San Diego Veterans For Peace Speak Out on War!

50 years ago, American boys, most under 20 years of age, committed unspeakable acts against a civilian hamlet in Vietnam. Over 500 women, children (yes! there were babies!) and old men were slaughtered by American soldiers. Civilian “collateral damage” is a tragic cost of any war; the My Lai massacre only exemplified it at a highly public level. The San Diego Chapter of Veterans For Peace is named after Hugh C. Thompson, the courageous US Army helicopter pilot who landed his chopper and, along with fellow crewmen, intervened against fellow American troops to end the carnage at My Lai. Thompson reported the “incident” up the chain of command but was met with indifference and ridicule by authorities.

50 years removed from My Lai, today we see American troops in over 120 countries, with US bases in over 80. Most of these troops in our “volunteer armed forces” are Whites, Blacks, and Latinos of limited economic means. They are the ones who risk their lives to further our endless series of wars. We are embroiled in multiple wars and conflicts, and the “Doomsday Clock” has just been advanced 30 seconds closer to midnight, due to escalating tensions over possible nuclear war. Drone warfare is commonplace with mounting civilian casualties, as American warriors in Nevada routinely target and kill in places around the globe. We see weapons of war – the AR-15 rifle, used by our teenagers against each other in high schools.

As citizens, we must draw connections between our foreign war policies of the past and those of today. We must see the links causing the violent war culture bleeding into our civilian lives. Absent the military draft most people do not see the true, total costs of war. Politicians continue to over-fund the Pentagon without any dissent and then reduce spending on programs that benefit our populace. If we fail to speak out, we are complicit in the wars our government conducts in our names.

The My Lai Memorial Exhibit, by allowing you to take part in the artistic process, honors the over two million Vietnamese civilians who died in what we call the “Vietnam War” but what will forever be known in Vietnam as the “American War”. This Memorial Exhibit offers 3 interactive opportunities to dialogue, build a sculptural collage and to share your artwork and comments. You will be able to participate in a strong, anti-war response to the Pentagon’s $63 million campaign to sanitize and to glorify this unnecessary, unjust and immoral military action. The Exhibit is suitable for high school age and above.

The 50th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre will be March 16, 2018 and the San Diego and Chicago Chapters of the Veterans For Peace, the San Diego Peace Resource Center, and the American Friends Service Committee invite you to the following events. These issues are as important today as they were 50 years ago!

Wednesday, March 14: World Beat Center, 2100 Park Blvd, SD 92101; Display open 2PM – 9PM
Speakers Program: 7:30 PM, Dennis Stout, Barry Ladendorf

Thursday, March 15: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, 4190 Front St, SD 92103
Display open Noon – 6 PM

Friday, March 16: First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego, Display open 2PM – 9 PM
Speakers: 7:30 PM, Dennis Stout, Marjorie Cohn, Barry Ladendorf

Saturday, March 17: SD Peace Resource Center, 3850 Westgate Pl, SD 92105;
Display open 12PM – 5 PM.
Speakers: 6:30 PM, Church of the Brethren, 3850 Westgate Pl., SD 92105
Fernando Suarez del Solar, Lori Saldaña, David Valladollid

•Marjorie Cohn, Attorney, Author, Legality of War Expert, Drone Warfare Expert;
•Fernando Suarez del Solar, Anti-War Advocate, lost son in Iraq War, Guerrero Azteca Founder;
•Barry Ladendorf, Naval Officer, Attorney, past President of Vets For Peace;
•Lori Saldaña, Peace Advocate, Was President Pro-Temp and on Veterans Committee of CA Assembly;
•Dennis Stout, Photographer, Vietnam Army veteran, offers personal testimony;
•David Valladollid, Purple Heart Vietnam Vet, CEO of Parent Institute for Quality Education, CA Student Aid Comte.

For more information please contact: Gary Butterfield,

To view the My Lai Memorial webpage, go to:

SDVFP Give Out 3000th Sleeping Bag Set in Downtown San Diego

Veteran members, associate members, and friends and supporters of the San Diego Veterans For Peace, Chapter #91 are proud to announce that in June 2017 the 3000th sleeping bag set was given out to the homeless in downtown San Diego!

It is through the generous on-going financial contributions of friends and the general public that our Compassion Campaign is able to indefinitely continue this humane life-saving program.

In December 2010 the San Diego chapter of the national Veterans For Peace organization began the “Compassion Campaign” — an outreach effort to help displaced homeless veterans. Ignited by conversations with many homeless veterans on the street in downtown San Diego, the chapter membership determined that the lives of homeless veterans and non-veterans downtown could improve significantly if given basic equipment – like a sleeping bag, as many were sleeping rough on hard pavement each night with only a light blanket, their jacket, or nothing.

Putting ideas into action SDVFP contacted local vendors about the purchase of 100 sets at wholesale prices. The humble goal of raising $3,000 was announced to members and supporters of the San Diego Veterans For Peace, with the funds to cover the sleeping bag sets (sleeping bag and waterproof nylon stuff-sack).

News of the outreach program began to spread, first to friends and families, and soon after to the general public – the response was magnificent support enabling the program to buy and distribute sleeping bag sets well beyond its original goal.

