Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This review was published on the Quaker House website
How does a Quaker peace project take root next door to one of the largest US military bases? How does it manage to keep going for 40 years? And what can others learn from its survival and witness?
The new book YES To the Troops – NO To The Wars tells the exciting, improbable, and instructive story of Quaker House.
It’s been quite a ride:
Jane Fonda came and went. So did Sixties radicalism. The house was spied on and firebombed. Founding staff died in a car wreck. Money was often so tight it squeaked. Many staff didn’t want to live in a tough military town. The Board repeatedly wondered if the venture was still needed or useful. The roof leaked.
Yet while dozens of similar projects died out, Quaker House stayed alive and kept working.
Since September 11, it’s been more active than ever:
The GI Rights Hotline. Iraq. Afghanistan. Torture. AWOLs and resisters. Truth In Recruiting. Violence within the military. You name it.
Even with recent major changes in Washington, there’s no less need for an active, long-term Friends peace witness "up-close and personal" with a military hub as critical as Fort Bragg.
That’s why, with 2009 marking our fortieth anniversary, Quaker House is looking back in order to look ahead.
Share in the journey. Don’t miss this remarkable saga of persistent, creative witness. It’s a must-have for a Meeting library, and a must-read for everyone concerned with long-term peace work in militarized America.
Author Chris McCallum and editor Chuck Fager spent nine months researching and writing this unique story. Along the way, they talked to former staff and supporters who had seen the project through thick and thin.
This announcement was just posted to the Coffee Strong Facebook Page
Coffee Strong will provide burgers, all the trimmings and a vegan alternative. BBQ is the theme, and drinks will also be provided. So bring your friends and bring $ to donate to a great cause!
"WINTER SOLDIER, a term first coined during the Vietnam War in which veterans speak out against the war industry from first hand experience. We hope to bring the US war resister movement to an international audience and we plan to organize a panel of US, Venezuelan, and possibly Colombian veterans who have all been involved in various forms of resistance against military corruption and war to present their stories side by side.
This delegation will also be an effort to explore free speech and community media as an integral element of social movements, networking with independent media groups in Venezuela and producing a documentary.
Even a quick look at some happenings of the last month and we can see
why, but it goes deep. With the ongoing tension between the US economic imperialist agenda and the growing wave of Latin American socialist/??populist movements particularly in Venezuela, the smear campaigns against Chavez as a dictator; the recent military coup in Honduras (country mostly to become a member of ALBA*), led by officials trained at the School of the Americas; the continued efforts of Plan Colombia "drug war" and 5 new US military bases in Colombia (country with notoriously corrupt US backed government, that borders
Venezuela to the west) we start to see how intrinsically connected we
are across the Americas.
* ALBA- Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our Americas is the growing Venezuelan led alternative to the neoliberal model of regional and international trade agreements such as FTAA and NAFTA which focuses on social accountability, market integration through mutual aid.
Venezuela has been undergoing a Bolivarian Revolution led by the people; we want to connect with them, witness their organizing efforts, share with them our experiences of community organizing in Portland as an example of resistance within the US, and continue to foster a grassroots connection of the people beyond borders and beyond what the corporate media tells us is going on across the globe.
By learning from each others we can build solidarity of transnational activism and bring home inspirations and new ideas to strengthen work in our own community. Movements against global corporate imperialism require global grassroots communities. Delegates include Iraq War veterans, student organizers, community media activists and peace activists.
The peace and media delegation will be traveling to Venezuela on September 3rd for 10 days. During which time we will meet with local organizers, worker occupied factories, community media collectives, organize a Winter Soldier conference. Several of the delegates will stay in Venezuela longer collecting footage and working closely with local groups.
This was originally posted to the Offbase Myspace Page, June 15, 2009.
The Virginia-based GI coffeehouse and activist center, Norfolk OffBase has become an affiliate of the War Resisters League, an 86 year-old pacifist organization advocating for the end to war and violence. In keeping with WRL’s mission, the Virginia group is dedicated to challenging militarism, advocating for GI rights, and educating for peace.
War Resisters League sees Norfolk OffBase’s efforts as an integral part of the GI resistance movement, the support of which is one of WRL’s program areas. “The opportunity for veterans to come together and acknowledge their experience is crucial to understanding war and is imperative in the struggle to end it,” War Resisters League Program Associate Jenessa Stark said. Their space, Norfolk OffBase, 2501 Fawn St in Norfolk “provides a safe environment for community activists to come together with active duty service members and newly discharged GIs to engage in dialogue and support,” Stark continued.
