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:

SDVFP
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 GField@san.rr.com or (858) 342-1964.

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

2015 VFP National Convention Report by Jack Doxey

By SDVFP Member Jack Doxey on August 11, 2015
Veterans for Peace National Convention
San Diego, California
August 5th to August 9th, 2015

Many of our members came from all over the country to attend our national convention in the beautiful city of San Diego. If you arrived at night you couldn’t help but notice the magnificent skyline and glistening lights that makes San Diego such a extraordinary city. However the city got considerably brighter by the presence of approximatley 400 members that carried into our town a message of “Peace and Reconciliation in the Pacific”.

We were honored to have Anthony Pico officially open our convention on Thursday morning with a cleansing ceremony. Anthony served his people for 26 years as chief of the Kumeyaay Indians. The balance of the convention was filled with keynote speakers who provided us with valuable information and inspiration to carry our message beyond the walls of the convention. Congresswoman Susan Davis, Ray McGovern, Phyllis Bennis, Marjorie Cohn and Dylan Ratigan are just a sampling of the talent that unselfishly contributed to the success of each day.

The Saturday night banquet was a gala event and our keynote speaker Seymour Hersh praised the Veterans for Peace for their unrelenting work of promoting peace and encouraged us to never to give up the good fight.

We would be remiss not to mention our recently restored ketch, the “Golden Rule” which sailed into San Diego harbor and in the process completed its new maiden voyage. The Golden Rule is all about “One boat, one mission and one incredible story.” Her original mission to abolish war and stop the testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands still holds true today.

We closed our convention by going offsite to the campus of USD, Joan Kroc Center. The title of the event was: Peace and Reconciliation. After hosting a panel discussion, we all retreated to the beautiful garden area and conducted a bowl burning ceremony which symbolized the leaving behind of past hurts and moving towards a positive future reflecting peace and harmony amongst all people and countries.

A special thanks goes out to our chairperson, Gary Butterfield, from the San Diego host chapter who tirelessly worked to make the convention a success. And yes, from all accounts it was a big success.

Jack Doxey
San Diego Chapter member

VFP Convention 2015: A Reflection

VFP Convention 2015: A Reflection
By Michael Bassett

I am grateful to Veterans For Peace (VFP) for the life-changing experience they gave me at the VFP 30th Annual Convention recently held in San Diego, CA., and for honoring me with an invitation to speak before the Korea Peace Campaign about projects I’ve done on the Korean Peninsula – or as I call it “the worlds most advanced propaganda war.”

On my arrival, a Vietnam veteran was reciting his smell-of-war poem “Piss, Shit, and Blood.” A few more Vietnam veterans followed; a female vet spoke of rape by superiors, and a former officer spoke on the suicide of his brother that couldn’t “get over” the war to the satisfaction of his father.

A former British SAS soldier who fought in Afghanistan sat in the front row next to an Iraqi Freedom double-amputee, and a WWII D-day survivor. The SAS soldier disobeyed gag orders against sharing things he’d seen and done. Threatened with punishment, he went on to denounce his Oath of Allegiance, returned his medals to the British Empire, and shared his stories with the world regardless.

The veterans’ poems painfully resurrected memories of: people burying people alive, and children with missing limbs; destroyed villages and mass migration; crimes against humanity and global instability – corporate and political greed that fueled it all. War is cruel and inhumane. The lies that stab America’s jingoistic instruments of democracy into the global psyche are largely and manipulatively ignored, but these veterans came to expose them.

As they uprooted the truths of war from their souls, a healing process began in mine; followed by an overflow of tears.

Like others there, at some point I too found myself overseas, charging the “liberating instrument” of war forward into foreign societies, until one day I did it so many times that I learned to see the world through the eyes of my enemy. It took years for me to cope with the cognitive dissonance that ensued, and many more to make sense of it. Admittedly, at some point I diverged from brainwashing enough to have sympathy for my enemies.

At first it felt unpatriotic to care about the enemy’s point of view, but the longer I suppressed it, the more frequent the hauntings came. I realized at the convention that the most patriotic thing a veteran can do is – on our return home – to share what we’ve seen, and then oppose, undermine, and reject the war machine on every front. We must dis-incentivize war and greed in order to create a permanent and lasting, peaceful coexistence.

Indeed, VFP members maintain a united front on that objective, and view ‘the necessity of our mission’ with a survival mentality. VFP members shared with me their peace-waging efforts, which were nothing short of heroic and awe-inspiring.

At dinner I met a double-amputee who – contrary to my first assumption – lost his legs (and a frontal lobe), not in Vietnam, but in an act of bravery and resistance against the war machine — when he laid on tracks to block a train en route to South America and filled with weapons to support the Contra Wars. He called ‘war’ a “war crime,” yet the government he very honorably served had labeled him a domestic terrorist for opposing the acts he’d learned were evil by witnessing them first-hand in service to his country.

