This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Art Show and Coyotes

I HEARD THE BEST SOUND TONIGHT. Me and Mister Fionn were taking Big Night Walk. I really love being outside on winter nights. As long as I'm dressed warmly enough, which I usually am, I feel I could stay out all night. I'm reminded of John Muir's comment, "I only meant to go out for an hour, but after being out for a while I realized that being out was really my being "in"-- so I stayed out all day."

I can so relate. We walked down to the Stone Zoo to look at the Santa's Palace thing they have there every year, from Thanksgiving until Christmas, with a Santa's Castle and old-fashioned Christmas music piped in over the tinny outdoor speakers and little merry go rounds and rides for the kiddies. 'Sanat's Reindeer' too of course, real live ones, and other winter mammals. It's unintentionally kitschy, but at the same time there's something very unspoiled and kind of wonderful about it. Anyway, the back of the zoo backs into a fairly wild section of Happy Land, and all of a sudden as we were walking by I heard this wonderful, bizarre, electrifying coyote howling and yipping-- a whole bunch of them just going off! I can't even tell you how thrilling that was. We bombed over to the part of the woods where the sounds were coming in (Fools rush in department) but Fionn wanted no part of it, and I suppose I can't blame him. Still we got much closer. We waited, and then they started up again.

Wow. That sound is really just the quintessence of wildness, of nature-- of freedom somehow, and resistance to the mall-ification of the world. It just thrills me. Go here and scroll down to 'coyote howl' if you want to hear it, but it was much better than this, as there were so many of them:

Also, this Saturday from 2-5 pm, December 1, I'm having my annual art show at Calamus. ("ART show? NUDIES!! No, just kidding, although there are some figure studies.) Most of the work is responsive to/illustrative of my writings. I'll have about 27 pieces in the show all told, much of it new, much of it from or about Map of the Harbor Islands. Please come if you'd like. Above are a few samples, you can click on them for bigger versions.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How to Really Support Our Troops

I know I must sound like a broken record sometimes, but the outrages being perpertrated (did I spell that right?) against our country and our troops are so colassal, so immoral, that they require nothing less than constant outrage and exposure in return, 24/7. They're assuming-- in many cases correctly-- that we the peoples just won't keep at them, and are much more interested in how many people went shopping at the malls last Friday.

But until such information as the following is on the front page of every newspaper in this country, and is the lead story on every news show on the mainstream media, I'll keep putting this stuff out there as often as I can. I'd rather write about other stuff-- like the fact that White-Crowned Sparrows in California's Tioga Pass area have changed their tune, literally-- mating songs recorded in 1979 are higher and faster than those recorded in the same area in 2003! Or, I would like to write about how the woods now, stripped of their (sometimes brazen) green flummery of summer, lie exposed and open and honest-- you can see their bones now. It's like watching someone you love sleep: all the pretension and agenda and nonsense that comes from daily interactions we may not necessarily choose are gone, leaving the beautiful person and you with a sneaky peek. I find both of the above (for example)fascinating, and would write more about them, but until these criminals running the country are brought to justice, I find myself forced to do otherwise. So, onward with the goods: (this is from one of my peace groups)

Support the Troops, Not Mercenary Money-Grubbers

This week the Cheney White House retaliated for not immediately
getting another 196 billion in emergency Iraq occupation bucks no
strings attached, by threatening to furlough 100,000 Army and Marine
Corps civilian employees in this country.

The Democrats passed a funding bill with some relatively flexible
requirements for a troop withdrawal goal, but it was blocked by yet
another mean-spirited Republican filibuster.

The fact is that the Pentagon has plenty of money for all the troops
to do whatever they want, but a lion's share of all appropriations
are now going to private mercenary militias like Blackwater. There
are as many so-called "contractors" in Iraq as regular members of our
armed forces. Has anybody suggested cutting back on any of them?
Maybe it's time somebody did.

We spend billions of dollars training our armed forces. And for what?
So that they can leave to go to Blackwater, who then sell their
services back to us at a massive markup, as much as 10 times as much.
What kind of crazy fiscal insanity is that?

With their furlough threats, they are literally holding our entire
military civil service for ransom! The only way to REALLY support our
troops is bring them home now, just as the overwhelming majority of
American are demanding, and as you can demand again now.

Action Page:

This is like the grinch on steroids. They should be bringing our
troops home for the holidays, not punishing the families of those who
serve by laying them off, in some sick attempt to put political
pressure on Democrats responding to the wishes of the American people
who want an end to the criminal Iraq debacle.

