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FW: [vvawinc] VVAW Military Counseling Project

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  • Gronko, Robert
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2004
      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
      checkbooks!

      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:

      VVAW, Inc.
      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.

      Sincerely,

      Barry Romo,
      for the VVAW National Coordinators


      *************************************************************
      National Office
      Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.
      PO Box 408594
      Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 276-4189
      e-mail: vvaw@...
      http://www.vvaw.org

      Fighting for veterans, peace and justice since 1967
      *************************************************************
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