|Louis Raprager||T.J. Thompson||James M. Rine||Joshua Farris|
|Stephanie (Steph) R. Atkinson||Jim Driscoll||Rev. James L. Swarts||Brian Trautman|
|Michael L. Wong||
Long Beach California - Chapter 110
My name is Louis Raprager. I am a proud member of Veterans For Peace, serve on the Steering Committee for Climate Crisis and Militarism Project, am an active participant of the Communication Committee, Gamers for Peace and the deported veterans ``Leave No One Behind” Project. I am also an active member of my local chapter of Veterans for Peace Chapter 110, and have recently volunteered to work as a liaison with the local chapters of Military Families Speak Out, The Poor People's Campaign, The Long Beach Area Peace Network, The Orange County Peace Coalition and the National Network Opposed to the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). I would be honored to be selected for the Board of directors.
While wearing the uniform, I served onboard the USS Abraham Lincoln. It was there that I witnessed first-hand George Bush’s famous "Mission Accomplished" speech and realized that I was witnessing another lie being told. It was there that I realized that every death of a civilian child or adult and every death of a fellow service member could be laid at the president’s feet. It was also there that I realized that there was no plan, no purpose, and certainly no exit strategy for the war machine to ever end. And it was there that I realized the "forever wars'' had begun.
As a board member I will continue to work hard on the multiple projects that I am already a part of, such as ensuring that multiple “Leave No One Behind” Murals are erected in my community, raising awareness that the military is responsible for the climate crisis and advocating for decreasing the military budget, but also work on making VFP a safe and welcoming environment. I will work to increase individual and chapter support and envision taking Veterans for Peace to the next level by increasing membership, developing camaraderie and creating more allies.
As a Navy veteran that was on the “Mission Accomplished” ship I had a feeling that I needed to have my own mission accomplished and so I joinedVeterans For Peace. Veterans For Peace has given me a purpose and my selection to the board will help make my vision for an even greater future for our organization a reality.
I am a current appointed Board Member and as such I have learned a lot and also see where we need to go to continue VFP down the path of growth. By continuing organizational outreach with allied organizations we will see a rise in membership.
Chesapeake, VA - Independent
I am a veteran of the U.S. Navy, enlisted from 1998–2004. I was stationed on board USS Portland, LSD-37 from 2000–03 and deployed to Europe in the Mediterranean Sea, South America, and in support of the Global War On Terror to the Persian Gulf in early 2003. I was raised in Chesapeake, VA where I currently reside with my family and work on community and national organizing volunteering as an advocate with groups including the Poor People’s Campaign, About Face: Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, and Drug Policy Alliance . I worked directly with the U.S. House and Senate on marijuana policy reform for veterans and currently engage in ongoing work locally with Hampton Roads Poor People’s Campaign and nationally with Veterans For Peace recently organizing Take Back Armistice Day ‘21 at the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial Wall, VFP marching in the June ‘22 PPC march on Washington DC, and our climate action and tabling at the Rage Against the Machine concerts in DC August ‘22.
I’m approaching board membership with a focus on three areas- increasing our fusion organizing against the military industrial complex, increase VFP visibility and actions in the mid-Atlantic region (including in DC), and increase awareness of military operations (especially the Navy and Marines) in South America (like the UNITAS deployment I participated in). I believe these areas of focus will not only increase our visibility and outreach, but will also help bring in more funding opportunities.
Stephanie R. Atkinson (Steph)
Renton, WA - Seattle Chapter 92 chapter / Independent Membership
Army (Gulf War Era, 6 years)
My name is Stephanie Atkinson, I'm a former Army Reservist who refused my orders to deploy to Kuwait in October of 1990. After being arrested and briefly incarcerated, I was separated with an "other than honorable in lieu of courts martial" discharge. Since my discharge in 1990, I graduated from Clark Atlanta University with a master's in library and information science. I worked as a librarian for over 20 years in a variety of environments--schools, public and university libraries, and even CNN. My education and training has enhanced my skills of observation, my service oriented approach to achieving "YES" when working collaboratively, and my drive to achieve specific and measurable goals. I currently serve as chapter secretary to VFP Seattle chapter 92 and as staff of Courage to Resist.
My goals as a board member are:
- proactively support the everyday work of VFP National Staff to successfully implement the direction of the organization.
- proactively prevent war by directly denying the military access to our resources--namely our youth--through truth in recruiting campaigns that assume an anticipatory posture rather than reactionary one. Encouraging every member to equip and view themselves as counter-recruiters to the military who can recognize and act on the many opportunities to tell the truth about the destruction of military service.
- actively assess the electronic/technical needs of members to improve communications within the organization by meeting members where they are and building skills.
- advance the visibility and full participation of non-white, non-binary, "minority" members of this organization to the forefront as the eventual successors of the future Veterans For Peace.