But as I came to find out, none of these veterans fit the “domestic terrorist” mold. They highlighted the importance of sharing stories, peaceful protest, and non-violent civil disobedience as their strategy to ending our addiction to war. And VFP members (as I learned) make global contributions beyond peace activism. A group based out of Vietnam conducts chemical and munitions cleanups, and another group builds homes (free-of-charge) in disaster area’s, and in the remains of conflict zones.

The following days of speeches, seminars, forums, and panel discussions were delivered by vets who were highly-educated and respected members of their communities. They were doctors, lawyers, professors, CEO’s, politicians – and all shades of retired government officials ranging from CIA officers to diplomats.

In their midst I felt a level of inspiration missing since my days in uniform. And I gained what felt like a long-lost family. My heart was truly touched by their war stories and peace activism. VFP members are living proof that small groups can have noticeable, positive impacts on the world.

The 2015 Convention theme was “Peace and Reconciliation in the Pacific.” Appropriately, the convention fell on the anniversaries of the nuking of Hiroshima (06.08.1945) and Nagasaki (09.08.1945), and the division of the Korean Peninsula (10.08.1945). As we know, the Korean War is the final remnant of WWII, yet there hasn’t been peace and reconciliation in Asia despite the “end of the Cold War.”

Everything we discussed of the unending Pacific wars can be symbolically represented with one picture – an image of two USN officers and a beautiful woman eating a “Mushroom Cloud” cake just a few months later.

It is almost as if the United States has revised history and brainwashed Americans to such thorough extent that in our national psyche, the suffering of Asia is lost for basking in our successes fighting the “Great War” in Europe (a topic of discussion for another time).

It is time for America to remember traumas of the Forgotten War in Korea; and dedicate ourselves on this 70th anniversary of the peninsula’s division to ending this perpetual crime against humanity that is the Korean War.

I now realize that my healing process – my own “re-humanization” – began the moment I first questioned war as an instrument of national policy. Thanks to VFP I know that to complete my therapy (and do my patriotic duty), I must commit myself to completely rejecting war as an option and lead by acting for peace.

My Journey to Peace

My journey to Peace started when I was 13 years old. My older brother was in Vietnam in the Marine Corps, when my best friend’s older brother came home in a casket from there. The impact on my friend’s family was misery like I could have never imagined.

I went to the funeral in the big white church on the town common in our idyllic New England town, but I didn’t have the courage to go inside. The doors were open and the despair that poured from those doors was too much for me to bear. So I stood outside next to the big tree and cried alone. For many years I was ashamed that I didn’t have the fortitude to go inside and pay my respects. I think this experience did more to turn me away from religion than any other event in my life. I couldn’t understand why people gathered in that church to share such terrible misery. Nothing could be gained, so how was it possible that they could find solace?

My older brother did come home after his second tour in Vietnam, and a good thing too. Because if he had been killed I think it would have destroyed me.

By the time it was my turn to go to war I had already convinced myself that political idealism was the only justification for war, and so I volunteered to fight the Communists. But when in the military I found myself surrounded by other volunteers. Christians, that were there as students of the prince of peace. I found it shocking that a Christian was volunteering to kill people, and I even mocked them at times.

But what I didn’t understand was that we were all wrong about war.

I fixed the weapons systems on planes that were being launched 24 hours a day 7 days a week. One day two aircrews came back from a mission elated that our bombing computer was so wonderfully accurate. One plane had a 500 lb. bomb left after their mission and they had to get rid of it before they could return to base, so they used our bombing computer to drop it on a man on a bicycle. His wingman gleefully stated that the bomb had hit the man in the back, and shook our hands in gratitude. There we stood the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, killing innocent people.

Not much later we were pulled into an intelligence briefing where the man from DC told us that we were losing the war. He figured that we already knew that, but asked us to keep the war machine going so that the North Vietnamese would be forced to the peace table, and America could exit the war with good face.

We walked back to work, the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, so we could kill more innocent people.

Later still we had an alert pad in Taiwan where our planes were loaded with nuclear weapons. Richard Nixon, our President at the time, was under political siege and seemed visibly unstable to me on TV. The Israelis and Egyptians were at war and Nixon called a DEFCOM 3, putting the military one step from war. We had already killed 3 million mostly innocent civilians in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. If Nixon had commanded a strike I am convinced that we would have killed another 10 Million Chinese. And there we would have stood the students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, shoulder to shoulder, mass murderers.

It took me a long time to rid myself of my ideology, but the final straw was broken when we invaded Iraq. I was shocked that we would do this again and I found Veterans For Peace. We placed crosses on the beach first by the hundreds and later by the thousands, one for every US military person killed. Then we read their names, often with family members and friends listening. Their tears and expressions gave me the same feelings of despair and misery that poured from that church in New England long ago. Nothing had changed.