The alliance between the groups struck OffBase founder, Tom Palumbo as a natural compliment to the organizations respective missions. “Norfolk OffBase has developed an extensive network of local resources that can advocate for active duty servicemembers and veterans who face moral questions or other hardships related to their military service,” Palumbo said. According to Palumbo several local peace and justice activists have overwhelmingly endorsed the WRL mission of eliminating war, while working to address the root causes of conflict such as racism, oppression and occupation. He added “as an affiliate of the War Resisters League, we can now avail ourselves of the resources and networking support that the WRL has provided to GI's for many decades.”
In May, OffBase initiated a series of events and actions in response to a call for a “Summer of Solidarity.” The coffeehouse planned and offered educational forums, speakers, actions and advocacy focused on global peace, social justice, workers rights, environmental stewardship and affordable healthcare for all. Additionally, War Resisters League has endorsed OffBase’s June hallmark event, "The Road to No War!" a 5 day, 53 mile peace march to various military sites in Hampton Roads.
Dedicated on Veterans Day in 2008, Norfolk OffBase is a non-commercial, secular, non-profit convergence space which has freely hosted events for GI's, veterans and the greater community. The WRL affiliate will be holding public meetings at 7:00 pm each first and third Thursday of the month at 2501 Fawn St.
Active duty, veterans and supporters are encouraged to contact the War Resisters League via email at [email protected] or by calling 212-228-0450. Alternatively they can contact Norfolk OffBase directly by email at [email protected] or by calling director Tom Palumbo at 757-470-9797.
Featuring: Castro’s Beard, Will T. Massey, Shootin’ Pains, Gary Graves. Under the Hood Outreach Center and Café is located near the gates of Fort Hood, the largest military base in the U.S. It is a safe haven for Fort Hood GI’s and their families to socialize, speak freely, and access resources. Please visit our website www.underthehoodcafe.org for more information. Under the Hood is a project of the Fort Hood Support Network, a non-profit organization with a 501(c) (3) status.
This article, by Jeremy Schwarz, was posted to the Austin American Statesman, August 15, 2009.
KILLEEN — Past the barber shops advertising $6 military cuts, weapons stores and used car lots, an anti-war coffeehouse occupies a small wooden house on a corner of Texas' biggest Army town. Six months after opening, the Under the Hood cafe has become home to a growing number of veterans and active-duty soldiers who are beginning to question America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Less than a mile from the gates of 53,000-troop Fort Hood, the cafe is a place where soldiers, many of them fresh off of multiple deployments, can swap stories and ideas without fear of retribution, its supporters say.
It has also become a refuge for soldiers who are refusing to deploy — or are thinking about it — including Spc. Victor Agosto, who last week was sentenced to 30 days in jail for refusing an order. Another Fort Hood soldier, Sgt. Travis Bishop, an Iraq veteran who has applied for conscientious objector status, was sentenced Friday to a year in federal prison for refusing to deploy with his unit to Afghanistan.
Not since the heyday of the Oleo Strut coffeehouse, the hub for the anti-war movement in Killeen during the Vietnam War, has such an enterprise thrived here. But unlike its predecessor, which closed in 1972, Under the Hood has for its driving force a newcomer to the peace movement, a 17-year Army wife with no history of activism.
The cafe is run by Cynthia Thomas, a former stay-at-home mom who didn't become politically active until 2007, when her husband, a Fort Hood soldier, was sent on his third deployment to Iraq. Thomas said she was furious about his deployment; she said her husband was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other maladies from a previous tour. When her stepson decided to join the Marines, she said she felt compelled to take a stand against the war.
At first she sought to connect to a group in Killeen. But finding no anti-war organizations in her adopted hometown, she stumbled on Code Pink, a group of anti-war activists from Austin. She became involved with the group and eventually crossed paths with former and current Fort Hood soldiers active in a local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
With help from an original staff member of the Oleo Strut, they hatched the idea of a coffeehouse near the Army post. But making it happen proved harder than Thomas imagined.
"We went through four Realtors and just got stonewalled," Thomas said. "At the end we just said we wanted to do an outreach center, which was true, because if you said a peace house they didn't want anything to do with it."
