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Richmond IndyMedia Live! Every Tuesday, 12:30 - 1PM on 97.3 WRIR LP-FM, and streaming online from wrir.org!

LOCAL Commentary :: Peace & War

Bring Them Home Now Tour visits Richmond

Almost 75 people gathered Monday night for the Bring the Troops Home Now Tour’s Town Hall Meeting at Asbury United Methodist Church.

As people who have served in Iraq or relatives of them, every member of the tour told highly personal, often emotional stories of their own or their family’s first-hand experience with the war on Iraq. The message every speaker conveyed was that our troops should come home now, and that all of us who oppose the war on Iraq have a duty to speak out – starting this Saturday, September 24th in Washington D.C.

Charlie Anderson, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, summed this message up as the final speaker of the evening when he said “If we miss out on the 24th, we’ll miss our appointment with history.?
The southern leg of the Bring the Troops Home Now Tour stopped through Richmond on Monday night. The tour is bringing military families and veterans of the Iraq war to cities across the US, where they hold rallies, town hall meetings, and visit congressional representatives to communicate and build support for their goal of getting US troops out of Iraq.

In Richmond, a “Truth in Recruitment? rally was held at the Virginia Army National Guard office on W. Broad Street from 12 to 1 p.m... The Times-Dispatch inaccurately reported that only a dozen anti-war protesters were present, matched by an equal number of pro-war counter-protestors. According to rally participant Phil Wilayto and Gold Star families for peace member Julie Cuniglio, 30-40 anti-war protestors were present with about 10-20 counter-protestors. The counter-protestors insulted and belittled the anti-war protestors, but did not dampen their spirits.

In the evening, following a meal prepared by Richmond Food Not Bombs, Richmond-area residents had a chance to hear the bus tour members speak on their reasons for opposing the war on Iraq. The tour members were introduced by local activists Larry Syverson of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), and Janet Taylor of the Prosser-Truth Division No. 456 of the Universal Negro Improvement Association/African Communities League (UNIA/ACL).

Every member of the tour told highly personal, often emotional stories of their own or their family’s first-hand experience with the war on Iraq.

First to speak was Brooke Beasley, a college student from Dallas, TX, whose cousin lost his life in Iraq in 2003. Brooke has 19 family members who are retired and active duty members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Brooke’s mother, Julie Cuniglio, spoke next. She said that “speaking out isn’t something you do? in Dallas, but that when she joined Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, “we felt we weren’t alone.? Julie also informed the town hall participants that military recruiters were currently in the Astrodome in Texas, recruiting the poor, homeless, and unemployed hurricane evacuees to join the war on Iraq.

The next to speak were Military Families Speak Out members Linda and Phil Waste, who have 3 sons and 2 grandchildren (a grandson and a granddaughter) who are currently serving in the military. Together, they have already spent a total of over 58 months on tours of duty in Iraq, with 28 more months in Iraq guaranteed for the coming months. Phil received loud applause for pointing out that it’s “we the people who are making the sacrifice in Iraq. It’s not the House, it’s not the Senate, and it’s certainly not the President.? Phil and Linda ended by calling for action on 2 fronts: bringing the troops home now and caring for them once they’re home, and making our voices heard both in the upcoming mid-term elections and this weekend in DC.

The final speaker from the tour was Charlie Anderson, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He told his personal story of deployment to Iraq in March of 2003, where he left Kuwait in an unarmored humvee, wearing a flak jacket with no body armor, carrying magazines that were short 100 rounds of ammunition. When he came home, he found that Americans were more interested in cheering on this war than in taking care of our veterans. People were more interested, he said, in slapping ribbons on their cars than in sacrificing money and time to care for the physically and emotionally wounded veterans from Iraq. According to Charlie, there are over 5000 Iraq veterans who are homeless- and that only counts those that have revealed themselves as veterans. He ended his speech by calling on everyone to join together in DC this Saturday the 24th. He said he was too young to have marched with Dr. King, or joined the protests in the 70’s, but that he would not be silent now. “If we miss out on the 24th, we’ll miss our appointment with history.?

The floor was then opened for anyone’s comments or questions- several Richmond residents spoke in support of the speakers’ message – one gentleman even pledged to spend the rest of his life opposing all war. Following the town hall, a candlelight vigil was held in front of the church. Crosses and flags were arranged in the yard, a moment of silence was observed, and then 3 verses of Amazing Grace brought the evening to a close.

The message every speaker conveyed was that our troops should come home now, and that all of us who oppose the war on Iraq have a duty to speak out – starting this Saturday, September 24th in Washington D.C.
 
 


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