Lead Up To Winter Soldier II - SOLDIER'S STORIES

On Sunday, 3-9-08, a fundraiser was held at the First Congregational Church of Long Beach for Iraq veterans eager to talk about the war they saw; a war rife with death, anger, courage and lies. The fundraisers intent was to help defray the costs needed to send the same vets to speak in Washington D.C. at Winter Soldier II, to be held from Thursday March 13 to Sunday March 16, prior to that The District Weekly of Long Beach asked several of them to tell them their stories.

Below you will find some snips about each and what they had to say, with the link above taking you to the rest.


Wendy Barranco was 19 when she served as an anesthesia technician at a Tikrit field hospital—from October 2005 to July 2006. She was just out of high school, like so many of her patients, including the first one she saw die.
Now she is 22, a full-time student and anti-war activist
Barranco still sounds young, with the sleepy voice of a teenager. She’s deferential, too—true to her military training—and wonderfully patient as she spells out every acronym and explains every bit of army shorthand. Her poise falters occasionally: When describing three badly burned Iraqis, she suddenly stops speaking, pausing for a full 12 seconds to steady herself. And certain aspects of the military experience are so ludicrous as to absolutely require the strongest of obscenities.
There are also moments of emotional disconnect: She talks about a “guy” with a chronically infected leg, but it soon becomes clear that she is speaking of a child who may be as young as eight.
With all of this in mind, I thank her for her time and willingness to engage in a conversation that must be very difficult—either because the stories are so gruesome and terrible, or because frequent retellings have rendered the subject so tiresome that she feels as if she’s going to go out of her mind if she has to go over it one more time. “Both,” she says.


“I got to Marine Corps boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, on Sept. 10, 2001. Boot camp is a media blackout so we didn’t realize the gravity of what was going on. The drill instructor told us the country had just been attacked by terrorists. But for all we knew he could have been exaggerating to scare us into submission.
“My first deployment was to Kuwait on Jan. 21, 2003, in preparation for the invasion. I was part of a huge boot drop. That’s not official terminology—boot drop—but it’s what they call dropping fresh infantry school graduates straight into combat. Our boot drop comprised 50 percent of the manpower of the unit we were joining. Normally they wouldn’t put so many fresh, inexperienced soldiers together in combat, but that’s the way they’re doing it in this war. I invaded Iraq on March 21, 2003, and went all the way to Baghdad. Most of the units we were supposed to attack fled when they found out we were coming. After the invasion we moved down to Karbala, the safest city in the country at the time. We supported the local businesses with our money, and were welcomed for our ability to maintain order. I came home in September.
“My second deployment was to Husaybah, from February to September of 2004. It was a meat grinder, incredibly violent, a whole different world than the Iraq I had left five months before.


Edgar Cuevas hated the Iraq war long before he landed in Tikrit where, 24 hours into his first Iraq assignment, he watched medics haul in two soldiers injured in a roadside bombing.
“From the beginning of the war, I was like, ‘Why are we even invading?’ There was no connection between Iraq and 9/11,” Cuevas says.
He grew up in Burbank, joining the Army out of high school, in January 2001.“At that time I didn’t think we’d be in a war, so I thought it was good timing,” he says.
The Army sent Specialist Cuevas to Schweinfurt, with tours in the Balkans—“police actions,” he calls them. “Both the Serbs and Albanians were really happy we were there,” he says. “We helped them and they helped us. Nothing there made me say, ‘I don’t like this, I want to get out.’”
Then, in Nov. 2003, just 12 days from the end of his service, the Army hit Cuevas and thousands of other military men and women with a stop-loss order.
“If you remember the election of 2004, John Kerry was talking about the ‘backdoor draft.’


“I joined the Army National Guard in 2000. I was a high school kid who wanted to learn a trade while serving my country. The day of September 11, I called my National Guard unit and asked them, ‘Are we going to get involved, are we going to go anywhere?’ And they told me, ‘We’re the National Guard. We don’t go anywhere.’

Visit The District Weekly to Read the Rest of the interviews.

The Sunday Times Magazine, March 1, 2008 The veterans are not against the military and seek not to indict it – instead they seek to shine a light on the bigger picture: that the Abu Ghraib prison regime and the Haditha massacre of innocent Iraqis are not isolated incidents perpetrated by “bad seeds” as the military suggests, but evidence of an endemic problem. They will say they were tasked to do terrible things and point the finger up the chain of command, which ignores, diminishes or covers up routine abuse and atrocities.
Some see it as their responsibility to speak out – like Jason Washburn, a US marine who did three tours in Iraq; Logan Laituri, a US Army forward observer in Iraq; and Perry O’Brien, an army medic deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. They believe that, as veterans, they are the most credible sources of information. They say they were put in immoral and often illegal positions. They will speak about what they saw, and what they were asked to do.
Read the article from the London Sunday Times

Winter Soldiers march to Valley Forge
Dozens of members of IVAW participated in a 25-mile march in Philadelphia from March 1-2, starting at the Constitution Center and ending at Valley Forge. In spirit, Valley Forge is the first Winter Soldier event. "230 years ago, a group of soldiers gathered at Valley Forge to stand up against oppression on behalf of their people. And we aim to do the same here today," said Steve Mortillo, president of the Philadelphia chapter of IVAW and former Calvary Scout in Iraq.
Read the Philadelphia Daily News' coverage of the Valley Forge March

Iraq Veterans Against The War-Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.

The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan - and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans' health benefits and support.

When: Thursday March 13 to Sunday March 16

For those interested in watching or organizing around the proceedings at Winter Soldier, there will be a number of ways to watch and listen to the event.

**Live television broadcast via satellite tv, accessible through Dish Network as well as public access stations that choose to carry our broadcast - Friday and Saturday only

**Live video stream on the web - Thursday through Sunday { no site url given, as yet, on this video stream }

**Live radio broadcast via KPFA in Berkley California and other Pacifica member stations - Friday through Sunday

**Live audio stream via KPFA's website - Friday through Sunday

Please return to the IVAW website for specific details in the coming weeks.

You can find out more at the IVAW - Winter Soldier - Site, on the left you will find links to the needed information, as well as some embedded links in page text.

Winter Soldier Preview

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CBS Link The Army estimates up to 20 percent of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from TBI, traumatic brain injury. Mark Strassmann reports

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“ Every war, when viewed from the undistorted perspective of life's sanctity, is a "civil war" waged by humanity against itself."

- Daisaku Ikeda

"The wise man points to the stars and the fool sees only the finger - and discusses it 24/7 on cable."