Friday, May 31, 2019

Veterans and family members speak: The US Army is not healthy for children and other living things

Thanks to Chrissy Kirchhoefer of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee for this blog post about the US Army's Memorial Day tweet storm:

Military Members Speak Out On Memorial Day

Media,National,News,Nuclear,Real Life Stories
This year at Memorial day, Veterans were sharing their stories about war, their time in the military and how the military has impacted both physical and mental health. While Memorial Day has been a holiday commemorating those killed and  forever silenced by war, Veterans who survived wars were talking about their experiences over the weekend. Many people involved in the military and those close to them were speaking publicly about the horrific experiences of war after the Army asked how the military has influenced them on Twitter
On Memorial Day, a story was released about Atomic Soldiers who spoke about their exposure to atomic weapons after 50 years.   The Atlantic shared a short documentary, The Atomic Soldiers which contains some of the interviews with 100 veterans exposed to ionizing radiation from tests conducted by the US military.  The video’s creator, Morgan Knibbe wanted to share the story of the 400,000 troops who were exposed to over 1,000 nuclear tests between 1942-1992 and the impacts upon them.  For many it was the first time that they spoke about their experiences. In the video it mentions that after the tests, the soldiers, many of whom were traumatized, were sworn to an oath of secrecy. Breaking it even to talk among themselves was considered treason, punishable by a $10,000 fine and 10 or more years in prison.
Many in the video spoke about the orders they received about never being able to speak about their experience of witnessing atomic explosions not even with each other and the fear of  a charge of treason that could lead to their execution.  The conditioning of soldiers to not speak about their experiences led many to take their stories to their grave. Much of the information around the nuclear tests remains classified including the human and environmental impacts of the testing. The ban prohibiting veterans from speaking about their experiences with radiation exposure was lifted in 1994 yet many were unaware that it was lifted.
The pattern of not speaking about military experiences hopefully has now become a thing of the past.  The social stigma associated with speaking about the personal impact of war on military members and their loved ones has been decreasing over the years for many.  We are becoming more aware of the benefits of people being able to talk about and publicly share their stories especially with more platforms available.  There are more resources for mental health services for veterans compared with 50 years ago. Yet the personal impact of war has also seemed to have increased in recent years with over 6,000 veterans who have died from suicide from 2008-2016 and close to 25% of women in the military reporting sexual assaults.  USA Today reports that only half of veterans receive Veterans Affairs benefits or services. 
After sharing a short video of one soldier of his experiences in the the military, the Army asked people to share on Twitter how the military has affected them. The response was unexpected and became for many a platform to share their heartbreaking tales of how people they loved were affected by their participation in war. It was a sober look at war.  Many of the response were brutally frank
One Soldier, Brandon Neely, stated that he knew more soldiers that had committed suicide in his unit than had died in combat. He also believed that many who were speaking on the Twitter thread had never shared their stories before.  Through social media many were able to share their stories  and those they had witnessed in real time. David Swanson with Win Without War was even calculating a win-US Army 0 and Internet 1 in his article about the twitter storm.  His article highlights some of the 10,000 tweets shared over the weekend and concludes with a questionnaire for those considering military service.
    Post by Chrissy Kirchhoefer

Thursday, May 30, 2019

US Army gets reality check from Memorial Day tweets

Stories from news outlets around the country reported on the thousands of tweeted responses from veterans and family members to the Memorial Day question asked by the US Army.  An NPR story begins this way: 

A U.S. Army Tweet Asking 'How Has Serving Impacted You?' Got An Agonizing Response
May 27, 201912:37 PM ET
The U.S. Army issued a tweet ahead of Memorial Day weekend with a question for service members and veterans: "How has serving impacted you?"
Among the thousands of responses: harrowing tales of trauma, depression and sexual assault.
Soon after the U.S. Army tweeted its question, thousands of responses began flooding in. Many people tweeted about the positive impact military service had on their lives, but others posted stories of post-traumatic stress disorder, illness and suicide brought on by experiences ranging from seeing loss of life to sexual assaults in the military.
One man responded, "How did serving impact me? Ask my family." He wrote of a "Combat Cocktail" which included "PTSD, severe depression, anxiety. Isolation. Suicide attempts. Never ending rage."

Read the rest of this story here. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

ACC adds second bachelor's degree program

A growing number of students in Austin are graduating high school with not only a high school diploma but an associate's degree as well.  These are students who have completed an Early College program while they were in high school.  Here is news from ACC that they are accepting students with associate's degrees for a new bachelor's degree program in Computer Information Technology -- a high demand field in Austin. 

From the Community Impact Newspaper:

"In the fall 2018 semester, Austin Community College launched its first bachelor’s degree program, seeking to address the nursing shortage in Central Texas by allowing local registered nurses to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Next year, the community college district will begin its second bachelor’s degree program with a similar goal——helping members of the local workforce advance their careers——albeit in a different sector of the local economy.
The Bachelor of Applied Science program in Computer Information Technology will have three specializations when the program begins at ACC in the spring semester of 2020: software development, cybersecurity and data science. ACC’s board of trustees approved the program unanimously May 6.
Mike Midgley, the vice president of instruction at ACC, said the community college identified the information technology sector as an important area to expand its academic offerings.
“We think (IT professional development) is the most important thing to do next after health sciences, given our regional economy,” Midgley said."