The American people have figured out that all these hundreds of
billions of emergency appropriations, year after year, are not going
to, and have never gone to, support our troops. Instead they have
been piped directly into the pockets of crony war profiteers, as
enabled for example by the tag team of Cookie and Buzzy Krongard, one
impeding investigations of Blackwater crimes, and the other sitting
on their board.

And yet, every time someone tries to impose some accountability on
this gross embezzlement of the U.S. treasury, they threaten to starve
our real troops, their families, and send them into urban combat
without even protective armor.

Oh, but it gets worse. In many ways, this is just another form of
foreign outsourcing, as now we learn that many thousands of these
"contractors" are goons that Blackwater is recruiting from countries
like South Africa and Chile. Then when they open fire on and mow down
innocent civilians, they claim there is no law or jurisdiction where
they can be prosecuted for their war crimes. And they have an edict
from former U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer to back them up, along with
immunity handed out like candy by our state department.

These mercenaries are poison for our own military. They decimate the
morale of our troops who see them getting rich for doing the same
duty as they are, while better equipped. They then further even
decimate the ranks of our troops, by offering them deals to leave the
service which our own military can't compete with, using our own
money to do it. And Blackwater and their ilk are poison for any
mission we thought we had in Iraq, when one of their foreign thugs
murders another Iraq civilian in cold blood just for the hell of it.

Tell Congress to end all mercenary contracts now. The privatization
of the military is absolutely the worst possible thing for democracy
and peace. It makes endless war a corporate imperative.

Action Page:

And once we stop fighting wars for the bottom line of crony
corporations, we can bring our troops home once and for all, until
they are needed for a real international crisis, not one created for
the profit of war criminals.

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed
to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

120 War Vets Commit Suicide Each Week

This is from today's Alternet-- and should be the lead story in every paper across the country; instead we are infested witht he Missing White Women (again) and cheery stories on how this year's Lemmings at the Malls stacks up against last year's Lemmings at the Malls, 'reassuring' us that everything is, after all, okay. Well, it's not. Our country and its people are howling out in pain. Shut off the television, take a long walk, and ask yoursaelf, in the words of JFK, what you can do for your country, and its people, in this time of crisis.

120 War Vets Commit Suicide Each Week on AverageBy Penny Coleman, AlterNet

Posted on November 26, 2007, Printed on November 26, 2007
Earlier this year, using the clout that only major broadcast networks seem capable of mustering, CBS News contacted the governments of all 50 states requesting their official records of death by suicide going back 12 years. They heard back from 45 of the 50. From the mountains of gathered information, they sifted out the suicides of those Americans who had served in the armed forces. What they discovered is that in 2005 alone -- and remember, this is just in 45 states -- there were at least 6,256 veteran suicides, 120 every week for a year and an average of 17 every day.

As the widow of a Vietnam vet who killed himself after coming home, and as the author of a book for which I interviewed dozens of other women who had also lost husbands (or sons or fathers) to PTSD and suicide in the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, I am deeply grateful to CBS for undertaking this long overdue investigation. I am also heartbroken that the numbers are so astonishingly high and tentatively optimistic that perhaps now that there are hard numbers to attest to the magnitude of the problem, it will finally be taken seriously. I say tentatively because this is an administration that melts hard numbers on their tongues like communion wafers.

Since these new wars began, and in spite of a continuous flood of alarming reports, the Department of Defense has managed to keep what has clearly become an epidemic of death beneath the radar of public awareness by systematically concealing statistics about soldier suicides. They have done everything from burying them on official casualty lists in a category they call "accidental noncombat deaths" to outright lying to the parents of dead soldiers. And the Department of Veterans Affairs has rubber-stamped their disinformation, continuing to insist that their studies indicate that soldiers are killing themselves, not because of their combat experiences, but because they have "personal problems."

Active-duty soldiers, however, are only part of the story. One of the well-known characteristics of post-traumatic stress injuries is that the onset of symptoms is often delayed, sometimes for decades. Veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam are still taking their own lives because new PTSD symptoms have been triggered, or old ones retriggered, by stories and images from these new wars. Their deaths, like the deaths of more recent veterans, are written up in hometown newspapers; they are locally mourned, but officially ignored. The VA doesn't track or count them. It never has. Both the VA and the Pentagon deny that the problem exists and sanctimoniously point to a lack of evidence they have refused to gather.

