Friday, June 07, 2019

Reflections on 2d Annual FSU Combat Stress Trauma Symposium

Cracker Swamp, Fl-Since the dust has settled somewhat from the recent Walter Reed debacle and it's shedding of light on the issue of our historically flawed Veterans health care system, I want to now take the time and the space to share my thoughts on mine and my daughter Sarah's recent participation as Poster Presenters in the 2nd National Combat Stress Trauma Symposium at FL State University, which was held in Tallahassee, Fl, on February 16th, 2007.

I described in an earlier piece how we became involved with Professor Figley and his 2d Annual Symposium effort. Found out about it from a friend of mine while seeking to organize just such a program. I sought out and met with Professor Figley to see how we could work together to accomplish seemingly mutual missions; advocating for a rethinking of how we evaluate and treat PTSD/Combat Stress Trauma. We both believe that there should be a paradigm shift in thinking, away from a medical model to more of a Psycho-Social oriented one. From catch-up therapy, to prevention advocacy and interactive action. The rest is, as they say, history. Our participation was as a Poster Presenter, and our theme was Still at War.

After signing on as both a Poster Presenter and as a sponsor, Dr. Figley asked if I would assist the over-all effort by taking on responsibility for coordinating communications with the other Poster Presenters. This was a great opportunity, as I was privileged to be exposed to premises and models of many others who shared the thinking that there needed to be a general re-assessment of not only the officially recognized stressors, but the treatment and claim programs that don't seem to be working to the benefit of the Veterans, for whom they were originally intended. Suddenly, I didn't feel so all alone on the issue.

My 13 year old daughter Sarah and her grandmother, the talented *Miz Yvonne, burned the candle at both ends laying out and doing the calligraphy for our poster presentation. Sarah also came along with me to help with set-up, and to keep ol' Dad company. What a sweetie! During this process, Sarah began to see her dad in a new and brighter light. Things she had often wondered about, but never asked about, began to make sense. This event wasn't just about therapy; for me, it was therapy!

In keeping with Dr Wayne Dyer's spiritual insight, as described in his best selling work, The Power of Intention,; to me, it was evident that all of the elements of energy that had been peripheral "little voices" know, the ones that folks always hear and wish they had listened to, were all finally coming together and singing out in chorus that this was what they were trying to tell us all these years, each in their own insta-flash ways. That all of the energy fields that we had noted flashing surprisingly in the periphery of our consciousness at different times in our lives were in fact signals from our subconsciousness acting as proposed guideposts for our psyche. Unfortunately, we too often blew them off with-out serious consideration. Sometimes, we listened and reaped the fruits. For me, they had all finally come together with great clarity around the Symposium.
Our theme, Still at War, was taken from the title of a documentary film that I helped to make back in the early '70s. You can view a clip from the film at If, after seeing the clip you decide that you would like to obtain a DVD copy of the entire 36 minute documentary, you can do so by contacting me at and using Still at War in the subject line of your request. In those days, I was active with VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against The War) in California, and we did some of the earliest "research" into a never before seen phenomena; large numbers of Veterans not being able to re-assimilate back into the society that had sent them to war, a society who cheered them on in the beginning, but that was now turning its backs on the very Veterans who had fought and faced death in their name. This film was a serious piece of that "research", and focuses on the primary readjustment stressors of what we then called Post Vietnam Syndrome. There was no such critter as PTSD at this time in history. What was happening to the Vietnam Veterans was considered their own fault for losing a war that the WWII types at the time didn't officially recognize as a war; but blamed the Viet Vets for losing it, anyway. When the Vietnam Veterans began calling attention to, and speaking out about the mushrooming problems that returnees were experiencing, they were called cry-babies and Communist agitators...and most painfully; not really Veterans, at all.
Much to Nixon and Kissinger's surprise and disappointment; we not only survived their fascistic attempts to silence us; we faced them down, and won the hearts and minds of the American people...Nixon and his administration resigned in disgrace, some of his close cronies actually wound up doing jail time for their crimes against the American people. Vietnam was finally brought to a close. After that; Political Promises were made to the Veterans, and the government subsequently invented the medical model of PTSD to address relief for the Veterans from the trauma of the Vietnam Experience, as it came to be known in the New Speak of political spin. Only problem is, it missed the mark diagnostically as well as therapeutically. And, like Political Promises are wont to do; the ones that applied to Veterans were only in effect when anyone (media) was looking, and then only rhetorically...i.e., the recent Walter Reed flap and hearings.
Even if you don't believe this premise, you at least have to ask yourself; if they got it all right way back then, and they really cared as much as they claim; why are 30% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans reporting stress related trauma as a result of their service? If after that you still don't believe it, if you still believe that Veterans care has been foremost in their hearts and minds, and in their legislation; ask yourself, what the f**** happened at Walter Reed?! Nothing serious; probably just more left-wing commie agitation around an isolated minuscule incident that has a perfectly plausible and truthful appearing explanation. Nothing that firing a couple of Generals won't fix. Right?
Wrong! In the end, it now appears that getting rid of Nixon and his Vietnam War Machine didn't change a thing as it applies to the way that the government does business with it's Combat Veterans...but it sure felt good at the time! Turns out, it was a systems problem as much as it was a human shallowness problem. Getting rid of the shallow and uncaring humans was only part of the solution. After a few years of political in-fighting and the Political Correctness of Democratic Party in-fighting, as well as the purges of those not Left enough; things began to slip back into disarray and decay, and fell back into perpetuating the Veterans' continuing adversarial role with the V.A., as it applied to health care access, conditions, diagnosis, and benefit claims processes. Lesson learned, in addition to firing generals; reform the system, for real. Make it one that is a Veterans advocacy and support agency as well as a first class health care provider for both physical and mental disabilities with a budget not tied to political party politics, as it is today. And, this, My Friends, is why this gathering is so important in the scheme of things, today.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Ed Note:  People allus say; "Wow! Really?! Who knew?!"


