Iraq & Afghanistan War Veterans “Return” Their War Medals to Obama
BY WARD REILLY
Veterans for Peace
On Sunday, May 20th, 2012, I was privileged to be a witness to, and to play a part in, one of the rarest anti-war actions that military veterans have ever done. U.S. soldiers of both the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, alongside of hundreds of U.S. military veterans of other eras, gathered at the NATO Summit in Chicago to make a strong statement in opposition to the continuing occupation of Afghanistan by “returning” their war medals to the Commander in Chief, and the NATO delegates and Generals.
Approximately 20,000 “Occupy” and other protesters, such as Veterans For Peace, stood in the hot Chicago sun, after marching 2 and 1/2 miles from Grant Park to McCormick Place, and listened as 44 veterans, members of Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans Against the War, gave their personal reasons as to why they were returning their war medals, before throwing them toward the gate that separated us from President Obama.
In a country such as the USA, a nation which brainwashes it’s citizens into blindly “worshiping” and “supporting” the military and our troops, and labels anti war sentiment as “unpatriotic”, there can be little doubt that the act of these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines returning their medals “earned” in wartime, is about as strong of a condemnation statement that can be made about the legitimacy of our military occupation in Afghanistan.
The first time this happened in U.S. history was in April of 1971…(2 months after I had taken my physical in New Orleans to join the Army Infantry)…when hundreds of Viet Nam veterans gathered in Washington D.C., and thrown their medals back at Congress…an act which ignited and the civilian anti war movement, and the massive worldwide active duty GI Resistance to the Viet Nam War, and the entire Nixon Administration. Throwing your military medals back at the government is the epitome of resistance, and it’s the loudest statement that a veteran can make to our citizens, in condemning our aggressive and criminal occupations.
So to be here in Chicago, my hometown, as history repeated itself, was an emotional experience that I can hardly describe, and truly a cathartic moment for ALL the hundreds of veterans that were there, and the thousands of other veterans that wish they could have been there.
It’s beyond time to end our horrific criminal occupation of Afghanistan, and the veterans who returned their medals made that statement, beyond any doubt, on May 20, 2012 in Chicago.
A Ride Till the End aims to raise awareness about the disastrous effects of the war on veterans, Afghani civilians, and US citizens. They believe that the real costs of war for these groups have been purposefully rendered invisible. They see the war in Afghanistan as unwinnable and senseless, a death sentence for thousands of US soldiers and for tens of thousands of Afghani civilians who are caught in the crossfire. They believe that the Taliban poses no threat to the US, provided that the US leaves Afghanistan. They also believe that the war makes US citizens vulnerable to domestic terrorism against which there is no real defense.