They have managed this smoke and mirrors trick for decades in large part because suicide makes people so uncomfortable. It has often been called "that most secret death" because no one wants to talk about it. Over time, in different parts of the world, attitudes have fluctuated between the belief that the act is a sin, a right, a crime, a romantic gesture, an act of consummate bravery or a symptom of mental illness. It has never, however, been an emotionally neutral issue. In the United States, the rationalism of our legal system has acknowledged for 300 years that the act is almost always symptomatic of a mental illness. For those same 300 years, organized religions have stubbornly maintained that it's a sin. In fact, the very worst sin. The one that is never forgiven because it's too late to say you're sorry.

The contradiction between religious doctrine and secular law has left suicide in some kind of nether space in which the fundamentals of our systems of justice and belief are disrupted. A terrible crime has been committed, a murder, and yet there can be no restitution, no punishment. As sin or as mental illness, the origins of suicide live in the mind, illusive, invisible, associated with the mysterious, the secretive and the undisciplined, a kind of omnipresent Orange Alert. Beware the abnormal. Beware the Other.

For years now, this administration has been blasting us with high-decibel, righteous posturing about suicide bombers, those subhuman dastards who do the unthinkable, using their own bodies as lethal weapons. "Those people, they aren't like us; they don't value life the way we do," runs the familiar xenophobic subtext: And sometimes the text isn't even sub-: "Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington and Pennsylvania," proclaimed W, glibly conflating Sept. 11, the invasion of Iraq, Islam, fanatic fundamentalism and human bombs.

Bush has also expressed the opinion that suicide bombers are motivated by despair, neglect and poverty. The demographic statistics on suicide bombers suggest that this isn't the necessarily the case. Most of the Sept. 11 terrorists came from comfortable middle- to upper-middle-class families and were well-educated. Ironically, despair, neglect and poverty may be far more significant factors in the deaths of American soldiers and veterans who are taking their own lives.

Consider the 25 percent of enlistees and the 50 percent of reservists who have come back from the war with serious mental health issues. Despair seems an entirely appropriate response to the realization that the nightmares and flashbacks may never go away, that your ability to function in society and to manage relationships, work schedules or crowds will never be reliable. How not to despair if your prognosis is: Suck it up, soldier. This may never stop!

Neglect? The VA's current backlog is 800,000 cases. Aside from the appalling conditions in many VA hospitals, in 2004, the last year for which statistics are available, almost 6 million veterans and their families were without any healthcare at all. Most of them are working people -- too poor to afford private coverage, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care. Soldiers and veterans need help now, the help isn't there, and the conversations about what needs to be done are only just now beginning.

Poverty? The symptoms of post-traumatic stress injuries or traumatic brain injuries often make getting and keeping a job an insurmountable challenge. The New York Times reported last week that though veterans make up only 11 percent of the adult population, they make up 26 percent of the homeless. If that doesn't translate into despair, neglect and poverty, well, I'm not sure the distinction is one worth quibbling about.

There is a particularly terrible irony in the relationship between suicide bombers and the suicides of American soldiers and veterans. With the possible exception of some few sadists and psychopaths, Americans don't enlist in the military because they want to kill civilians. And they don't sign up with the expectation of killing themselves. How incredibly sad that so many end up dying of remorse for having performed acts that so disturb their sense of moral selfhood that they sentence themselves to death.

There is something so smugly superior in the way we talk about suicide bombers and the cultures that produce them. But here is an unsettling thought. In 2005, 6,256 American veterans took their own lives. That same year, there were about 130 documented deaths of suicide bombers in Iraq.* Do the math. That's a ratio of 50-to-1. So who is it that is most effectively creating a culture of suicide and martyrdom? If George Bush is right, that it is despair, neglect and poverty that drive people to such acts, then isn't it worth pointing out that we are doing a far better job?

*I say "about" because in the aftermath of a suicide bombing, it is often very difficult for observers to determine how many individual bodies have been blown to pieces.

Penny Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War, was released on Memorial Day, 2006. Her blog is Flashback.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Japan Might Kill World's Only White Whale

This is why we're supposed to boycott Sushi and Japanese products.

Japan might kill world's only white whaleBy Nick Squires in Sydney
Last Updated: 3:01pm GMT 12/11/2007

Australians fear that the world's only known white humpback whale could be slaughtered as Japan's whaling fleet prepares to embark on its annual hunt in the Southern Ocean.