Since 1996, the United States Government has been deporting veterans who, as legalized citizens, joined the United States Armed Forces and served their country proudly. Veterans who have been deported served in wars such as Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Kosovo, Iraq & Afghanistan, and served in both combat and peacetime.
Veterans For Peace knows that our veterans, regardless of their birthplace, do not deserve to be ripped from their homes and deported, particularly when they have dedicated themselves to building community and a just and peaceful future. Our veterans and community leaders deserve our gratitude, not irrational judgments based in fear.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Naval Officer Sends Message of Support

November 06, 2017
Last month, the historic Golden Rule anti-nuclear sailboat* lead a “Peace Flotilla” in San Diego Bay, alongside the Navy’s Sea and Air Parade, the culmination of Fleet Week.   The goal was to "provide an alternative message of peace,” says Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace.  “It is becoming more and more clear that military might is not the answer to the world’s problems – in fact, it makes them worse.  Just look at the dangerous standoff right now between the U.S. and North Korea – this could lead to a catastrophic nuclear war with hundreds of thousands of casualties.  Real diplomacy is urgently needed right now, instead of threats and shows of force.”
The event was a huge success and reached out to many passer-bys and civilians who came to watch.  The action also garnered much media coverage, including some powerful video.
Golden Rule's disruption also moved a sailor stationed on one of the naval boats.  Veterans For Peace received an anonymous note from one of them!
I've read your recent posts and articles about VFP's demonstration at the San Diego Fleet Week. I got a front row seat as I was one of the officers onboard one of the Navy vessels that participated in the Sea and Air Parade. In fact, your orange-sailed ship crossed our bow at one point during the parade. We slowed our speed prior to approaching Broadway Pier to allow you to sail through. I'd like to tell you all "thank you!" Thank you for what you all do and I highly respect VFP and the peace movement!
As a naval officer, I can tell you that it is increasingly difficult to continue training to do what I and many Sailors who work with me originally joined to do – train to defend our nation and support our Constitution - when our military is consistently stretched thin globally and used in an increasingly offensive manner to police the world.
I am very proud of the Sailors with whom I serve and I hear their concerns every single day. Many of them are as disappointed as I am that our military weapons and our tactics training are seldom used for the actual defense of the homeland, but instead used to provoke further never-ending conflict in far off regions of the world, bringing more unnecessary suffering to our fellow brothers and sisters.
Just as the cancer doctor works tirelessly to make their own job obsolete and as the humanitarian aid worker wishes that their job were no longer necessary, every servicemember and veteran should work toward the goal of military de-escalation and peace. I full-heartedly believe that the best way to support the troops is to support the peace movement!
My time in the Navy is coming to a quick-approaching end as my time commitment is soon to expire. I hope to join the movement full-time as soon as I hang up my uniform for the last time. Keep up the great work and thank you all for your service!"