Also standing there listening to us reading the names of the fallen were the young students of the prince of peace, and political ideologues, with their short military haircuts. Shoulder to shoulder and at the ready. Just like us, at the ready to kill innocent people.

This is why I work for Peace.

By Dave Patterson, San Diego Veterans For Peace

The War Against Ourselves

An interview with Major Doug Rokke (originally published in May 2003)

Doug Rokke has a PhD in health physics and was originally trained as a forensic scientist. When the Gulf War started, he was assigned to prepare soldiers to respond to nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare, and sent to the Gulf. What he experienced has made him a passionate voice for peace, traveling the country to speak out. The following interview was conducted by the director of the Traprock Peace Center, Sunny Miller, supplemented with questions from YES! editors.

QUESTION: Any viewer who saw the war on television had the impression this was an easy war, fought from a distance and soldiers coming back relatively unharmed. Is this an accurate picture?

ROKKE: At the completion of the Gulf War, when we came back to the United States in the fall of 1991, we had a total casualty count of 760: 294 dead, a little over 400 wounded or ill. But the casualty rate now for Gulf War veterans is approximately 30 percent. Of those stationed in the theater, including after the conflict, 221,000 have been awarded disability, according to a Veterans Affairs (VA) report issued September 10, 2002.

Many of the US casualties died as a direct result of uranium munitions friendly fire. US forces killed and wounded US forces.

We recommended care for anybody downwind of any uranium dust, anybody working in and around uranium contamination, and anyone within a vehicle, structure, or building that’s struck with uranium munitions. That’s thousands upon thousands of individuals, but not only US troops. You should provide medical care not only for the enemy soldiers but for the Iraqi women and children affected, and clean up all of the contamination in Iraq.

And it’s not just children in Iraq. It’s children born to soldiers after they came back home. The military admitted that they were finding uranium excreted in the semen of the soldiers. If you’ve got uranium in the semen, the genetics are messed up. So when the children were conceived-the alpha particles cause such tremendous cell damage and genetics damage that everything goes bad. Studies have found that male soldiers who served in the Gulf War were almost twice as likely to have a child with a birth defect and female soldiers almost three times as likely.

Q: You have been a military man for over 35 years. You served in Vietnam as a bombardier and you are still in the US Army Reserves. Now you’re going around the country speaking about the dangers of depleted uranium (DU). What made you decide you had to speak publicly about DU?

ROKKE: Everybody on my team was getting sick. My best friend John Sitton was dying. The military refused him medical care, and he died. John set up the medical evacuation communication system for the entire theater. Then he got contaminated doing the work.

John and Rolla Dolph and I were best friends in the civilian world, the military world, forever. Rolla got sick. I personally got the order that sent him to war. We were both activated together. I was given the assignment to teach nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare and make sure soldiers came back alive and safe. I take it seriously. I was sent to the Gulf with this instruction: Bring ’em back alive. Clear as could be. But when I got all the training together, all the environmental cleanup procedures together, all the medical directives, nothing happened.

More than 100 American soldiers were exposed to DU in friendly fire accidents, plus untold numbers of soldiers who climbed on and entered tanks that had been hit with DU, taking photos and gathering souvenirs to take home. They didn’t know about the hazards.

DU is an extremely effective weapon. Each tank round is 10 pounds of solid uranium-238 contaminated with plutonium,neptunium, americium. It is pyrophoric, generating intense heat on impact, penetrating a tank because of the heavy weight of its metal. When uranium munitions hit, it’s like a firestorm inside any vehicle or structure, and so we saw tremendous burns, tremendous injuries. It was devastating.

The US military decided to blow up Saddam’s chemical, biological, and radiological stockpiles in place, which released the contamination back on the US troops and on everybody in the whole region. The chemical agent detectors and radiological monitors were going off all over the place. We had all of the various nerve agents. We think there were biological agents, and there were destroyed nuclear reactor facilities. It was a toxic wasteland. And we had DU added to this whole mess.

When we first got assigned to clean up the DU and arrived in northern Saudi Arabia, we started getting sick within 72 hours. Respiratory problems, rashes, bleeding, open sores started almost immediately.

When you have a mass dose of radioactive particulates and you start breathing that in, the deposit sits in the back of the pharynx, where the cancer started initially on the first guy. It doesn’t take a lot of time. I had a father and son working with me. The father is already dead from lung cancer, and the sick son is still denied medical care.

Q: Did you suspect what was happening?

ROKKE: We didn’t know anything about DU when the Gulf War started. As a warrior, you’re listening to your leaders, and they’re saying there are no health effects from the DU. But, as we started to study this, to go back to what we learned in physics and our engineering-I was a professor of environmental science and engineering-you learn rapidly that what they’re telling you doesn’t agree with what you know and observe.