I am running as an agent of change. I may not see the outcome of my actions during my tenure (if elected) or even my lifetime. I am determined, however, that my actions, no matter how small, will have an impact for the overall good. Thanks for considering my candidacy.
Minneapolis, MN - Chapter 27
Army (Post 9-11, 4 years)
I'm an activist out of Seattle that joined the peace movement in 2005 after returning from a deployment to Iraq in 2003. I've studied History and anthropology and currently live in the Twin Cities where I joined VFP chapter 27 early this year. Organized inside occupy movement in 2012 and continued as a community organizer fighting displacement, bank evictions, and human rights campaigns until today. Spent 5 years as a union electrical worker, 2 years as a teacher, and 4 years as a cavalry scout in the Army. Rank was E-4 when I got out. I grew up on a farm in a small rural community in eastern Washington and was told that I had to go to jail for two weeks or join the military when I was 18. At the time the prosecutor's proposal seemed fine. Was stationed in Korea, Germany, and Baghdad. I've got a 4 year old daughter now and working to prevent her future from being a post-apocalyptic hellscape is important for me.
I remember when there was a power peace movement during the Bush Jr administration with millions taking to the streets in opposition to an endless war on an ideology inflamed by a long history of dubious US foreign policy and know how important it is to have a power left wing peace movement for us to maintain a civil society. The resources for any solutions to our world's existential problems are locked within the bloated and expanding military industrial complex and its self perpetuating problems. The war economy must be dismantled and replaced with an economy that puts people before profit or there will be no future for our species. We must rebuild and even more powerful and effective peace movement for the masses of people or the fascist forces of xenophobia and scapegoating will fill the void left by our absence.
I want us to do more actions pressuring politicians that are supposed allies to stop voting against our interests supporting perpetual war and ever larger spending on the war economy. I want VFP to be nonpartisan and focus on building a big base and movement that is opposed to war and all the waste associated with it. I think the organization should be willing to work with liberal and conservative people that agree with our opposition to war. We should operate outside of the broken two wings of the single military corporate party that dominates US politics regardless of who is office. Democrats will be worse than Republicans if we only oppose Republicans when they are in power. We must oppose both groups equally if either votes for war and it's waste, regardless of how nice their tweets are. We must be serious and focus on the substance of our movement, especially represented by people killed and wasted by the Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden regimes. They are all war criminals.
Michael L. Wong
San Francisco, CA - Chapter 69
After a year in the US Army, in 1969 Michael Wong received orders to Viet Nam, went AWOL for two weeks, then turned himself in to the Army’s Presidio stockade, refused orders for Viet Nam, and tried to press a Limited Conscientious Objector case (objection to an illegal and immoral war, not to legitimate wars of national defense). The Army rejected his refusal, dropped three felony charges totaling 15 years in prison, and released him back on Viet Nam orders, so Mike deserted to Canada. He returned after the war, pleaded guilty to Long Term AWOL, got an Undesirable Discharge, and later became a social worker with a Master of Social Work degree. As a social worker, he worked in the fields of mental health, developmental disabilities, children's services, and elder services. He retired in 2013. He is featured in the documentary, “Sir! No Sir!” and in the anthologies, “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace,” edited by Maxine Hong Kingston, “Waging Peace in Vietnam,” edited by Ron Carver, David Cortright, and Barbara Doherty, and “A Matter of Conscience,” by William Short.
I am the vice president of the San Francisco chapter of Veterans For Peace (VFP), a member of the Veterans Writers Group led by Maxine Hong Kingston, a co-founder of Pivot To Peace (a coalition of the Chinese and peace communities: https://peacepivot.org/ ), co-chair of the VFP China Working Group, and serve on the Executive Committee of the “Comfort Women” Justice Coalition (https://remembercomfortwomen.org/ ), which built a statue to honor the "Comfort Women" of WW2 who were enslaved, raped, and majority died in imprisonment during the war. I would like to bring my working knowledge of America's current Cold War 2 against China, Russia, and the Third World to VFP at the national level, and rise awareness and organize against the dangers of the new Cold War 2, including the danger of nuclear war and increased climate change.
I already with other national peace organizations including Code PInk, ANSWER, and Pivot To Peace, and can bring my network of contacts to assist with VFP work.
Maryland - Chapter 16, DC
A combat veteran of Vietnam, Jim Driscoll quit teaching at MIT in 1982 to work full-time on nuclear disarmament (for those of a certain age, the "Freeze" and the American Peace Test at the Nevada Test Site.) For the last forty years, he has helped found and fund a number of successful local, state and national peace and social justice organizations. For the last eleven years, he has focused primarily on climate change and nonviolent direct action, including co-founding Extinction Rebellion-DC and hiring and training a hundred BIPOC students this year as Green New Deal Interns in Montgomery County, MD, USA. He helped launch and fund VFP’s current campaign to “Stop the war! Save the climate!"
