Military Veterans Answer the Call to Action of #VetsVsHate and Veterans Challenge Islamophobia

March 03, 2016

Submitted by Lucas Berard, VFP Post 9/11 Veteran

These brave Veterans, as well as those who are showing solidarity with them, are setting the example of what I believe to be a warrior and patriot:

These citizens, having already given more than most in service to their country , have returned and remained engaged with defending its ideals, even jumping into the belly of the proverbial beast, Donald Trump rallies, to push back against the tide of fear and anger sweeping across some parts of the U.S.

If you haven’t crossed online paths with the #VetsVsHate, or Veterans Challenge Islamophobia movement yet, here is your opportunity to understand and support their efforts. Perhaps you may feel, as I do, that this resonates as a call to action.

On February 19th, these former service members demonstrated their moral courage and resolve in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Though booed by some among the crowd, Trump was seemingly at a loss for words, choosing not to mention the group, sign unfurled, appealing directly to the current Republican front runner.

Trump, for once, had nothing to say, faced with a choice between ignoring them completely, or to continue his bully tactics by insulting VETERANS, a universally respected title among both Liberals and Conservatives.

That is the power we hold, ladies and gentlemen. We need to realize it and USE it. In ever greater numbers.

We should be moving to support those who are risking their safety, placing themselves in an incredibly vulnerable position to speak out against discrimination and fear-mongering.

Freakin’ WARRIORS.

A few days later, another courageous Veteran demonstrated, standing alone this time, in Las Vegas, Nevada. This same rally was interrupted a few times by protesters, and Trump was quoted as saying “I’d like to punch him in the face”. It does not appear the comment was aimed at Mr.Adams, but another protester.

It is not lost on me how he shrinks from Veterans standing tall, but will immediately attack other, softer, targets. His cowardice is exposed. If he decides to start insulting veterans, then his lack of respect for opposing opinions, from veterans, as a candidate for POTUS, is exposed.

Just about any politician knows better than to bash those who have sacrificed their freedom and safety  (Except for Trump, apparently, when he insulted Senator John McCain last year) for the sake of the People- and, again, both Liberals and Conservative respect that sacrifice.

When the message comes from Veterans, the “I’m a patriot and you’re not” argument falls flat. It is a small, but very exploitable gap in logic that is obvious across the political spectrum.

And, as this video short by AJ+ demonstrates, with over 2 million views, the public is paying attention:

I believe it’s time for Veterans to make their presence known in a new, big way to both this country, and the world. We have an opportunity to show that Veterans are both socially engaged, and humanitarian at heart- to those who may otherwise never see anything but the the opposite.

We have a chance to show the world, including those whose countries we have deployed to, that it is not the troops who hate them and clamor for war, but the leadership which has gone awry, fueling the population with misinformation and fear.

I’ve heard it said (somewhere) that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the intelligent management of it. Those who would flock to rally behind the biggest bully on the playground forget that this is not a juvenile game; in the real world, even a military “win” is also a massive humanitarian disaster- for everyone involved.

Veterans know this.

We’ve paid the price with not only the lives of our own, but also the lives, infrastructure, and cooperation with the cultures we bring war upon. We (economic elites and politicians aside) have nothing to show for over a decade of war except the loss of millions of lives, thousand which were our own, millions which were not, which has resulted in a loss of global moral and economic standing and an ailing national economy.

Additionally, when we dump our taxes into war (54% of our Discretionary Budget, to be precise), we cannot use those tax dollars to advance our citizenship through education and  repair of our aging infrastructures. We can not even pay for quality care for veterans, even after all we have asked them to do. This is largely accomplished by keeping the public so afraid that they will ignore all other needs for the sake of continuous war.

As #VetVsHate and Veterans Challenge Islamophobia are clearly demonstrating, hope is not lost, as long as there are those willing and able to raise their voice in opposition to those who would entice the population to hate and fear not only those abroad, but also their fellow citizens.

Any veterans willing to hate their brothers and sisters in service, for the sake of a blustery, financially privileged billionaire, need to take a moment and think things through; We fought with you, trained with you, deployed with you, and, believe it or not- we believe we serve you still, though you may hate us for it. Here is a brief summary of my experiences, so you can begin to understand where we are coming from, and why these warriors stand so resolute before you now.

Be aware that you are turning your back on your own citizens, the ideals this country has stood for,and some of your own sisters and brothers in arms, who are still fighting for ALL citizens, no matter their race, religion, or economic standing.

Semper Fidelis.

I, for one, will not leave my sisters’ and brothers’ call to action unmet.

Organizations such as Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War (and even my home and community, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and their non-profit arm) are working tirelessly for a better, more inclusive, more sustainable world for future generations.

That future can only rise on the shoulders of those willing to lift the load, often to the criticism of their peers. It comes with the territory- and veterans are better equipped to stand with each other (and even on our own) than most.

Let’s do this together.