Scientists make monkey cloning breakthrough
Tigers given emergency dental treatment
Burgers from cloned animals 'by 2010'
The unique male whale, named Migaloo - an Aboriginal word for "white fella" - has become a celebrity in Australia since being spotted for the first time in 1991.

Migaloo the white humpback swims with another whale (top) and diving after breaching
Each year Migaloo - along with thousands of other humpbacks - migrates from the icy seas of Antarctica to the warm shallows of the South Pacific and the Great Barrier Reef.

A few months later the whales, the females leading their newly-born calves, return to Antarctica.

The arrival of 45ft-long Migaloo - believed to be the only completely white humpback in the world - is keenly anticipated by whale watchers along Australia's east coast.

He has been hailed as modern day Moby Dick, even though the creature in Herman Melville's 1851 classic was a sperm whale.

Conservationists fear that Migaloo is so accustomed to whale watching and fishing boats, that he will be easy pickings for Japanese hunters.

With the southern hemisphere summer approaching, the Japanese whaling fleet is preparing to leave port within days. It refuses to say exactly when.

It has declared that for the first time it will kill 50 humpbacks, as well as 50 fin whales and hundreds of minke whales.

The Japanese argue that after decades of hunting fin and humpback whales have recovered to sufficient levels that they can now withstand being harpooned again.

advertisementThe Fisheries Agency in Tokyo refused to rule out killing Migaloo today, with officials offering a blunt "no comment" to media inquiries.

Instead the agency called on Australia and New Zealand to ensure that the Japanese fleet would be protected from anti-whaling ships operated by a militant environmental group, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Last year Sea Shepherd threatened to ram the Japanese fleet with a ship fitted with a bulldozer-type blade. The group has been branded environmental terrorists by Tokyo.

"Those two countries maintain the same position as Japan does against the violent action of terrorists," spokesman Hideki Moronuki told ABC Radio.

"[We] need support from those two countries in order to secure the safety of our crews and (our ships)."

But the captain of Sea Shepherd's two vessels, Paul Watson, said he had the law on his side because whale hunting was illegal.

"They're targeting endangered species in a whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on whaling.

"If Japan reacts violently to us, causes any injury at all to any of our people, that will backlash very severely on Japan because Japan is the criminal nation here," he said.

Japan uses a loophole in International Whaling Commission laws to hunt around 1,000 whales each year in the Southern Hemisphere, ostensibly for the purposes of scientific research.

People who have encountered Migaloo on his epic journey of migration describe the sight as a once in a lifetime experience.

"He turned the blue water around him jade-green for two or three metres," one awe-struck Australian whale-watch operator said of a sighting two years ago.

Scientists are uncertain whether Migaloo is a true albino, or simply has white pigmentation.

In a sign of how healthy the population of humpbacks has become, a female and her calf paid a short visit to Sydney Harbour today.

The pair was noticed entering the harbour from the sea by passengers on a passing ferry and spent about three hours in sheltered waters before continuing their journey south.

Information appearing on is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. For the full copyright statement see Copyright

Human Blood Not Enough for Cheney

THIS IS FROM today's alternet.

Dick Cheney's Sadistic Passion for Shooting Tame Animals
By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet
Posted on November 14, 2007, Printed on November 14, 2007

While most people are lamenting the violence in Pakistan, Burma, Afghanistan and Iraq, apparently it's not enough bloodshed for Vice President Dick Cheney.

Last month in a caravan of 15 sport utility vehicles and an ambulance -- no jokes, please -- Cheney made his way to Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club, about 70 miles north of New York City, near Poughkeepsie, for a day of controlled bloodletting.

Cheney landed at Stewart Air Force Base and took off the following day for the upscale gun club at a cost of $32,000 for local law enforcement officials who guarded his hotel, protected his motorcade and diverted school buses.

Unlike Cheney's 2003 trip to Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, Pa., in which he killed 70 pheasants and an undisclosed number of ducks (his hunting party killed 417 pheasants), staff at the Clove Valley Rod & Gun Club remained tight-lipped about the take.

An employee who answered the phone would not disclose which species was being shot -- ads say pheasants, ducks and Hungarian partridges -- and kept repeating "I don't know anything about it" before hanging up. Like Cheney's last visit to Clove Valley in 2001, the 4,000-acre club, which costs $150,000 a year to join, was a fortress with Blackwater-style snipers "protecting" the vice president's right to shoot tame birds.

But a New York Daily News photographer did snap a picture of a small Confederate flag hanging inside a garage on the hunt club property, which prompted civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton to demand that Cheney "leave immediately, denounce the club and apologize for going to a club that represents lynching, hate and murder to black people."

