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.