Monday, December 04, 2017

After Action Report: SOA Watch Encuentro Fronterizo 11/11/2017 Nogales Az y Sonora, Mex

Willie Hager
Managing Editor

Nogales, Az y Sonora, Mex, 11/10 - 11/11, 2017 - As the Veterans For Peace (VFP) National Deported Veterans Advocacy Project, our dedicated mission was to deploy VFP's recently Chartered Mexico chapter, the Baja Sgt. Barrios Memorial Chapter 986, from Tijuana to Sonora, and home again.  This would entail fundraising for travel, lodging, and meals. So we had a conference call with the VFP National Office and after a healthy discussion, we all mutually agreed that we would do whatever we could to make this mission happen, and become a success. To that end, we were indeed collectively successful, including generous donations from San Diego  Hugh Thompson Memorial Chapter 091, the VFP National Board, and many others small donors as well.

The greatest challenge for VFP to that success was the fact that the dates for Encuentro 2017 had been changed since last year from mid-October to November 10 - 12. Our chapters participate in Veterans Day (Armistice Day) parades, events, and actions all around the country on November 11. In addition, VFP has a current National Campaign to change the name of the day back to the original Armistice Day. So, it was immediately recognized that VFP would not have the resources or the members available for this SOAW as they had in over 25 years in the past.

VFP Sgt. Barrios Memorial Chapter 986 and Allies, Sonora, Mex 11-11-2017, stepped up and presented a very visible VFP presence at Encuentro 2017. While there, the Chapter would supply speakers for both sides of the border. They would also set up a Deported Veterans Workshop on the Sonora Mexico side. They would be joined on the US side by representatives of  Veterans For Peace Chapters; 191 - San Diego Ca., 174 - Jax Florida, 170 - Savannah Georgia, 055 - Sante Fe NM, 69 - San Francisco, and the Unified US Deported Veterans, Boulder Co Barracks, among others. It should be noted that our Baja Chapter 986 is also affiliated with Unified US Deported Veterans Baja Barracks, as the VFP Sgt. Barrios Memorial Chapter 986. Maurice Martin, VFP East Bay Chapter 162 and Charter Member of the VFP National Deported Veterans Advocacy Project, was the Operations Coordinator for the travel to and from and coordinating on the ground in Sonora on behalf of Chapter 986. We owe him gratitude for his outstanding efforts on behalf of a successful mission.

So, on Saturday 11-11-2017 we began to gather early on the steps of the Americana Hotel in Nogales, AZ for a 9 a.m., in order to jump off on time for our second SOAW Veterans For Peace March on, and across the border to interact in music, speeches, and workshops on the Sonora side of the border.  Pictured below are the Brothers Valenzuela, Manuel and Valente, representing Boulder Co Barracks of Unified US Deported Veterans, Susan Sandoval - Media Coordinator for the Brothers, and myself - Coordinator Veterans For Peace Deported Veterans Advocacy Project. 


At 9 a.m. there were intro speakers from various groups of the SOAW coalition regarding cross-border protocols and order of March.
 I did a short welcome for all the Veterans For Peace Members, and then; with banners unfurled and flags flying, we were all on our way to Mexico. 
As we approached the border, folks who were going to rally on the US side of the stage turned right to march alongside the US side of the Wall. Manuel Valenzuela continued to march with these folks, as he was to speak on the US side, Valente crossed with us. When we crossed the border, there were over a hundred people who crossed over with us and marched to the stage area on the Sonora side of the Border.


   Our Deported  Veterans speakers were scheduled in to be the final speakers, at 11:45 a.m.  When it came time, VFP Chapter 986 and allies mounted the stage together with flags and banners unfurled:


The crowd was fired up after a morning of music and speakers and we were very well received. All I that I saw and heard from the stage was jubilant UNITY, from marchers, musicians, and speakers alike.  When we were introduced on stage, Hector Lopez and Robert Vivar shared our introduction, touching on the Chapter mission, and acknowledging the VFP National Reclaim Armistice Day campaign on 11/11/2017. After 
that introduction; Valente Valenzuela, in ASU Blues - was introduced on Sonora stage and at the same time, his brother Manuel, in his USMC Dress Blues - was introduced on the stage on the US side of the border wall.  Valente spoke in Spanish on the Sonora side while Manuel addressed the US crowd in English, simultaneously.  What a powerful unifying moment for all who were fortunate enough to be present. More to come on this in upcoming documentary production.

