FW: [vvawinc] VVAW Military Counseling Project
- This is for anyone interested in helping our returning military personnel.
Dear VVAW Members and Supporters:
We need your help with a new initiative concerning the establishment of
a VVAW military counseling service. We are issuing a challenge to all
VVAW contacts, chapters, at-large members, and supporters. Get out your
As National Coordinators of VVAW, we now see thousands of young people
in the military experiencing what many of us experienced when we were
serving in Vietnam. We see 'the new draft' where soldiers' enlistments
are involuntarily continued beyond the end date. We read about the
soldier who asked for help with combat stress and was threatened with
court-martial for cowardice. We know that soldiers cannot depend on the
confidentiality of their conversations with military personnel like
chaplains who are paid to put the interests of the military above those
of the soldiers who seek their counsel.
Because we support veterans and because GI's who know and exercise their
rights are a threat to the war machine, we want to hire an experienced
military counselor, Ray Parrish. Ray has agreed to work for us on a
half-time basis (although he is already talking about using a cell-phone
so he can be available 24/7!).
American GI's must be made aware of the fact that they have
non-governmental, non-judgmental counseling available to them in person,
on the phone, or over the internet. The nature of the war that American
GI's are now called upon to fight will produce veterans with
post-traumatic stress symptoms that include violence against their
comrades-in-arms, their family and against strangers. Many of these
combat veterans will never speak of these problems to anyone in uniform
because they fear disciplinary action or ridicule. Going to a civilian
counselor is the only way they will get the treatment that they need to
recover and survive.
VVAW's new military counselor, Ray Parrish, was raised in the military.
His father served in World War II and two tours in Vietnam, so Ray
grew up on a military base surrounded by Vietnam vets. After his own
active duty (USAF 1972-75, Sgt.), Ray worked as a veterans' outreach
counselor in college and served as the Executive Director of the Midwest
Committee for Military Counseling until funds dried up in 1995. Since
then he worked for the American Legion as a Veterans Service Officer for
nearly five years, and then as a rehabilitation caseworker with the
mentally ill homeless. In addition to knowledge and clinical skills
developed over decades, Ray also has a broad network of connections
-- with sympathetic Veterans Administration counselors, with mainstream
veterans' organizations, with staff of the Vets Centers.
Even without a salary, Ray is continuing to help Eddie Randolph, a
soldier with a mental illness. While Eddie was in a mental hospital
awaiting medical retirement, the military payroll system failed to
deposit several of his paychecks into his account at the federal credit
union. Not realizing this, his wife wrote some bad checks. As a
service member, Eddie was held responsible for the behavior of his
dependents. He was transferred from the mental hospital to the brig for
court-martial, convicted, and sent to Fort Leavenworth -- writing bad
checks on a federal credit union is a federal crime.
Eddie wrote to Ray at Midwest Center for Military Counseling, and Ray
went through the complex steps to get his records and sent a letter with
all the documentation to the commandant at Fort Leavenworth. As a
result, Eddie was released and began accompanying Ray on speaking
engagements. However, he never received the medical retirement he
deserved, and Ray is still working to get it for him.
In another open case, Jim Gates, an Atomic Veteran, seriously ill from
the effects of radiation released in atomic tests, was living on the
streets because the military would not acknowledge his service-connected
disability. Ray got him a place to sleep and found a lawyer to get him
on social security disability. With the social security disability, the
VA was willing to offer him services, but Ray is still fighting for
recognition of the service connection of Jim's health problems.
This month, soldier D., a member of the national guard who does not want
to be shipped out to Iraq, has contacted Ray. Ray will be working with
him to help him get out of the guard.
We do not see military counseling as only a service to individuals.
Outside of the prison system, the military is the most repressive
institution in the U.S. Soldiers are kept ignorant of the rights that
they do have. Soldiers who know their rights and exercise them create a
problem for the war machine. Helping increase the trickle of
Conscientious Objectors who come out of Iraq -- particularly CO's who
speak out -- helps the public see the immorality of the war and lets other
GI's see that they are not alone in their opposition to the war and that
they can do something other than stay in and fight.
Military counseling is part of VVAW's outreach to veterans of other
wars. In addition to help with their individual situations, we want to
offer them an opportunity for education about the real purposes of war
that are hidden behind government and media propaganda. We will invite
them to participate in VVAW activities that meet their interests and
outlooks -- perhaps helping to feed homeless vets, perhaps participating
in anti-war demonstrations, perhaps serving as speakers to share their
experiences with others.
VVAW is an all-volunteer organization. But military counseling requires
such great expertise and time commitment, that we cannot offer it solely
on a volunteer basis. We need to provide some financial compensation
for this work, we need to pay for an 800 number, and we need to get
office space, a computer, etc.
We need your help to get the VVAW military counseling project off the
ground. Every penny you contribute in response to this appeal will go
for the military counseling effort. Please make checks out to: "VVAW,
Inc" and on the memo line of your check write: "for VVAW Military
Counseling". Send these ear-marked donations to:
PO Box 408594
Chicago, IL 60640
We thank you for your continuing support of VVAW in the struggle for
peace and social justice, and we look forward to working with all of you
in our continuing efforts.
for the VVAW National Coordinators
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.
PO Box 408594
Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 276-4189
Fighting for veterans, peace and justice since 1967