March 30, 2015
U.S. soldiers in Germany now have a GI coffeehouse. The Clearing Barrel Bar and Café opened Saturday, March 24, in Kaiserslautern, Germany, home to Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, among a constellation of U.S. bases, with 50,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel living in the area.
The grand opening was a big success, with over 60 people in attendance. Well-wishers enjoyed good food and drink, and marveled at the large beautifully remodeled space, with couches, tables, chairs, a bar and barstools, his and hers bathrooms, and a full kitchen.
Beautifully printed posters from the “War Is Trauma” art exhibit were displayed on spacious white walls. “War Is Trauma,”a collaboration between Just Seeds, an art collective from Brooklyn, New York, and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), is about “Operation Recovery”, a campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops and to focus public attention towards Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury and Military Sexual Trauma.
April 13, 2012
by Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon
The first chapter of Veterans For Peace in the United Kingdom is now a reality. On a dreary “Easter Monday” afternoon in a working class section of London, England, veterans, allies, friends and families gathered for the inaugural event of Veterans For Peace UK.
The Guiseppe Conlon Catholic Worker House hosted the event in the sanctuary of an old church draped with banners proclaiming peace and justice. British and Scottish veterans, young and old, fresh from their first official meeting as a VFP chapter, testified in word and song that they will go to war no more.
Ben Griffin, a former self-described “gung-ho” SAS soldier who deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but then refused to deploy again, took the lead in pulling together a diverse group of veterans. He and several of the veterans have already been active for months, participating in Occupy London, and demonstrating solidarity with Wikilieaks founder Julian Assange and alleged Wikileaks whistle-blower, PFC Bradley Manning.
Barry Ladendorf, president of the VFP chapter in San Diego, California, flew a very long way to be present on this historic occasion. When Barry was in London last year, he had attended a public meeting where he heard Ben Griffin speak about countering the influence of the military in British schools. Barry told Ben, “Hey, you ought to think about forming a Veterans For Peace chapter.” The seed was planted.
A large good-looking banner reading “Veterans For Peace UK, Established 2012” graced the altar of the church. Decorated with the VFP dove-on-helmet logo, the banner was sent by Gene Marx, VFP National Membership Coordinator, and a member of the Bellingham, Washington chapter. Gene had been maintaining regular communication with Ben leading up to the London launch. Ben and other veterans repeatedly said how much it meant to them to receive so much support and guidance from VFP members in the U.S.
Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace in the U.S. were also present at the festive launch of Veterans For Peace UK. London was the last stop on their seven-month journey around Europe, where they have networked with peace activists in many countries.
Gerry was invited to address the gathering about the importance of supporting Bradley Manning and all GI resisters. The UK VFP chapter doesn't need any nudging in this regard. Several of the founding members, including Ben Griffin and Michael Lyons, have resisted illegal wars and occupations while in the military.
“I was 18 years old when I joined the Navy,” said Michael Lyons. “It was economic conscription. I was told I could give medical aid. I spent about five years in Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I started questioning the government, wondering, are we really the good guys? I learned Diego Garcia history and decided that I'm the bad guy here, supporting B-52 bombings and torture. I'm part of this.”
“Military prison was tough,” said Lyons. “I got support from Ben, Ciaron, my family, and strangers who sent my wife money and wrote to me every day.”
Gerry Condon said it was also important to remember and support U.S. war resisters who are underground in the U.S., or seeking sanctuary abroad, including Rodney Watson in Vancouver, BC, Kimberly Rivera in Toronto, Ontario, and André Shepherd in Munich, Germany.
At its first official chapter meeting, the UK veterans agreed to pursue three priorities; Nonviolent resistance to war; supporting war resisters, and countering militarism in society, including in schools and on Armistice Day.
It looks like the first VFP chapter in the UK will do us all proud.
Tags: VFP UK The Guisseppe Conlon Catholic Worker House British and Scottish Veterans Barry Ladendorf VFP chapter in San Diego California London military in British Schools Jim Radford Ex-Service's Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Waltzin Matilda Australia Gene Marx Helen Jaccard Gerry London GI resisters Michael Lyons Diego Garcia history US embassy Wikileaks Lyons B-52 bombings Fort Meade Maryland Conscientious Objector Status prison Rodney Watson Kimberly Rivera Armistice Day
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