Federal law defines a “veteran” as anyone who served on active duty and was not discharged or released dishonorably. A good many of the veterans who call the GI Rights Hotline on any given day aren’t the ones you probably heard appreciated on Veterans’ Day. Here’s a sampling of some of our recent callers (some of them are still on active duty):
*A new recruit, recently reported to basic training, sent letters home to his mother saying good-bye forever. His mother, who spoke only Spanish, called us in tears, fearing for her son’s life. We called the chaplain for the unit on her behalf and asked him to check on her son to make sure he was safe. The chaplain promised he would. A few days later, the mother called us again to report her son was being discharged and sent home.
*A soldier stationed overseas was raped while off duty. Suffering from PTSD, she has found her military medical treatment inadequate. The command wants to send her to training that would involve getting tasered, nose hose insertions, and other law enforcement techniques. We are helping to secure better medical care and a medical profile that would prevent her from such trainings. We are also helping her work toward a medical discharge.
*A Marine in training told us he felt changed by being in the Marine Corps, and he didn’t like who he was becoming. He wants out, but is so steeped in military culture he can’t see a way. We’re working with him to secure an entry level separation for failure to adapt.
*A Marine’s father is awaiting a liver transplant. He can’t go through with the operation until his son is released from the military so that he can take care of him full time. We are working with him on submitting a hardship application for discharge so that he can return home.
*An Airman went through war training exercises. He began noticing other Airmen talking about people in the Middle East as less than human. He felt the conflict with his own belief that people are God’s children and should be treated that way. He began asking himself, “Would Jesus approve of what we’re doing?” He eventually decided to apply for discharge as a conscientious objector. He’s been recommended for approval and awaits a final decision. He recently wrote to us, “I just wanted to say hi and thank you for everything you’ve done for me, everything you’ve done for everyone else, and everything you’re going to do in the future. I’m still waiting on the good news. God bless.”
At Quaker House’s recent 50th anniversary celebration in Fayetteville, we were honored to gather with so many people who have sustained the work and mission of this organization for decades. But perhaps most inspiring to us were the veterans who came and shared their experiences. They spoke from the heart about the struggles that had brought them to Quaker House for help. We were inspired by the strength and courage it took to stand up for themselves and to choose a life different than what the military would have had them live. We offer deep appreciation for them and for all veterans who struggle to maintain their humanity amid the US war machine.
By Lenore Yarger, Quaker House Counselor to the GI Rights Hotline
Published in our Fall 2019 newsletter, News from the HomeFront.