There was one exception to the uplifting spirit of unity; during the march, with a Pro-Palestinian group who had taken offense to VFP 986/Unified US Deported Veterans carrying the American flag during the march from the border to the stage, and we could hear them booing as we mounted the stage. For our Deported brother's and sisters, the American Flag is a symbol of their allegiance to America and their demonstration that they are not enemies of the state; but rather were while originally in uniform, champions of the state. Now they are in exile. It is symbolic of their worthiness to return to their home country, and their American families. This was a sign of divisiveness that I had not in any way expected or had encountered at SOAW in the five years that I had attended, either at Ft Benning, Ga or Nogales Encuentro. Our Chapter 986 Coordinators met with them afterward. They listened to the Palestinian groups' reasoning,  and in turn, shared their perspective on the topic. I was informed later in the day that they all parted friends as a result of 986's outreach.

The morning had been both festive and deadly serious. The afternoon was reserved for workshops to be held at a school across the street from the wall in Sonora, just up the street from the stage.  Time was growing short as we rounded everybody up and hustled up to the school to set up our Deported Veterans Workshop, in Sonora. When we arrived at the school, our film crew was already there waiting for us. They always seemed to know where to be, while we were still figuring things out. They kept up this pace for two days straight. I suspect after spending a couple of days in her company, that Media Coordinator, Susana Sandoval, had a lot to do with that. Once on site at the school, they filmed the workshop from set up until closing, for their production.

Robert Vivar, Co-Director of Unified US Deported Veterans Resource/Information Center in Tijuana BC was the moderator for our workshop:

 Robert Vivar Workshop Moderator welcomes attendees...

Velente Velenzuela, Panelist and Robert Vivar, Moderator

Hector Lopez, Panelist


                                  Rock Hernandez , Panelist

Thanks to all of our members and allies that marched across the border and attended second Deported Veterans Workshop in Sonora, making it a success for our second year with SOAW Encuentro 2017

After closing up the workshop, we gathered all of our folks up and headed to the Hotel San Marco, where our veterans and allies from Tijuana were based. There was a restaurant at the hotel, and we decided to gather together for some after action comida and fellowship, before those who had crossed returned to the US side of the border.

After a great lunch together, a few tears, and a lotta hugs; Tommy Griffin, VFP 170 and
Member of VFP National Deported Veterans Project Steering Committee and I were on our way back across the border, feeling fired up for the next opportunity to highlight our mission. We will gather again in Tijuana in late January, following the VFP Board meeting in San Diego on the 26th.  Now though, Tommy and I loaded up and drove across the border to rest up for our return trip to the East Coast, in the morning...this was the scene with the sun setting in the west, as we crossed back into the US at the Nogales crossing.

Preview Image


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Reflections on 10th Anniversary of the war in Afghanistan, and the Continuing war in Iraq

Ten Years and Counting in Afghanistan...

Ten Years and counting in Afghanistan, U.S. troops still bogged down in Iraq after eight years, and a country deeply divided politically, ideologically, and now, even religiously, as a result. What a cluster fuck!

How did we get here?  Well, it wasn't easy; we had to work at it in order to position ourselves to be right back where we were following the Gingrich Revolution in Congress in the early 80s; it isn't just happenstance that we here we are again, caught up in mix of a retro Gilded Age, and a painful re-emergence of Nixonian forces and money creeping back into the halls and back rooms of our government. Forces who still threaten our Bill of Rights and our Constitution. 

I suggest that we are here, back from the future, because we as political and social activists have became complacent and self indulgent following our major victories of the 60s and 70s, to name a just a few; the end of the Vietnam War, the breaking down of racial barriers to voting, and the other civil rights victories of the day, including the end of the Draft, the end of domestic spying and political disruption by the FBI COINTEL Program, the downfall of Nixon, and the imprisoning of some, but not all, of his thugs. We in fact, recovered our Constitution, and re-instated the proper application of the Bill of Rights to our society. For reflection on what I think happened, I make the case for how the left actually became complacent and politically self indulgent in a piece that I wrote in 2005 entitled "The Cracker Swamp Manifesto". 

