When I left for Iraq, I didn't know there was such a thing as Peace Action.
I didn't know that there was an entire community of activists who would have come together to support me if I had spoken out and refused to go to Iraq. Here in New Hampshire, or "way down south up north," the prospect of living my life with the label coward, convict, or traitor was enough to keep me from resisting.
So I went to Iraq, and for eleven months I did the job of an Infantryman. I came home, thankfully alive, but tortured. What I had done to avoid the labels coward, convict and traitor, had driven me to commit an act of cowardice, and betray my conscience; I had become in my own mind, a murderer.
Wracked with guilt, and reeling from the trauma of war, I felt the need to make a difference, but I did not know where to start. Then I found my local chapter of Peace Action.
The director of New Hampshire Peace Action, Anne Miller, was in the process of starting a film series featuring Soldiers of Conscience. The film outlined the stories of four soldiers who had found the courage to resist. She asked me to tour with the film around New Hampshire, and talk about the war in Iraq. I did, and little by little, I was able to process what I had done in a new light.
I was able to talk about the experience of war, and how I felt about my experiences. Little by little, I felt the burden I carried grow lighter. I felt like what I had done could be used to deliver a message of peace to people who could not hear it in the same way from someone who had not been where I had been, who had not done what I had done. I now saw that my experience held value, in that I could use it to change this system.
Eventually, I joined the board of directors of New Hampshire Peace Action, and when Anne moved on, I took over as director. Now I am able to come in to work every day, and work for peace. Nothing could be more healing for me.
Thank you, for being a part of the community that helped me to become whole again.
When you give to Peace Action, you are giving to a group that is working at every level, to educate, advocate, and agitate for a more just and sensible foreign policy, one that could keep situations like the one I found myself in from even happening. You also work to create a community that is a place where all of us can take our energy and make change happen with structure and direction, a place to come together, and multiply our efforts.
So this Memorial Day, please remember the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, and do your part to make sure they are not unjustly placed in harm's way, and work to build the community and the culture that makes it okay for them to follow their conscience. Please give generously to Peace Action!
Director, New Hampshire Peace Action/New Hampshire Peace Action Education Fund
National Board Member, Veterans for Peace.
P.S. Thank you for all you do for peace. Your contribution to Peace Action will help deliver a message of peace to people across the country, grow our community of peace activists, and multiply our work together for peace.