In June of 1991, when I got back to the States, I was sick. Respiratory problems and the rashes and neurological things were starting to show up.

Q: Why didn’t you go to the VA with a medical complaint?

ROKKE: Because I was still in the Army, and I was told I couldn’t file. You have to have the information that connects your exposure to your service before you go to the VA. The VA obviously wasn’t going to take care of me, so I went to my private physician. We had no idea what it was, but so many good people were coming back sick.

They didn’t do tests on me or my team members. According to the Department of Defense’s own guidelines put out in 1992, any excretion level in the urine above 15 micrograms of uranium per day should result in immediate medical testing, and when you get up to 250 micrograms of total uranium excreted per day, you’re supposed to be under continuous medical care.

Finally the US Department of Energy performed a radiobioassay on me in November 1994, while I was director of the Depleted Uranium Project for the Department of Defense. My excretion rate was approximately 1500 micrograms per day. My level was 5 to 6 times beyond the level that requires continuous medical care.

But they didn’t tell me for two and a half years.

Q: What are the symptoms of exposure to DU?

ROKKE: Fibromyalgia. Eye cataracts from the radiation. When uranium impacts any type of vehicle or structure, uranium oxide dust and pieces of uranium explode all over the place. This can be breathed in or go into a wound. Once it gets in the body, a portion of this stuff is soluble, which means it goes into the blood stream and all of your organs. The insoluble fraction stays-in the lungs, for example. The radiation damage and the particulates destroy the lungs.

Q: What kind of training have the troops had, who are getting called up right now-the ones being shipped to the vicinity of what may be the next Gulf War?

ROKKE: As the director of the Depleted Uranium Project, I developed a 40-hour block of training. All that curriculum has been shelved. They turned what I wrote into a 20-minute program that’s full of distortions. It doesn’t deal with the reality of uranium munitions.

The equipment is defective. The General Accounting Office verified that the gas masks leak, the chemical protective suits leak. Unbelievably, Defense Department officials recently said the defects can be fixed with duct tape.

Q: If my neighbors are being sent off to combat with equipment and training that is inadequate, and into battle with a toxic weapon, DU, who can speak up?

ROKKE: Every husband and wife, son and daughter, grandparent, aunt and uncle, needs to call their congressmen and cite these official government reports and force the military to ensure that our troops have adequate equipment and adequate training. If we don’t take care of our American veterans after a war, as happened with the Gulf War, and now we’re about ready to send them into a war again-we can’t do it. We can’t do it. It’s a crime against God. It’s a crime against humanity to use uranium munitions in a war, and it’s devastating to ignore the consequences of war.

These consequences last for eternity. The half life of uranium 238 is 4.5 billion years. And we left over 320 tons all over the place in Iraq.

We also bombarded Vieques, Puerto Rico, with DU in preparation for the war in Kosovo. That’s affecting American citizens on American territory. When I tried to activate our team from the Department of Defense responsible for radiological safety and DU cleanup in Vieques, I was told no. When I tried to activate medical care, I was told no.

The US Army made me their expert. I went into the project with the total intent to ensure they could use uranium munitions in war, because I’m a warrior. What I saw as director of the project, doing the research and working with my own medical conditions and everybody else’s, led me to one conclusion: uranium munitions must be banned from the planet, for eternity, and medical care must be provided for everyone, not just the US or the Canadians or the British or the Germans or the French but for the American citizens of Vieques, for the residents of Iraq, of Okinawa, of Scotland, of Indiana, of Maryland, and now Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Q: If your information got out widely, do you think there’s a possibility that the families of those soldiers would beg them to refuse?

ROKKE: If you’re going to be sent into a toxic wasteland, and you know you’re going to wear gas masks and chemical protective suits that leak, and you’re not going to get any medical care after you’re exposed to all of these things, would you go? Suppose they gave a war and nobody came. You’ve got to start peace sometime.

Q: It does sound remarkable for someone who has been in the military for 35 years to be talking about when peace should begin.

ROKKE: When I do these talks, especially in churches, I’m reminded that these religions say, “And a child will lead us to peace.” But if we contaminate the environment, where will the child come from? The children won’t be there. War has become obsolete, because we can’t deal with the consequences on our warriors or the environment, but more important, on the noncombatants. When you reach a point in war when the contamination and the health effects of war can’t be cleaned up because of the weapons you use, and medical care can’t be given to the soldiers who participated in the war on either side or to the civilians affected, then it’s time for peace.

For more information on DU, see the WISE Uranium Project, www.antenna.nl/wise/uranium/; the National Gulf War Resource Center, www.ngwrc.org; or Veterans for Common Sense, www.veteransforcommonsense.org. Sunny Miller’s interview was originally broadcast on WMFO (Boston) in November 2002 and is available for re-broadcast at www.traprockpeace.org.

http://www.YESMAGAZINE.ORG/25environmentandhealth/rokke.htm