The original Winter Soldier hearings were held by Vietnam veterans opposed to that war in 1971, including a young John Kerry.
In March 2008 Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) organized new Winter Soldier hearings near Washington D.C., on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Since then regional hearings have been held around the country.
The name "Winter Soldier" comes from the beginning of Thomas Paine's pamphlet The Crisis, written in December 1776 as the Continental Army was trying to survive the first winter of the American Revolution at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania:
These are the times that try men's souls. The 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.
Winter Soldier expresses the idea that opposition to unjust war by those who have experienced it first hand, despite the great costs to themselves of such opposition, reflects the highest service and most courageous patriotism they can offer their country and humanity.
This Saturday, October 18, there will be Winter Soldier testimonies at the First Unitarian Church (doors open at 11:30 a.m., panels 12:30-5 p.m.), followed in the evening by "Voices of Resistance," a cultural event from 7-9 p.m. These Winter Soldier events are being organized by the PDX Peace Coalition, with the endorsement and central participation of the Seattle chapter of IVAW, Military Families Speak Out Oregon, and Veterans for Peace chapters in Portland, Corvallis and Seattle.
Winter Soldier testimonies and reports will be heard from veterans from Oregon, the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere, of members of military families, Iraqi civilians and refugees, and academic experts on Afghanistan and suicide among veterans. Among those participating will be Camilo Mejia, the first member of the U.S. military to refuse deployment to Iraq and be prosecuted, and Dahr Jamail, a journalist who has covered the occupation of Iraq from an independent standpoint not embedded within the U.S. military.
"Voices of Resistance" will feature poetry readings by veterans, a spoken-word performance Good Sista/Bad Sista, Walidah and Turiya, locally-based performance poets who have traveled throughout the country sharing their voice and vision, and music by David Rovics. Rovics has been called the "peace poet and troubadour of our time" by Cindy Sheehan and the "musical version of Democracy Now" by Amy Goodman.
Winter Soldier Northwest aims to provide information and education to the general public. More particularly it aims to offer resources and support to veterans of the conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan, to military families, and to members of the military who are considering or engaging in war resistance or want information about their rights in the face of phenomena like multiple deployments, "stop-loss" coerced service, violence within the military including sexual assault, and missing or inadequate support for physical or psychological injuries. One possible outcome of the hearings may be the formation of a Portland chapter of IVAW, with support from the Seattle chapter as well as local peace/anti-war groups, if there is interest.
Please come, and please spread the word to anyone who might be interested.
Winter Soldier Speakers
Panel 1: Voices of Veterans From Iraq & Afghanistan (12:30-2:15)
• Chris Arendt, served in the Army National Guard and was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where he witnessed the dehumanization and mistreatment of prisoners. He is a member of IVAW Chicago.
• Jan Critchfield, a specialist with the Army National Guard who served as an army “journalist” while attached to the 1st Cavalry in Baghdad during 2004. His unspoken job in Iraq was to "counter the liberal media bias" about the occupation. He is a member of IVAW Seattle.
• Joseph Holness, from Gresham, Oregon served eight years in the US Army in Iraq and nine years with the US Air Force Reserves supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
• Evan Knappenberger, served one year in Iraq with the Army 4th Infantry Division working as an intelligence analyst; held one week long “Tower Guard Vigils” in Bellingham, WA and Washington, DC to call attention to the STOP-LOSS policy.
• David Mann, was an Army Specialist whose Army occupation was mainly working on the Army radios. He was deployed to Nasiriyah, Iraq in 2003 and stop lossed for a second deployment to Balad, Iraq in 2005. He is a member of IVAW Denver.
• Seth Manzel, an Army sergeant who served as a vehicle commander and machine gunner in Iraq. Member of IVAW Seattle.
• Camilo Mejia, a National Guard staff sergeant who after fighting for five months in Iraq, became the first combat soldier to refuse to go back to Iraq. He now serves as Chair of the Board of Iraq Veterans Against the War and is the author of Road from ar Ramadi.
• Josh Simpson, spent six years in the US Army as a counterintelligence agent including a one year tour in Mosul, Iraq. He is now involved with the GI voice project, Port Militarization Resistance, and making Olympia a sanctuary city for war resisters and undocumented immigrants. He is a member of IVAW Olympia.