Cheney spokeswoman Megan Mitchell said neither Cheney nor anyone on his staff saw such a flag at the hunt club. (Maybe the flag was on the women's side of Clove Valley; only men are allowed in the clubhouse.)

Of course the nation is still amused about Cheney's 2006 hunting mishap in which he shot 78-year-old attorney Harry Whittington in the face in Texas instead of a quail -- and everyone from Letterman to President Bush jokes about it.

But canned hunting isn't funny.

Birds raised for canned hunts at gun clubs and in state "recreational" areas are grown in packed pens -- think factory farmed chickens -- and fitted with goggles so they won't peck each other to death from the crowding.

When released for put and take hunters like Cheney, pen raised birds can barely walk or fly -- or see, thanks to the goggles. They don't know how to forage or hide in the wild and sometimes have to be kicked to "fly" enough to be shot.

Some hunters say shooting the pellet-ready tame animals, which offer no resistance, is like having sex with a blow-up doll.

But others say hunting itself is like sex with a blow up doll and that the 10 percent decline in hunters seen in the United States since the late '90s -- from 14 million to about 12.5 million -- coincides exactly with the debut of impotence drugs like Viagra.

Still for the veep to pursue his addiction to the "programmed massacre of scores of tame, pen-raised birds" despite all the "negative publicity it has generated for him" suggests a deep psychological disorder, writes Gerald Schiller in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Especially since criminologists have long recognized that premeditated, sadistic treatment of animals is a strong predictor of criminal and homicidal violence.

Sociopaths Jeffrey Dahmer and Richard Speck were both big on animal cruelty. And they weren't running foreign policy.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day: Veterans Suicides, Censorship in the Cradle of Liberty

THE FIRST STORY IS FROM ALTERNET, and details the rising number of returning Iraqi Vets who have taken their own lives; the second piece is from, and details a group of anti-war protesters who were silenced, then arrested, yesterday at City Hall Plaza. My brother Mike was at the latter event and said those arrested weren't doing anything.

Veterans' Suicides: a Hidden Cost of Bush's WarsBy Penny Coleman, AlterNet
Posted on November 11, 2007, Printed on November 12, 2007

On November 6, the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill became law. The bill was named for a 22-year-old Iowa reservist who took his own life eleven months after coming home from Iraq. Though Josh is one of hundreds of combat veteran suicides since the wars began in 2001, it is his name that has become symbolic of the campaign to get the military to take the mental health of America's vets seriously.

With the exception of the unspeakable images of Abu Ghraib, which were e-mailed home by soldiers themselves, for six years Americans have been effectively insulated from the human cost of our wars. This insulation is not an accident; it is policy. Images from the Vietnam years, like the naked child trying to outrun her own burning skin, or the anguished women and children waiting their turn to be executed at My Lai, were catalysts that helped turn public opinion against that war. This time, the government wanted to ensure that would not happen. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Pentagon issued a directive to the media forbidding any coverage of returning American coffins. No coffins, no funerals, no wounds, no tears. No empathy.

Randy and Ellen Omvig's success in drawing long overdue attention to the issue of veteran suicide in an environment that has dismissed or derailed other worthy causes, can be explained, I believe, by their insistence on going public with the most intimate details of their tragedy. They complicated and humanized a debate that has been stalled for decades in a morass of misinformation, disinformation and other evasion tactics.

They described how his tour in Iraq had changed him, how he suffered all of the symptoms they now recognize as classic PTSD: the nightmares, the shaking, the dark moods and consuming fears. They admitted that they had failed to convince him to go for counseling, accepting his argument that the stigma would wreck his career plans. And then came the morning when Ellen discovered him locked in his pick up truck. He had a gun. As she tried frantically to reason with him, he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. It's a horrific image: she, banging on the window, terrified, pleading, while, on the other side of the glass, her son tells her he will always love her, but that now she must leave. "Go!" he says, and when she refuses, he raises his gun, angles his head so the bullet will not hit her, and fires. She was powerless to stop anything, the hand, the gun, the bullet, the blood. There must have been a lot of blood.

In spite of a suicide rate among solders that has now reached a 26-year record high, and contradicting the evidence of their own increasingly ominous studies, the Army continues to insist that they have yet to find a connection between combat stress injuries (PTSD) and suicide. They trot out self-serving anecdotes about "Dear John" letters, incompetent parents, and what they call "underdeveloped life coping skills" to blame active duty soldiers for their own deaths. As for veteran suicides, there has never been any official attempt to track or count them.