I have helped raise $30 million for progressive to radical non-profit organizations and would like to help raise funds for VFP. As an older, white, male, heterosexual, professional-middle-class, Vietnam veteran, I believe our generation of veterans has a responsibility to recruit and support a new, intersectional generation of members, leaders and staff.
James M. Rine
Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Chapter 74 – The Michael Gramlich – Steve Saelzler - Metro Detroit
In 1947, I was born in Detroit, Michigan where I was educated in public and parochial schools until I enrolled at the University of Miami in Miami, FL. There I hoped to study to become an oceanographer. I joined Army ROTC thinking my army service would lessen the need for one more draftee from back home. (Youthful ignorance?) After being awarded an ROTC scholarship (and a 4-year commitment), I graduated in 1969 and reported to armor officer basic school. In my initial weeks at Ft. Knox, I read Bernard Fall’s Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu, and decided the Vietnamese knew what they were doing and we probably did not. Later with my new wife’s blessing I successfully lobbied for posting in West Germany where I served from 1970 to 1973. There I discovered military death and destruction are not reserved to the battlefield. Perhaps my activism in VFP results from a feeling of partial responsibility for a few of those deaths. Returning to the US and after 6 years of study and research I completed my PhD. In marine geology from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. My geologic career includes stints in academics and industry with research into marine sediments, environmental science, and petroleum geology. This research led me to many remote places in South America, Asia, Africa, and within the USA. In 2005, while living in Houston, TX, I began my opposition to both the war in Iraq and the petroleum industry’s willful denial of climate change. Opposition to the war led me to protests, joining of VFP, and helping reestablish VFP012. Eventually, I participated in actions at Camp Casey in Crawford, TX. In Houston, I organized flag memorials that included labeled flags for each US casualty of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The local CODEPINK chapter eventually joined us with memorials to civilian losses. These displays continued until 2015, although eventually diminished to TX only casualties. When I retired and returned to my hometown of Detroit, MI, I continued my climate work, completing my second of two peer-reviewed papers arguing that the petroleum industry should help mitigate climate change. This work was in vain as was years of traveling to DC with Citizens’ Climate Lobby to meet with members of Congress. In 2019, I was grateful to find a group within VFP wanting to organize a project linking militarism with climate change. That group became the Climate Crisis & Militarism Project.
I am a cofounder of the Climate Crisis & Militarism Project (CCMP). Within CCMP I am responsible for monitoring Federal action related to climate change. I helped shepherd introduction by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) of H. Res. 767, which calls on DoD to report their annual emissions and to develop mission reduction plans. H. Res. 767 was introduced in November 2021. I also helped develop a 2-3-year strategic plan for CCMP that includes actions extending to 2024 and the Presidential debates. While residing in Houston, TX (2004-2016), I helped reestablish VFP chapter 12 and rotated through offices within the chapter until 2016. (VFP012 is now inactive.) Annual flag memorials, which occurred in Houston from 2005 to 2015, were organized by me. I also rotated through leadership in an environmental organization, OilPatch Democrats (OPD), within the Texas Democratic Party. Within OPD, I helped lobby for inclusion of climate change related planks in the Texas Democratic state platform and helped organize environment-oriented caucus meetings at multiple Texas Democratic Party conventions. I feel my past and present experiences with all the aforementioned organizations are an asset I will bring to the VFP Board of Directors.
Like the US military, I know that climate change is an existential threat. Unlike the military, I know our military is part of the problem and not the solution. As a veteran and a scientist who has researched the effects of climate change, I feel I can assist VFP address the increasingly dire climate crisis. VFP has many projects ranging from promoting peace to the welfare of veterans, all of which will have to operate in a changing climate. I feel my expertise and commitment will be of some help in VFP’s efforts to adapt.
Rev. James L. Swarts
Rochester, NY - Chapter 23
After serving six years in the U.S. Navy during the Cold War and the U.S. War on Vietnam, I returned to college and eventually earned a B.S.Ed. and a M.A. in History. In my first semester in college I helped to organize and founded the college veterans club to aid and assist fellow veterans, many returning from service in Vietnam, and succeeded in getting the college to award veterans academic credit for applicable military service and training. After the Kent State massacre, I became actively engaged in the anti-war protests, which led to the college being shut down in the middle of final exams. Due to anti-war protest involvement the following year I was dismissed from a part-time college administrative job.
I eventually took a "temporary" job as a Federal Officer, which lasted over twenty-seven years. During that career I became militantly involved with the union as an officer and steward, and eventually became a full-time union representative.