• Chanan Suarezdiaz, a Navy hospital corpsman and purple heart recipient who served in Ramadi from September 2004 to February 2005 with a weapons company. He is now the Seattle Chapter president of IVAW.
• and more local veterans to be announced.
Panel 2: The Human Costs of War (2:30-3:45)
• Ahmed Abed, father of Mustafa Abed, an Iraqi child who was injured by an American air raid and is currently receiving medical care in Portland through the No More Victims project.
• Dr. Baher Butti, formerly the chief psychiatrist at a mental health clinic Baghdad, now an Iraqi refugee and faculty member at the OHSU School of Medicine.
• Mary Geddry, member of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) Oregon and mother of a Marine son who served two tours of duty in Iraq.
• Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist who spent a total of 8 months as an unembedded reporter in occupied Iraq. He has written for Mother Jones and The Nation, among other publications, and has provided radio reports on Democracy Now! and the BBC. Author of Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq.
• Dr. Mark Kaplan, Professor in the Department of Community Health - Urban & Public Affairs at Portland State University who has conducted research on suicide rates among male veterans.
• Adele Kubein, Military Families Speak Out Oregon chapter president, mother of an Iraq war veteran.
• Sara Rich, M.S.W., anti-war activist and spokesperson for Courage to Resist; mother of Eugene Iraq war vet & war resister Suzanne Swift.
• Dr. Zaher Wahab, Professor of Education at Lewis & Clark College; serves as a senior advisor to the Minister of Higher Education in Afghanistan, and has been spending about five months annually in that country since 2002.
Panel 3: Building Resistance to War (4:00-5:00)
• Leah Bolger, Veterans for Peace Chapter 132 from Corvallis, on the statewide effort to keep Oregon's National Guard in Oregon.
• Gerry Condon, refused orders to Vietnam and deserted from the Army in 1969. He lived in Sweden and Canada for six years before returning to the U.S. to organize for amnesty for all war resisters. For the last five years he has been working with Iraq War resisters in Canada. He directs Project Safe Haven and works with the War Resister Support Action Team of VFP Ch. 92 in Seattle.
• Adriana Moyola, is a Mexican born woman who came to the United States in search of a better life. She joined the Army Reserve in 2000 right after high school. In 2006 she resisted deployment to Iraq. She will speak on her experience as a war resister and on building an Oregon IVAW Chapter.
• Daniel Shea, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72 on the PDX Peace campaign to make Portland a Sanctuary City for War Resisters.
• Michael William, Army National Guardsmen who went AWOL, IVAW Northwest Regional Coordinator.
• and more discussion of local actions we can take to support veterans, refugees and end the war.
Time and Place
Winter Solider Northwest: Eyewitness Accounts of War
Where: First Unitarian Church 1011 SW 12th Street (at Main), Portland Oregon
When: Saturday, October 18 12:30-5:00 (doors open at 11:30)
Topics include: Veterans' Voices from Iraq and Afghanistan, Human Costs of War and Building Resistance to War.
Cost: $5-10 sliding scale, no one turned away.
Voices of Resistance
Where: First Unitarian Church 1011 SW 12th Street (at Main), Portland Oregon
When: Saturday, October 18. Doors open at 6:30
Cost: Free to Winter Soldier attendees. For others, sliding scale $10-15, no one turned away.
Sponsored by: PDX Peace Coalition, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Seattle Chapter, Veterans for Peace Chapter 72, Military Families Speak Out Oregon, American Friends Service Committee, American Iranian Friendship Council, Code Pink Portland, First Unitarian Church Peace Action Committee, International Socialist Organization (ISO) Portland Chapter, KBOO Community Radio 90.7 FM, MoveOn Portland, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peace Memorial Park Foundation of Portland, People of Faith for Peace, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, Recruiter Watch PDX, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Vancouver for Peace, Veterans Bridge Fund, War Resisters League Portland and more.
(Full Disclosure: I serve on the Coordinating Committee of the PDX Peace Coalition and am part of the task force that has organized these events.)