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

Amy Goodman with Denis Moynihan
Wednesday, 30-May-2012

 

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.”

The night before the protest and the summit, Allen threw out the first pitch at the “Crosstown Classic” baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Members of the teams joked that Allen could join them in the dugout, if he would only quit his day job. I dare say, the members of the Iraq Veterans Against the War wish he would.

After the march and the return of the medals, I caught up with Kirkland’s mourning mother as she embraced her new family: those who were protesting the wars that had taken the life of her son. I asked if she had any message for President Obama and the NATO generals. This quiet, soft-spoken woman from Indiana didn’t hesitate: “Honor the dead, heal the wounded, stop the wars.”

 

 

 



    

Top Stories

Black Cap Williamson banned from bowling

WELLINGTON: New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson has been banned from bowling his occasional off-spin in international cr...

Punjab govt. seeks four-month time for LB polls

ISLAMABAD: Punjab government has sought four-month time from Supreme Court (SC) for holding local bodies election in the...

Car bombings kill at least 33 people in Iraq

BAGHDAD: A new wave of car bombs ripped through commercial areas in the Iraqi capital and areas to the south Tuesday, ki...

Altaf, Zardari discuss law & order in Sindh

KARACHI: Muttahidat Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain and former president and co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Pa...

White House weighs petition to deport Justin Bieber

WASHINGTON: As if Barack Obama didn't have enough problems to deal with already, his administration now is being asked t...

Sindh CNG stations reopen after 24 hours

KARACHI: CNG stations across Sindh including Karachi reopened after 24-hour closure at 8:00 AM today (Tuesday), media re...

Gas leakage blast kills 1, hurts 3 in Quetta

QUETTA: An explosion occurred at a house due to gas leakage, killing at least one person and wounding three others here ...

Ministry of CAD decisions put students,teachers & parents in a fix

Islamabad:Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CAD) indecisive attitude put the students as well as paren...

10-year-old maid allegedly tortured to death in Lahore

LAHORE: A 10-year-old girl, who works as maid, was allegedly tortured to death in Lahore, medi reported.Sources said tha...

Five friends voluntarily embrace death: police

THATTA: Police after initial investigation claimed that five friends, who were allegedly killed in Noori Jam Tamachi, vo...

Pakistan wants good relations with all neighbouring countries: PM Nawaz

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that Pakistan wanted good relations with all the neighbouring countries....

IHC dismisses Musharaf’s pleas; verdict issued

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued 11-page detailed verdict over the intra-court appeal filed by f...

Pakistan to get $550m after IMF review meeting on Dec. 19

WASHINGTON: International Monetary Fund (IMF) first quarter review meeting on Pakistan’s loan programme will be held on...

Kayani thanks Corps Commanders for extending support

RAWALPINDI: The 166th Corps Commanders Conference was held at General Headquarters on Thursday.   Outgoing Chief of Ar...

3 women held captive for 30 years: UK police

LONDON: Three women have been freed after spending 30 years held captive in a south London home, including one woman be...

Iran has slowed work on atomic facilities: IAEA

NEW YORK: Iran appears to have dramatically slowed work on its atomic energy program since the summer, U.N. officials s...

Young Frenchman too heavy to fly will go home by ship

NEW YORK CITY: A young Frenchman who weighs 230 kilograms (500 pounds) and was deemed too heavy to fly on a jetliner ar...

Ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf released

ISLAMABAD: Adiala Jail authorities have formally released the country’s former military strongman General (retd) Pervez...

Bolivia coca ambush leaves 4 security force members dead

LA PAZ: A weekend ambush and hostage-taking involving police and Bolivian coca growers has left four people dead, offic...

Muslim pilgrims ritually stone devil as hajj nears end

MINA: Throngs of Muslim pilgrims took part in devil-stoning ritual for a second day Wednesday in Saudi Arabia's Mina Va...


Feature / Analysis

  • The Reason Why Israel Killed so Many Pregnant Women in Gaza

    After five weeks of Israeli bombing and invasion the United Nations re...

    Read More »

  • While Israel Kill Gaza's Children, Media Shield The Truth About Hamas

    As the people of Gaza find momentary respite to impact of Israel's bru...

    Read More »

  • The cave dwellers of Bamiyan

    The sandstone cliffs of Afghanistan's Bamiyan province are most famous...

    Read More »

  • Why America's war in Afghanistan is no victory

    Afghanistan is the only country in the world where American soldiers a...

    Read More »


Opinion

  • How Can We Destroy Love?

    Love is a serious problem in our world. There is too much of it. So I ...

    Read More »

  • The Anniversary of Rabaa and Sisi's Genocide

    General Sisi’s military coup claimed that it was put in effect to answ...

    Read More »

  • National Unity Committee Update

    The National Unity Committee, a joint commission appointed by both pre...

    Read More »

  • In Afghan election dispute, enter the DC lobbyists

    Afghanistan presidential hopeful Ashraf Ghani is spending nearly $150,...

    Read More »