagonist, Adam Nussbaum, is an idealist from Manhattan, who works as an interrogator, and ends up in the field with First Lieutenant Mike Dempsey, and “Big” Ben Tenata SFC (Sergeant First Class). They end up developing a bond that only those who have fought and died together understand.

From beginning to end, readers can feel Mike’s perspectives, and feelings, evolve. His understanding, and respect, for his comrades (Peter Savory, Katie, Mike, and Major Tanaka) deepens, as his disgust and distrust of others grows. The men and women who are thrown in together in this mess of a war all have lengthy discussions about it – the Viet Cong (NVA), the South Vietnamese Army (AVRN), and the politics and demonstrations taking place in The States. The dialogue is congruent with each individual, and gives readers’ a lot of background about what was taking place at that time (in Vietnam and The States).

Aspects of this story remind me of the biography I wrote about a young Jewish doctor from Brooklyn, stationed at Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand during the war (Dr. Leff – Stepping Into The Fire), who begins to hear stories from CIA pilots about bombing villages in Cambodia and Laos. His patriotism is challenged when he fights to make this knowledge public. Permanent Change of Station: Vietnam is better written than my biography about Dr. Leff, and describes the futility and loss experienced by so many. Nurse Katie captures the essence of the war when she responds to something Adam says. “And you remember Adam we’re here in Vietnam because we’re trying to kill them, and save them from something I can’t even remember what.”

Health Care for Raped Soldiers

Dear Gabriel,

This is shocking, even for our U.S. Congress.

If a female employee of the U.S. State Department is raped while serving abroad in Afghanistan, her federal health plan will pay for an abortion should she become pregnant. However if a woman serving abroad as a member of the U.S. military is raped, her military health plan will NOT provide for an abortion if she becomes pregnant as a result of that violent and reprehensible act.

According to a report earlier this year from Mother Jones, the Pentagon has an even more drastic policy on access to abortion than the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal funds for abortion care unless a woman has been the victim of rape, incest or she could literally die unless she her pregnancy is terminated.

This disparity is so unsettling that the Senate passed out of committee the “Shaheen Amendment” to give women in the military the same rights to affordable reproductive health services as the civilians they protect. But if passed by the full Senate, the extremists in Congress will try to block this proposal from the National Defense Authorization Act when it comes up for a vote in the House. The only way we can hope to stop it is with massive public pushback.

Click here to sign this petition automatically.

According to Kate Sheppard’s report in Mother Jones,2 there are 200,000 women serving on active duty in our military and in 2011 alone there were 471 reported instances of rape. But with the Pentagon itself estimating that only 13.5% of rapes are officially reported, that means around 3,500 service members are raped per year.

Women who are serving on military bases abroad can’t simply go to their local Planned Parenthood should they seek an abortion after finding themselves pregnant as a result of rape. And if there hasn’t been a formal finding of rape, a rape survivor in the military can’t even pay to have the procedure done in the medical facility on base. Many women serving in our armed forces are stationed in foreign countries where safe abortion care is not easily obtained outside our military bases. And it may not be possible or affordable for a raped woman soldier to travel to the United States in order to receive the care she needs. Our policies need to be reformed to ensure that women in the military who have been raped have access to the medical care they need.

As Senator Jean Shaheen who introduced the change to this heinous policy explained to Mother Jones, “Most of the women affected here are enlisted women who are making about $18,000 a year. They’re young, they don’t have access to a lot of resources. Many of them are overseas.”

A handful of Republicans in the Senate realized that protecting rape survivors is not a partisan issue and joined Democrats to pass this bill out of committee and work to provide relief to women in our armed services. But their colleagues in the House will not join them in helping to pass this much needed bill unless we force them to take action. We need to tell Republicans as well as anti-choice Democrats in the House (including the so-called Stupak Democrats who voted against women’s reproductive health in the Affordable Care Act)3 that we cannot let this policy stand.

CREDO is a staunch supporter of a woman’s right to choose and we will continue to work for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. But until then, even in our polarized Congress which is packed with anti-choice zealots, there are some lines that Republicans and anti-choice Democrats should be very afraid to cross. This is one of them. We cannot stand by and let women serving in the U.S. military be subjected to a stricter standard for abortion access than the already horribly restrictive Hyde Amendment.

Click below to automatically sign the petition:
http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=6900213&p=military_choice&id=51136-266627-EiedzDx&t=10

This is one we can win if enough of us speak out. Thank you for taking action.

Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Honor Veterans by Ending War

From Nation of Change
by Amy Goodman
24 May 2012

Memorial Day: Honor the Dead, Heal the Wounded, Stop the Wars

Gen. John Allen, commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, spoke Wednesday at the Pentagon, four stars on each shoulder, his chest bedecked with medals. Allen said the NATO summit in Chicago, which left him feeling “heartened,” “was a powerful signal of international support for the Afghan-led process of reconciliation.” Unlike Allen, many decorated U.S. military veterans left the streets of Chicago after the NATO summit without their medals. They marched on the paramilitarized convention center where the generals and heads of state had gathered and threw their medals at the high fence surrounding the summit. They were joined by women from Afghans for Peace, and an American mother whose son killed himself after his second deployment to Iraq.

Leading thousands of protesters in a peaceful march against NATO’s wars, each veteran climbed to the makeshift stage outside the fenced summit, made a brief statement and threw his or her medals at the gate.

As taps was played, veterans folded an American flag that had flown over NATO military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan and Libya and handed it to Mary Kirkland. Her son, Derrick, joined the Army in January 2007, since he was not earning enough to support his wife and child as a cook at an IHOP restaurant. During his second deployment, Mary told me, “he ended up putting a shotgun in his mouth over there in Iraq, and one of his buddies stopped him.” He was transferred to Germany then back to his home base of Fort Lewis, Wash.

“He came back on a Monday after two failed suicide attempts in a three-week period. They kept him overnight at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis. He met with a psychiatrist the next day who deemed him to be low to moderate risk for suicide.” Five days later, on Friday, March 19, 2010, he hanged himself. Said his mother, “Derrick was not killed in action; he was killed because of failed mental health care at Fort Lewis.”

On stage, Lance Cpl. Scott Olsen declared: “Today I have with me my Global War on Terror Medal, Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal, National Defense Medal and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. These medals, once upon a time, made me feel good about what I was doing. … I came back to reality, and I don’t want these anymore.” Like the riot police flanking the stage, many on horseback, Olsen also wore a helmet. He is recovering from a fractured skull after being shot in the head at close range by a beanbag projectile. He wasn’t shot in Iraq, but by Oakland, Calif., police at Occupy Oakland last fall, where he was protesting. On stage with the veterans were three Afghan women, holding the flag of Afghanistan. Just before they marched, I asked one of them, Suraia Sahar, why she was there: “I’m representing Afghans for Peace. And we’re here to protest NATO and call on all NATO representatives to end this inhumane, illegal, barbaric war against our home country and our people. … It’s the first time an Afghan-led peace movement is now working side by side with a veteran-led peace movement. And so, this is the beginning of something new, something better: reconciliation and peace.”

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

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