Thursday, May 07, 2009

Winter Soldier Reflections

Ed Note: This post is a re-edit of a piece that first appeared in our on-line magazine commemorative, IVAW Winter Soldier 2008 - Eyewitness Accounts of the Occupations. With just minor tweaks, it was still appropriate as a precursor for this weeks upcoming Winter Soldier Southwest event.WH
Willie Hager
xxThe summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country, but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776.

Those words penned by Thomas Paine in 1776 were referencing the Continental Army huddled together at Valley Forge, freezing and severely tested in battle. They had many wounded, were short on food, and critically short on military supplies. However, they were not short on spirit or in heart. These first Winter Soldiers – the rag-tag Continental Army of patriots who marched up from General Washington’s Valley Forge winter bivouac – sent the best trained and equipped army in the world at that time scurrying back to England.

An observation: It ‘don’t’ have to be cold for there to be Winter Soldiers.
Ever since Valley Forge, Winter Soldiers have met the challenges of our nation’s greatest moments of distress and peril. Like I said; It ‘don’t’ have to be cold for there to be Winter Soldiers. Their greatest stands have occurred in all climes; Boston Common, the Battle of New Orleans, the Alamo, Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, San Juan Hill, the sands of Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, the Frozen Chosin, and the Hanoi Hilton.
The spirit of the Winter Soldier – fueled by true patriotism; love of one’s country and its political ideals – transcends popular political party or special interest group thinking and political operatives’ rhetoric and spin, with ideals that are grounded in the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights and in our inherited principles. It is the soul and an unshakable sense of duty to one’s nation that makes one a Winter Soldier; the soul to stand and fight in face of withering fire; to patriotically march up into history, unafraid, principles unscathed, no matter how overwhelming the odds.
In 1971 in Detroit, at the Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI), the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) produced yet another band of patriots who, this time, marched off the battlefields of Vietnam and into history. Speaking truth to power, Vietnam Veterans testified about the tactics of “pacifying” the Vietnamese people at a sit-rep designed to inform the American people of the Truth about what was being done in Vietnam in their name.
The VVAW WSI testimony was not leftist political rhetoric and spin coming from the mouths of communists and “wannabes”, as those of the swift boat 527 ilk would have you believe. This testimony was the real deal. It was given by Winter Soldiers barely come of age (average age in Vietnam was 19 years old)…those “doin’ the doin’s” as they say here in the South; young men barely grown, with “thousand yard stares,” addressing often blindly patriotic parents with words few wanted to hear, for fear of the burden of responsibility it may bring.
And once again in history, here we are. For those of us who lived through Vietnam, soldier and citizen alike; it is Déjà vu.
Well, now a new generation of Winter Soldiers is marching up from battle to bring the Truth about their war to the American People; those of the Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW). The latest group of Winter Soldiers will come from the shadows at Pasadena City College, on Saturday, May 9, 2009, at an event entitled:
Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan – Eyewitness Accounts of The Occupation.

This event is planned to start at 1:00 pm on May 9, 2009 at Building R room 122 @ Pasadena City College.
These Combat Veterans and in-country logistical support personnel will testify about the impact of America’s boots-on-the-ground involvement in Iraq & Afghanistan. Involvement that arose as the result of the Bush administrations’ lies about the presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq and their alleged “ready availability” to terrorists worldwide. IVAW has accepted this mission in spite of mounting personal perils and sacrifice, in the same spirit of patriotism that inspired the testifiers at VVAW’s WSI, in 1971, and at Winter Soldier I&A, at Silver Spring.
These troops are the true Winter Soldiers and American patriots who will soon have their patriotism, motivation, war record and military service questioned publicly by self-described patriots who accuse them of not “supporting the troops” because they are profoundly moved to testify to the Truth that they have lived, in the name of America.
Forget the rhetoric of “pride” and blind “patriotism” – think for yourself, hear what your Combat Veterans have to say, take personal responsibility where responsibility is needed, and make things right…for the Veterans, and for America. That is truly supporting the troops. That is a patriotic first step in recapturing our flag and our we can all take at no cost, but with major gain. A patriotic act that is contrary to the swiftboating of the honor and service of those who have fought in foreign lands in our name.
There is nothing more American than our own Winter Soldiers speaking truth to power in the face of grave personal sacrifice and peril.

Today’s IVAW Winter Soldiers will not be there alone, though. The Old School Winter Soldiers of VVAW will be there with them, back to back. The VVAW

Together Then…
Together Again…