Reflections and Hope on Veterans Day


Image of veterans at DNC in support of Obamafrom
November 11, 2008

While it is fitting that our nation reserves a special day to honor the sacrifice and commitment of our warriors, it also serves to highlight how we, as a country, have fallen short of caring for our veterans, reintegrating them back into our communities, and demanding that our military be used responsibly and only as a last resort. Over 1.7 million men and women of the U.S. military have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them now struggle to cope with physical and emotional injuries, with family relationships strained because of prolonged separation, and with finding employment during an economic recession.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War know that in order to truly honor our veterans, we must listen to them, not just on Veterans Day, but on the other 364 days as well. It is for each other, our military brothers and sisters, and for our country that IVAW works every day to share our experiences, to challenge the predominant narrative of war as heroic and glorious, and to expose people to the brutal reality and true human costs of modern warfare.

Over the past four and a half years, IVAW has been working to transform our military experiences into a force for positive change. Be it at Winter Soldier this past March, Winter Soldier on the Hill in May, or at regional Winter Soldier events in Rochester, NY, Seattle, WA, Madison, WI, and others, IVAW has been dedicated to making sure that Americans get an eyewitness account of the occupations.

While we breathe a sigh of relief at the end of the Bush Administration, we cannot forget that the war is not over. As the Obama Administration takes power, IVAW will be holding the Democrats accountable for their rhetoric that they will end the war and care for our veterans. To this end, IVAW has continued, since the DNC, to request a meeting with now President-elect Obama, and members of his staff. We’ve recently been contacted by a member of Obama’s veteran staff and will be meeting with representatives of both his Veteran and Foreign Affairs Committees this month. This is a huge opportunity for IVAW to assert our voice and perspective at a new level.

IVAW remains committed to achieving our three goals of immediate withdrawal from Iraq, reparations for the Iraqi people, and full benefits and adequate care for our veterans. We may have a new president, but we continue to face some very old challenges. IVAW will continue to speak, march, reenact our experiences, walk the halls of congress and, most importantly, talk to other service members and veterans.

Kelly Dougherty
Executive Director

IVAW’s open letter to Obama

On November 4th Americans came together across lines of race, gender, class, and religion to elect Barack Obama as President of the United States, marking an historic moment for our nation.

Over the course of President-elect Obama’s campaign, many were ignited with the hope that change is possible, and we share that hope. As we take a moment to reflect on the significance of this vote, it is important for us to remember that our struggles did not end on election night. Real change has never come because of the actions of any one person, but only through the combined efforts of grassroots organizing by people with the courage and conviction to see their struggle through to the end.

Over the last four and a half years, Iraq Veterans Against the War has brought our message of change to our fellow veterans and members of the military, the American public, and indeed the world. Our message remains the same: it is time to immediately withdraw all occupying forces from Iraq; it is time to end the death and destruction facing the people of Iraq and address the needs of the Iraqi people; and it is time to provide our veterans with the care and benefits that they need and have earned through their service to our country.

In recent months, we have expanded our focus to address the political parties, and we look forward to continuing an open dialogue with our new President and his staff in the months to come. We will remind President-elect Obama of his statement in August 2007, that “ending this war will be my first priority when I take office.” While we understand and share concern that addressing our economic crises must be a top priority, we know that we cannot repair our economy if we continue the costly occupation of Iraq — an immense financial burden which is simply unsustainable.

We acknowledge the shift in focus from the war in Iraq to the war in Afghanistan, and we encourage President-elect Obama to listen to the Afghan people and U.S. veterans of that conflict before making any decision to escalate the occupation of Afghanistan.

As veterans of these wars, we have seen through our experiences that the first casualty in war is the truth. We have also seen the power that exists when soldiers and veterans find their voices and tell their stories, resurrecting the truth that has been lost in the false glory and heroism of war.

These are messages that Iraq Veterans Against the War will continue to spread, because we know that one leader, one Administration, or one political party is not going to make the change we need. Rather, it is up to us collectively to continue organizing for that change. The election of Barack Obama affords us a fresh opportunity in our struggle, but as our history tells us when it comes to ending wars and occupations, the power is truly in the hands of the people and our military. We will continue to keep fighting for our goals and ask that you join us.

To read IVAW’s open letter to President-elect Obama, click here.

In order to continue organizing troops and veterans to end the occupation of Iraq, we need your help. Please donate today to help us amplify the voices of our over 1,400 members.

Thank you for your continued support,

Kelly Dougherty
Former Sergeant, Army National Guard
Executive Director
Iraq Veterans Against the War

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