Monday, May 6, 2019

For a Climate of Peace

A new show of art at the Austin Central Public Library by Calder Kamin is a brilliant exhibition of pieces depicting animals at risk of extinction.  The pieces are constructed of pieces of trash -- plastics and other non-biodegradable materials that are part of the problem in our earth's fight for survival.  Kamin dedicates the show to the youth who are now on the forefront of the movement for immediate action on climate change.  Kids who came to the Kamin exhibit were invited to make posters to add to the display, and this is one.  Indeed, a major part of our efforts to stop harming the environment must be to stop war and militarization.  The US military is still the largest institutional polluter in the world.  What is supposed to be "defense" is really offense.  What is supposed to protect people is really hurting people.  We do need a climate of peace in order to preserve our planet. 


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Career Fair SOY tabling at newly renamed Northeast High School

Yesterday, Hart, Tami and I really appreciated participating in an all-day career fair at Reagan HS -- soon to be called Northeast HS because of the Confederate associations with the Reagan name. About 100 students came by to do some or all of the t-shirt challenge.

In response to the reflection question about which of the Supervillains they would fight and how, about half chose Racism. I am happy for the school's name change away from the Confederate Postmaster because it is clear that racism is a very present concern for students. As one student wrote, "We can fight racism by overcoming white privilege."  About 17% of students chose to fight the Sexism Supervillain because, as one student wrote, "We should all be treated equally, and the way we will fight is by using our voices." The Supervillains of War, Greed and Ecocide each were named by about 11% of students. Wrote one, "Ecocide. I mean we can try together as a society by reducing how much pollution we produce like ride a bike/walk if its somewhere close." Another wrote, "I'd go for Ecocide because without the earth, we couldn't solve any of those. We could do regular old recycling, or could waste less."  Wrote another, "Ecocide, because at the moment I feel that the ecosystem is really in trouble."

Choosing to fight against War, one student wrote, "because of all the innocent people dying for no reason or getting captured."  Another student wrote that war could be prevented by coming up "with a really good compromise for both sides."  And as another student concluded, "I would choose to fight War, because I would like to see Peace and how it would feel."

Penny Poll results from about 90 students showed a priority for Education at 29% of the vote ("for my kids," said one student), 28% for the Environment, 24% for Health Care, 10% for NASA and 9% for the Military.

Speaking of the military, there were 3 tables of military branches at the career fair: Army, Marines and Army National Guard. Northeast also has an Air Force JROTC and a number of students were wearing their insignia and helping out with the career fair. I was dismayed to see that the recruiters had sign-up sheets set out at their tables for students to write down their contact information. I showed the 3 recruiters the AISD policy that prohibits recruiters from soliciting student contact information. They responded that they weren't "soliciting" --they were just putting the sign-up sheet out there. I believe they know the intent of the policy is to not get phone numbers from students, but they are trying to circumvent the policy.

We were glad to be part of the career fair to offer some balance to the recruiters and to give students an opportunity to talk about what is important to them.  As the EMT who was set up at the table next to us said, his mission and ours were the same: to try and prevent pain and suffering.  

Army recruitment table with sign-up sheet collecting student contact information -- in violation of AISD policy regarding recruitment in schools

Marines recruitment table with sign-up sheet collecting student contact information, in violation of AISD policy regarding recruitment in schools

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Crockett Cougars fight the Super-villains

some of our literature, including a helpful flier about 8 of the local Americorps programs

Yesterday, Hart, Tami and I had a good lunch-hour visit to Crockett HS.  Students were eager to do the t-shirt challenge, and they had ideas for how to fight the Super-villains of Greed, Racism, War, Sexism and Ecocide.  Penny Poll results showed the biggest priority for Health Care, with 36.5% of the vote, followed by 26.5% for Education, 16.5% for the Environment, 12% for the Military and 8.5% for NASA.

Here are some of their responses to the Super-villains question.  Thanks, Cougars!
War because it needs to stop.  People need to agree with me -- violence is never the answer

Ecocide, I believe expansion is killing our environment

I will fight racism by showing that everyone is equal and spreading awareness

We saw this poster on a bulletin board and thought it was excellent

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

First time to table at Texas State University

Big thanks to Greg Moses for inviting us to be part of a tabling day at Texas State University in San Marcos today! Hart and I were so glad to be joined by GI resister, Stephen Funk (and his adorable dog, Crisco) and by Mia Estrada from the Philosophy Department at TX State. And thanks to Alan Pogue for coming and taking photos! We value all the engagement with students who stopped at the table to talk about the issues addressed by the reflection question, the Peace Wheel and the Penny Poll.

Penny Poll results showed a strong priority for Education, garnering a full 30% of the penny vote, followed by 23% for the Environment, 21% for Health Care, 11% for Humanitarian Aid, 10% for the Military and 5% for NASA. Several students put all their pennies into the Education jar, and a student made the apt observation that if we didn't have catastrophes caused by climate change, we wouldn't need so much humanitarian aid. 

Thanks, Bobcats, for welcoming us to your campus today!

Mia models our t-shirt!

Stephen's sign with our guest dog, Crisco

A few of the responses to our reflection question