But this discussion has more to do with the future, than with the past. We can't know where we're going, if we don't know where we've been  A quick look back for reference at what has worked and what  has not is called for, whenever doing any kind of strategical planning for the future, whether it is personal or political. None of what I describe above regarding our foreign policy, and the retaking of congress by the Repugs and NEOCONs could have happened, in my considered opinion, if the left hadn't of become a Babylon of minority interest groups fighting among themselves over political power and money.  They sold the power of their all important UNITY in exchange for organizational, political, and cause oriented agendas and political careers that ultimately positioned them into being as ineffective as they were prior to the American social and political revolution of the 60s and 70s, as the "whole" morphed into minority special interest groups of society.  The big losers? The American people.

To my way of thinking these groupings became as a whole so distracted and fragmented with politically correct self indulgence, that they lost the hearts and minds of the American people. The very hearts and minds (and votes) that that these groups as a grand and unified coalition of ant-war and social and political justice activists had fought so hard for so many years to win. These fragmented groups, not unlike the Repugs and Neocons, and most recently the Teabaggers, turned their backs on all who disagreed with their particular doctrine, whether it be a racial, political, or religious platform.  But most importantly, they turned their backs on the American people in favor of their particular constituencies and careers. This dynamic was the birth of political correctness as we have came know it in our country. Prior to this rebirth, here; political correctness had originally a strategy of Mao's Red Guard in the Great Leap Forward in China.Here,it's re-birth ultimately became the death knell for all of our efforts and successes of the 60s and 70s.

In face of all of the above, it is my considered conclusion that this Administration's current strategies aren't going to change until we as a "movement" change our's. Collective GASP!!!  I know, I know, this is politically incorrect thinking.  But, it is my critical thinking assessment that the current, and now decades old, strategies of the left must take on a new profile. This has to happen if we are to have any hope of success in saving our nation from it's second post modern  political Dark Age and the continued decline of the age of free thinking, free speech, and Constitutional democracy. 

Here in the 21st century we need to develop our own strategies that are more pragmatic in their direction and application. That is not to say that militancy, fiery rhetoric, and occasionally manning of the barricades, is not critical to this process; it is to say that our militancy has to be more pragmatic than symbolic, our rhetoric based in empirical thinking and objective truth, as well as documentable evidence of that truth. It needs to incorporate clearly defined and realistically achievable demands and goals. Most importantly, it must appeal to more than those of one's particular organization, race, religion, ideology, and/or political party affiliation.  it must be designed to democratically find the core issues that are common to all of us and rally around them in unity of purpose, and leave the ideological, racial, organizational, religious, and personal differences at the door. The keys to success in my paradigm are Unity of Purpose and Mission Focus

We are after all, all in this together; and we cannot succeed without mutual support, and the support and votes of the American people, who, as evidenced by history, we are potentially able to educate to the truth of our anti-war social justice agenda, and how it applies to them as individuals, and as citizens. To my way of thinking, in today's world this is best achieved by speaking with them, rather that at them.  They must want to join with us and take action, not be verbally bludgeoned or shamed into it. So it is our responsibility to sort out what they agree with us on, and what they disagree with us on, and act accordingly in incorporating their energy and votes into our struggle. 

My other other major consideration is the diminished impact of "mass" demonstrations and rallies in Washington D.C., where we all go occasionally to "confront" the powers that be on their home turf, and get ourselves arrested , or rather; arrange with the police to let ourselves be arrested, celebrities and authors first, in hope that someone out there in the hinterland will see how truly oppressive our government is to those who dare to speak truth to power, in spite of the fact that the buildings we are confronting are empty, and the mainstream media is in conspicuous absence. It's Kabuki Theater rather than Guerrilla Theater to me, and in spite of it's repetitiveness nothing ever seems to come out of it, except some great photos and action reports on  the underground internet activist blogs, and in the foreign press. 

I can only conclude that the government actually welcomes this activity anymore, since they are much more equipped to deal with then they were, forty years ago. They send everyone home for the day so that they can't be accessed or confronted by the revolutionary forces in the street. They reinforce the police ranks with crowd control trained riot police and ariel surveillance, and everyone gets overtime.  Then theythey work closely with civil disobedience organizers