The “Compassion Campaign” now continues year-round, with veteran and associate chapter members (some who are in their 80’s) quietly delivering bag sets downtown late at night after the homeless have bedded down for the night. This makes finding those truly in need of items easier!

Bag sets are now purchased directly from the Coleman Company in Colorado and are ordered in quantities of 50 or 100 as donations come in. The Coleman Company generously provides bag sets at tax-free wholesale prices and pays the shipping charges to San Diego. The cost of a set is $33. All administrative costs for this program are pre-paid through the financial help of a generous donor.

Donations may be made online with a credit card or PayPal or checks made out to “SDVFP” can be mailed to:

13805 Royal Melbourne Square
San Diego, CA 92128

Each donor receives a card of thanks and a receipt for tax purposes; SDVFP is a 501-C-3 veteran’s educational organization.

For additional information, please contact Gil Field at or (858) 342-1964.

Submitted by:
San Diego Veterans For Peace
Gil Field, Director for Communications

SDVFP Featured on Fox 5 San Diego: “Memorial Remembers Servicemembers Killed in Iraq, Afghanistan”

From Fox 5 San Diego

A veteran’s group held a somber name-reading ceremony on Veterans Day to remember the sacrifice of local service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

San Diego Veterans for Peace dozens of symbolic tombstones in the grassy park next the the USS Midway Museum on Friday. Members of the group tolled a bell and read the names of veterans from San Diego, Imperial, Orange and Los Angeles counties who were killed in combat.

The name reading continued all day long.

Message of Peace

My name is Mike Hanes and I am with the San Diego chapter of Veterans for Peace. After my experiences in the Iraq invasion as a Force Recon Marine operator, I came to the conclusion that the glory, idealism and patriotism that was sold to us growing up, and later as service members, was to perpetuate an elite agenda of militarism, profit and resource exploitation. I now look at War simply as a means to extract/ secure resources, ensure industrial profits, and keep the populace in a perpetual state of fear.

War is the most insane creation that humanity has ever invented! It ensures a position of de-evolution rather than a state of evolution. We want our next generation to be better than us, not in a state of regression! As we move forward in the 21st Century, it is vitally important for us to elevate our consciousness and understanding of human behavior in order to promote values that is in line with peaceful problem solving. A great place for us to start is trying to better ourselves. Trying to be more empathetic rather than judgmental. Give a little more. Lend a helping hand to others. This I strongly feel is the premise of post traumatic growth for all people, rebuilding and strengthening the individual and those around you.

In an age of rapid technological advancement and the sharing of information, we have the capability to both shift our values quickly and finally make War a thing of the past. It is time to transcend the War mentality and bring humanity together. So how do we create a world of Peace? The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated that, “those who love Peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love War.” In the two year period I have been with the Veterans for Peace, I have seen great organization from this group of dedicated men and women. To follow that up, the great futurist Buckminster Fuller stated that, “you never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” This reality hits us hard in an old outdated socioeconomic system based on competition, scarcity, strategic advantage, and the priority of profit over human well being.

Today in the 21st Century, we have the capability to do much better and we must! I encourage all Veterans, peace makers, young and old people to think out of the box in creating that new model of cooperation and sustainability; to band together being a voice for logic, reason and sanity in making global peace a reality.

May Peace prevail,
Michael Hanes

Who Was Hugh Thompson?

Historical excerpt

Hugh C. Thompson, Jr. (April 15, 1943 – January 6, 2006) was a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. He is chiefly known for his role in stopping the My Lai Massacre, during which he was flying a reconnaissance mission. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Thompson joined the US Navy in 1961 — then US Army in 1966 and trained as a helicopter pilot. He volunteered for the Aerial Scout Unit and assigned to Task Force Barker to fly over Vietnamese forests and try to draw enemy fire, to pinpoint the location of troops. Serving as one door-gunner, his Crew Chief was Sp4 Glenn Andreotta and his other door-gunner was Sp4 Lawrence Colburn, both of whom would later receive recognition for heroism for their role at My Lai, though Andreotta died three weeks after the event.

An American Hero

by Jack Doxey

Hugh Thompson Official Portrait
Hugh Thompson, Jr.

The story I am about to share with you took place in Vietnam over 47 years ago. I would venture to say that most Americans have never heard of Hugh Thompson but on March 16 1968 he put his life and his reputation on the line in order to save some innocent civilians from the ravages of war. The whole event has been shoved into the dustbin of history. It’s like it never happened. Our government and military have a memory that is “hard wired” to remove any nasty events like the massacre at My Lai.

May I humbly beseech our country, our government and every American citizen to never forget but rather “learn” from the events that unfolded 43 years ago at the tiny village of My Lai.

