QUANTICO, VA — A Vermont soldier at the center of a national effort to help active-duty military personnel find ways to tell members of Congress they want the United States to pull out of Iraq is now handing out care packages at several military bases around the country that make it easy for troops to speak out.
The care packages include informational flyers and baked goods, as well as copies of the movie, Sir No Sir, a documentary about military resisters during the Vietnam War, and The Ground Truth, which follows soldiers from basic training to deployment to Iraq to their homecoming and reintegration.
“The main purpose of the care packages though, is to carry an appeal for redress in a pre-addressed envelope to the troops,” said Liam Madden, a Bellows Falls native, and U.S. Marine sergeant.
Madden said if 100 care packages can be distributed at each of the bases, he would consider that a success. The idea was kicked around on a conference call regarding the appeal for redress several weeks ago.
An “appeal for redress” is a legal means by which service members can appeal to members of Congress to urge an end to a U.S. military occupation. Under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, active-duty military, National Guard, and reservists can send a protected communication to a member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal.
“We saw the holidays as a great opportunity to reach out to the troops and simultaneously show our support and deliver our message to the active duty,” Madden said.
There are volunteers working at the following bases: Fort Carson in Colorado; Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona; Dover Air Force Base in Delaware; Groton Naval Base in Connecticut; Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia; and the cluster of bases in southern California, as well as bases near Washington, DC.
“We are working with a few dozen volunteers. Some are getting their first taste of this type of participation,” said Madden. “The project is a coalition of active service members who have submitted appeals for redress, veterans and veterans organizations, military families, and concerned citizens throughout the country.”
Madden said he has not received any hostile responses from his fellow service members or his chain of command.
“I’ve found that very few people support the occupation, but that many have reservations about us withdrawing too quickly or they feel we now owe the Iraqi people our help,” said Madden. “I also get the impression that the idea of being socially and politically involved is something very foreign to most of the fellow service members I’ve encountered.”
Madden hopes the packages will be delivered before the new year, and hopefully before Christmas.
Madden, a 2002 graduate of Bellows Falls High School, is currently stationed in Quantico, VA, after serving in Iraq’s Anbar province from September 2004 until February 2005. He currently has two months left on duty and does not plan to re-enlist.
To date, more than 1,200 U.S. servicemen and women have signed these appeals, which state: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
The idea for the redress appeals originated in January when Seaman Jonathan Hutto of Atlanta, GA, was deployed to Iraq.
An old buddy of Hutto’s, who was a member of the G.I. movement to resist the Vietnam War back in the early 1970s, sent him a 30th-anniversary copy of Soldiers in Revolt written by David Cortright. The book chronicles the movement within the military during the Vietnam War who advocated to end that war and bring the troops home. One of the avenues they used was appealing to political leaders in Washington.
By 1971 more than 250,000 of this active duty, servicemen appealed to Congress. Reading this gave Hutto an inspiration to speak out.
During the Vietnam War era, many credits the outspoken words of veterans and active-duty soldiers for bringing about an end to that war, rather than any politician or citizen-led movement.
Madden and others hope that their speaking out will help bring a quick end to the Iraq War.
For more information
The group is looking for contributions to help pay for the packages and is looking for additional volunteers.
To donate, checks can be mailed to: Appeal for Redress Holiday Project, P.O Box 53052, Washington, DC 20009-3052, or at www.appealforredress.org.
The ingredients of the care packages are:
• An appeal for redress in a pre-addressed envelope;
• The “bait,” otherwise known as baked goods and other treats;
• Where they are available we are incorporating DVDs of the films Sir No Sir and The Ground Truth; and,
• Each regional team is in charge of all other “gifts” in the care packages such as informational flyers about the supporting organizations