Being called to serve and minister I started in seminary while still working and earned my M.Div. degree after retiring from the government. After a short stint in parish ministry, church politics overrode ministry and when I was recruited by my alma mater to teach history I jumped at the opportunity and spent the next fourteen years teaching United State History at the State University of New York at Geneseo.
Simultaneously with my careers was engagement in civic and peace organizations. Especially helping to organize anti-war and peace demonstrations during Bush's wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and everywhere else. In addition to VFP, I worked with several local and national organizations in staging anti-war demonstrations locally and in Washington. I served eleven years on the national Steering Committee of Historians Against the War and Historians For Peace and Democracy. For the past six year I have served as President of VFP Chapter 23, Rochester, NY.
As a former federal officer who was trained in many facets of process analysis and quality improvement, and served for years as a Quality Coordinator responsible for my agency's programs in all of New York State north of New York City, I bring a perspective of team building and problem solving to improve organizational structure and quality customer service.
As a trained conflict management instructor, and pastoral counselor, I hope to be able to lend my, albeit rusty, experiences to searching for solutions to membership recruiting, retention, and growth. Recognizing the generational gap in VFP membership, I would hope to be able to look for ways to expand the VFP mission in becoming more inclusive to the newer generations of women and men who have served in the past several decades at home and abroad.
Veterans For Peace serves a unique place among veterans and non-veterans in a country torn apart over foreign and domestic policy. I am placing my name before our member for a position on the Board of Directors as I believe I can bring a life-time of experience to an organization in the throes of change and transition. I would hope to serve as an agent of inclusion and growth.
Selkirk, NY - Chapter 10 (Albany, NY)
I’m a post-Cold War U.S. Army veteran who served on active duty for four years as an artilleryman. I’ve been employed in postsecondary education as an academic and student support specialist and adjunct instructor for the past 25 years. I became socially and politically active almost immediately following the 9/11 attacks, as the U.S. launched the so-called “War on Terror” and illegal wars. Since that time, I’ve been involved in volunteer roles with many antiwar and peace groups and nonprofit advocacy organizations, including Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice, the Peace and Justice Studies Association, the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation, and The Sanctuary for Independent Media. I’m a lifetime member of Veterans For Peace (VFP) and previously served on the national board of directors from 2016-18. My activist/advocacy work over the past several years has been centered largely on counter-hegemonic struggles and the intersection between Indigenous rights and racial, economic and climate justice. Among my current roles is serving on the community advisory board of the Portugal. The Man (PTM) Foundation. I am originally from Queens, NY and have resided in Albany, NY for the past 14 years. Prior to that time, I lived in Alaska for 11 years. I have 18-year-old twin sons who are enrolled in college.
During my VFP board tenure (2016-18), I served on the Executive Committee for over a year, in the capacity as Treasurer. I completed Treasurer’s Reports that were detailed, unambiguous and timely. I also met the expectations of serving on the ExCom beyond the duties and responsibilities as Treasurer. This included attending monthly phone conferences and responding in a comprehensive and expeditious manner to endorsement requests and other inquiries, from our national office, membership and outside entities. In terms of my constancy as a board member, I was rarely absent for a monthly conference call or in-person quarterly meeting during my board tenure and participated actively in VFP committees.
I served on the Membership and Communications committees, both of which I joined shortly after being elected to the board. I took on a leadership role with the VFP Standing Rock Coordinating Committee and physically participated in our Standing Rock delegation in October 2016. I was enthusiastically involved with the VFP Veterans Challenge Islamophobia (VCI) campaign. This included writing articles for publication and holding voter registration drives at local Mosques to promote the Campaign. I also served on VFP's International Veterans Peace Conference (IVPC) Planning Committee. One of my achievements in this capacity was assisting to secure a UN state sponsor and endorser for the potential conference. In addition, I represented VFP as a speaker, panelist, tabler, and participant at several conferences and international events during my board tenure, including the Native Nations Rise March and two World Beyond War (WBW) annual conferences in Washington, DC. I also helped manage and facilitate VFP's social media accounts during my time on the board. I have the privilege and honor of being a Lifetime member of VFP since 2017.
During my VFP board service, I was a focused and committed member who actively engaged in VFP standing committees, executive board meetings, fundraising activities and raising awareness of VFP’s mission and vision across diverse communities. If afforded the opportunity to rejoin the VFP board, I plan to continue these activities to strengthen the fiscal and relational foundation of the organization. This will include financial responsibility and accountability and modeling and cultivating a defined and robust culture of nonviolent communication and authentic mutual respect and care within VFP. One of my favorite quotes on organizational leadership comes from Margaret J. Wheatley (author, professor, speaker, and consultant): "In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions.” Building harmonious, mutually supportive interpersonal relationships in open, safe, welcoming environments is one of the tenets of the leadership philosophy that I bring to VFP.