So here is the story:

It was March 16 1968, and things seemed peaceful. The weather couldn’t be any more beautiful. Hugh Thompson, a 24 year old Army helicopter pilot, serving in Vietnam, was thankful for the clear weather. He and his two man crew left their compound and headed for what they were told was a suspected North Vietnamese stronghold. As they arrived at the small village of My Lai, Thompson maneuvered his helicopter between two tree lines. His crew member, Larry Colburn said: “You could smell the jungle and see the fog rising up. It was, by all accounts, a beautiful day” We were flying low and could clearly see the villagers. As hard as we looked, we encountered not one Vietcong. The village was occupied by women, children and old men. It was Saturday morning and they were carrying empty containers and baskets. It was obvious that they were heading to the village market. It was an activity that was probably carried out, in the same fashion, by their ancestors for generations.”

Thompson decided to move out of the area and check another nearby village. Once again no enemy was encountered. They swung their helicopter around and headed back to the village of My Lai. They dropped below the tree line and were skimming across the jungle floor. They could clearly see the villagers but this time nobody was moving. They were all dead. Women, children, infants and old men and women were piled up like cord-wood in a long irrigation ditch. To the horror of Thompson and his two man crew, they were witnessing an American army platoon, lead by Lt. Calley, in the process of systematically murdering 400 to 500 innocent Vietnamese villagers.

Helicopter pilot CWO Hugh Thompson speaks with reporters at the Pentagon Dec. 4, 1969, after testifying before a board looking into the original investigation into the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam. The Army will award Thompson the prestigious Soldier's Medal for his efforts to save Vietnamese civilians during the massacre in a ceremony at Washington's Vietnam memorial on March 6, 1998. (AP Photo/File)
Helicopter pilot CWO Hugh Thompson speaks with reporters at the Pentagon Dec. 4, 1969, after testifying before a board looking into the original investigation into the My Lai massacre in South Vietnam. The Army will award Thompson the prestigious Soldier’s Medal for his efforts to save Vietnamese civilians during the massacre in a ceremony at Washington’s Vietnam memorial on March 6, 1998. (AP Photo/File)

Hugh Thompson landed his helicopter. He placed his two men between the soldiers and the ditch. He instructed his two crew members to open fire on their American comrades if they attempted to kill one more villager. Hugh Thompson went about convincing ten terrified villagers to come out of a small earthen bunker that they were hiding in. He also discovered an 8 year old boy in the ditch. He was alive and was clinging to his dead mother.

Thompson called for additional helicopter support and they transported these few remaining villagers to a hospital and saved their lives. Hugh Thompson personally brought the young 8 year old boy to the Quang Nhai Hospital which was run by catholic nuns. The mother superior met Thompson and only at that time did he release the young boy to the care of the nun.

Paula Bock, a journalist for the Pacific Northwest Magazine, who was reporting on this tragedy said: “When you are young, thousands of miles away from your home town, terrified and surrounded by all sort of craziness it is very easy to lose your moral compass.”

The unspeakable actions of these American soldiers are not to be condoned however they are, in my opinion, symptoms of a deeper problem that exists in our country.

The Soldiers Medal
The Soldiers Medal

Could the real problem be that our government has developed a bias for violence and war? This bias for violence has been systemically institutionalized into the thinking of many American citizens. Our government’s “Might Makes Right” mantra is constantly communicated in the newspapers, TV and in the war games that we allow our children to play. Yes, our government is creating more Lt. Calleys and more My Lai massacres.

So why are we surprised when young soldiers do things similar to what was experienced in the tiny town of My Lai? It’s because they have been exposed to violence throughout their entire life. Our country inexplicably draws itself to violence and war, much like a moth draws itself to a lit candle. Symptoms of this show up in some startling statistics. The United States currently has 760 military installations throughout the world and argues that it is not empire building. We have a military budget of more than 700 billion dollars per year. This is more than the combined spending of all industrialized nations throughout the world.

“I hate war” said Dwight D. Eisenhower, “as only a soldier who has lived it can, as only one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity”

If ever the citizens of the United States should be vigilant and question their government now is the time. Seeking the truth and speaking out when you believe your country is not taking the moral high ground is not an option it is a responsibility. Dissent, rather than being unpatriotic, is the highest form of patriotism.”

At this very moment the entire world is embarking on a period of major transition. The recent earthquake in Japan and the ensuing Tsunami should jolt us into the reality that all people and all nations exist, at best, on a very fragile planet and that we need to view all people and all nations as family and work together rather than against each other. Let the United States take the recent events as a wake-up call and as a nation, abolish war as an instrument of national policy.

Let us, as a nation, take the moral high ground. Let us turn to hope and not despair. Let us transition from war into peace. Let us, as a nation, rediscover our moral compass and once again let the rest of the world view our nation not as a problem but as a solution. Let us win the admiration from the world not because of our firepower but rather our “spiritual power.”

The Soldiers Medal Certificate
The Soldiers Medal Certificate

In the Media

Seattle Times: The Choices Made: Lessons Learned from My Lai on Drawing the Line
CBS News: An American Hero
Thompson’s Recollection of My Lai: and “…you can take these wings right now ’cause they’re only sewn on with thread.”
NPR:, May 22, 2004: “You did the right thing […] but don’t look for any rewards.” Interview with Thompson, regarding Specialist Joseph Darby, the Hero of Abu-Ghraib:


The Forgotten Hero of My Lai: The Hugh Thompson Story
Four Hours in My Lai