Despite the initial resistance, Thomas said the response has been positive at the cafe, a homey place lined with couches and a help-yourself coffee bar.
"We've had no negativity from the soldiers that come in," she said. "At first they come in and they're looking around and a little uncomfortable, but then they come back. They feel they can come and talk to the regulars and get that peer support."
Most of the soldiers at Under the Hood are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder; some are suicidal or self-medicating heavily with alcohol or drugs, Thomas said. The most extreme cases are referred to a counselor in Austin.
Others just need a place to curl up on the couch for a few hours or feel safe from the ridicule they say they would receive in their barracks for talking about their feelings and ideas.
"If you come home and you don't feel anything about (what you've gone through), then there's something wrong with you," said Malachi Muncy, who served two tours in Iraq with the Texas National Guard and is a regular visitor to Under the Hood. "It's helped me get over my issues, mainly by talking with people with the same issues. It's nice to be around other soldiers who aren't going be like, 'Suck it up.' "
Muncy drove a 42-wheel super heavy equipment transporter during his first tour of Iraq in 2004, as U.S. troops began seeing a surge in roadside bombings. "It was a really bad time to be driving a truck," he said.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and says he struggled to adjust when he returned. He eventually decided to volunteer for a second deployment.
"I said, 'I don't have to adjust; I can just go back to Iraq,' " he said.
Bobby Whittenberg is another Iraq war veteran who often talks with active-duty soldiers at the coffee shop. A former Marine who now lives in Austin, Whittenberg was shot in Iraq in 2004 and said he faced harassment and ridicule when he sought help for his post-traumatic stress disorder from military officials.
"They were like, 'You're letting your brothers down; you're scared to go back,' " said Whittenberg, a Purple Heart recipient.
After leaving active duty in 2006, Whittenberg moved to San Antonio to be closer to the Veterans Affairs hospital there. He has become something of a mentor to younger soldiers.
"I personally try to challenge them to think for themselves," he said. "They're in a very authoritarian, hierarchical lifestyle where it becomes very difficult to challenge authority."
Several active-duty soldiers at Fort Hood who go to Under the Hood said that despite the Army's efforts to reduce the stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder, soldiers who seek help are still labeled bad apples by some superiors. One soldier, who would not give his name because he feared retribution, said the Army needs to do more to support soldiers when they return from war.
"When you get back, you're released, and it's like, drink as much as you can and party," he said. "No one tells you that just makes you feel more depressed."
In recent years, military officials have sought to place more attention on the mental health of returning soldiers. At Fort Hood, officials have opened a Spiritual Fitness Center, which seeks to help soldiers and their families deal with the stresses of multiple deployments. That's part of a larger Resiliency Campus, which Army officials say will help combat alarming numbers of soldier suicides. And Fort Hood's commander, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, has also talked frequently of removing the stigma associated with soldiers seeking mental health help.
But some solders say places like Under the Hood play a vital role.
"I know soldiers who said, 'If I didn't have the coffeehouse, I would have killed myself,' " said James Branum, an attorney who has represented about 20 war resisters around the country.
Bishop, the sergeant who was court-martialed for refusing to deploy, said the coffee shop provided much-needed friendship.
"They support you whether your decision is to deploy or to resist," he said. "People think that it's an anti-military place. That's not true at all. It's incredibly pro-soldier. They are just against these wars."
Under the Hood is among a handful of what supporters hope is a growing number of GI coffeehouses around the country. Similar cafes have opened outside of Fort Lewis in Washington state and Fort Drum in New York.
It's still a far cry from the Vietnam era, when some 20 GI coffeehouses such as the Oleo Strut sprang up near military bases around the country and were credited with crystallizing the GI anti-war movement. The Killeen coffeehouse operated from 1968 to 1972, receiving visitors such as Jane Fonda and a young Stevie Ray Vaughan and producing an underground newspaper, according to Thomas Cleaver, a member of Oleo Strut's original staff who helped Under the Hood get on its feet.
Supporters at Under the Hood say the current conflicts are different: During Vietnam, many soldiers were draftees and more likely to be open in their opposition to the war.
"We know this is a different time and a different war," said Fran Hanlon, an Under the Hood board member from Austin. "We had trepidation (about opening the cafe), but we were also really excited about the potential."