The virtual epidemic of veteran suicides that followed the war in Vietnam has remained largely beneath the radar of public awareness because there is still such irrational fear and shame attached to a self-inflicted death. Families, military and otherwise, have far too often tried to cover up the circumstances of such deaths, hoping to shield both the living and the dead from blame and condemnation. What has often been called the "most secret death" has afforded the military a convenient and virtually impenetrable cover for decades, allowing them to keep combat-related suicides a theoretical, statistical, deniable issue.

Josh Omvig was not able to keep his war theoretical. He and hundreds of other veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and thousands of Vietnam vets carried home memories friends lost, bodies blown apart, and lives touched by real horror. Their wars were up close and personal, and when their memories became too much to bear, they chose to die.

Both as a war widow and as the mother of a boy who, like Josh, is in his 20's, I heard the Omvigs' story, saw it and felt it, through the lens of my own experience. My husband Daniel returned from Vietnam with memories he could never bring himself to share. They haunted him and they haunted our relationship. Was his death an execution? Euthanasia? Or was it my fault? What did I do to that poor man? In the years since, unbidden memories of the swirling red lights, the sirens, the pumps, the drains, and the blood have infiltrated who I am. I rarely if ever talked about Daniel, but I learned to tiptoe around everyone I love, hoping not to do it again, hoping not to kill someone else by mistake.

So I am enormously grateful to Ellen and Randy Omvig. I do not find their story inappropriately intimate. I do not think it is in bad taste. Or exploitative. Or sensationalist, though those are all excuses that are proffered in defense of the bloodless numbers, the numbing statistics and the endless slogans. It is, in fact, a vital antidote to the guilt, the silence, and the isolation that is typically experienced by the families of suicides. It invites empathy, which is the corner stone of common cause activism. It makes the personal political.

The Omvigs let their grief feed their activism. They insisted that behind the statistics there are real human beings whose suffering is monumental, and monumental as well for the people who love them. For me, and I imagine for a host of others who have been moved to help push this legislation forward, the impetus came, at least in part, from the courage it took for them to share the raw emotional intimacies of a son's death. Thanks in no small measure to the advocacy of his parents, the Department of Veterans Affairs will soon be required to develop and implement a comprehensive suicide prevention program at each of its medical facilities, including mandatory staff training in suicide awareness and prevention, a designated suicide prevention counselor in each facility, and a 24-hour suicide hotline. The bill that bears Josh's name is perhaps a small victory, but it will make more of a difference to veterans than any parade.

Note: The bill, as currently written, no longer requires the VA to screen all its patients for suicide risk factors and make an effort to keep track of at-risk veterans, an important element that was dropped because otherwise one senator, Tom Coburn (OK-R), threatened to block its passage indefinitely. Coburn feared that such a database could also be used to deny veterans who have sought help at the VA for mental health issues the right to purchase a gun. Too bad, but even so, it's a start.

Penny Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam Veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War, was released on Memorial Day, 2006. Her blog is Flashback.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.18 arrested in antiwar protest by veterans
By Tania deLuzuriaga and Charles M. Sennott, Globe Staff | November 12, 2007

More than a dozen members of an antiwar veterans group were arrested yesterday as they protested the exclusion of their message from Boston's Veterans Day parade.

Members of Veterans for Peace lined up in front of a podium at City Hall Plaza holding antiwar placards, as color guards from Massachusetts military units and JROTC bands from across the state filed into Government Center for a ceremony, sponsored by the American Legion, to honor veterans after the parade. Some protesters wore gags, which they later said symbolized the fact that, while they were permitted to march in the parade, they were prevented from carrying signs opposing the war in Iraq.

"We were exercising our First Amendment rights," said Winston Warfield of Dorchester, a member of the group. "The First Amendment protects free speech, even when you don't agree with what's being said."

When Boston police asked the demonstrators to move from the front of the podium so that the Veterans Day services could continue, they refused. As the Boston Firemen's Band played The Marine Hymn, several protesters were placed in plastic handcuffs and led away.

"Our free speech and civil rights are being abridged here," said Nate Goldschlag, a Vietnam-era veteran who was among those standing in front of the podium. "We are veterans, too, and we should be allowed to express our opposition to this war."

American Legion officials declined to comment.

Boston police said that 18 people were arrested - 15 men and three women. All were charged with disturbing a lawful assembly of people.