FSRN: Anti-war veterans are using Veterans Day to remind Americans about the costs of war – both abroad and at home
JAISAL NOOR, FREE SPEECH RADIO NEWS: Thousands of active-duty soldiers and veterans marched along New York’s Fifth Avenue. The theme of this year’s event is “never forget”, but some vets, including Bill Gilson, want to send a different message.
BILL GILSON, US NAVY VETERAN: Through the years, it has become nothing more than a vehicle for war, and it has got a pro-war message that is sent forth loud and clear.
NOOR: Gilson, an 84-year-old Navy veteran and vice president of New York City’s Veterans for Peace chapter, is taking part in the march’s only peace contingent.
GILSON: It also incorporates many corporate sponsors which are heavily invested in war, such as New York City banks, national banks, and people that basically do not have the best interest in America. They are more in the realm of war profiteers.
NOOR: Gilson and the march’s peace contingent want to remind Americans that wars bring heavy costs, both to soldiers and civilians. More than 6,200 US troops have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the US government doesn’t publish civilian death counts, conservative estimates document at least 100,000 people killed. Antiwar veterans have taken a prominent role in the Occupy movement, especially after Iraq veteran Scott Olsen suffered serious injuries following a police attack on Occupy Oakland. Last week, Iraq Veterans Against the War marched in New York in solidarity with Occupy Oakland. Occupy Wall Street activists and veterans are also marching in other cities, including Chicago, Washington, and Miami, where on Saturday antiwar veteran and conscientious objector Camilo Mejia is marching in solidarity with the Occupy movement.
CAMILO MEJIA, VETERAN, CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR: I think people should remember that veterans are part of that 99 percent. We’re not, you know, any better off just because we served in that military.
NOOR: Mejia says veterans are disproportionally affected by harsh economic conditions like homelessness and unemployment, but they’re also dealing with the aftereffects of war, like PTSD.
MEJIA: Thirty-six veterans attempt to commit suicide each day, and at least 18 succeed. So that should give you a pretty clear idea of the shape, the emotional and mental and pyschological shape that veterans are in.
NOOR: Antiwar veterans and Occupy participants like Mejia say they will continue to raise awareness of veterans issues after the media spotlight on Veterans Day has ended. Jaisal Noor, FSRN, New York.
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