Veterans say: We are part of the 99 percent

WASHINGTON – Veterans are observing Veterans Day by joining the “99 percent” in Occupy Wall Street and denouncing deadly wars fought to enrich the wealthy “one percent.”

Associated Press reports that thousands of veterans, and even some active duty soldiers, have joined the grassroots occupation movement, often serving as a protective shield standing between the mostly youthful protesters and the police.

Joseph Carter, 27, leader of Iraq Veterans Against the War joined the Wall Street occupation. He told AP, “For too long our voices have been silenced, suppressed an ignored in favor of Wall Street and the banks and corporations.”

For ten years, Carter added, “we have been fighting wars that have enriched the one percent, decimated our economy and left our nation with a generation  of traumatized and wounded veterans who will require care for years to come.”

Marine veteran, Scott Olsen, still languishing in an Oakland hospital with a fractured skull, still unable to speak, has come to symbolize war veterans’ participation in that movement for economic justice that is sweeping the nation.

Olsen was struck in the head by a teargas cannister fired by Oakland police as they attempted to evict Wall Street occupiers from a city park. Olsen had joined the occupation.

Bay Area Veterans For Peace leader, Adele Carpenter, visited Carpenter and posted a report on the VFP web site. “Scott would like to…put out a statement for Vets Day but doesn’t want to rush himself because he doesn’t know how much energy it is going to take,” Carpenter wrote.

When Olsen was wounded, VFP issued a statement assailing the brutal police assault. “Occupiers are conducting themselves peacefully,” the statement said. They were “protesting current economic, social, and environmental conditions in the U.S. brought about by decades of corporate control, a criminal financial industry, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are driving the U.S. empire into bankruptcy.”

The occupiers are “telling us something we desperately need to hear. They should be listened to, not arrested and brutalized.”

Jim Baldridge, a Vietnam-era U.S. Navy veteran, an activist in the Baltimore chapter of VFP, told the World, the organization has raised $20,000 to help defray Scott Olsen’s medical expenses.

Baldridge said VFP refers to Nov. 11 as “Armistice Day,” an effort to revive the original purpose of the holiday commemorating the end of the World War One. “Armistice Day was dedicated to the cause of world peace. Veterans Day glorifies the wars veterans have fought and died in. “

Baldridge said he drove into Washington D.C. and visited the Washington Occupation in McPherson Square where hundreds of protesters are living in tents.

 “We’re the 99 percent,” Baldridge said. “We identify with the Occupation Movement and the movement to rebuild America. Veterans realize that the heart of the economic problems we face is not just the banks and the financiers but also the arms industry.”

War veterans, he said, greet President Obama’s plan to remove U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year “but we also recognize that not all those troops will be coming home. Some will be re-deployed to Afghanistan or somewhere else. We need to continue the struggle against war. That struggle doesn’t end. I’m a member of the Vietnam war generation of veterans. We are becoming fewer and fewer.”

The goal now is to focus on a new generation of veterans, he said. Veterans are suffering very high unemployment on top of the wounds they have suffered, the post traumatic stress that makes it so difficult for them to reintegrate into civilian life and find jobs. There is also a shocking level of homelessness among veterans, he said.

Veterans have a long history of struggling against job discrimination. “Remember the Bonus Marchers,” he said. “We need to step up the struggle to bring the younger generation of veterans home and work to protect them when they get here.”

Photo: David Shankbone // CC 2.0


Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler is a national political correspondent for the People's World and member of its editorial collective.

He has been a reporter and editor for the working-class press for 43 years. He lives with his wife Joyce in Baltimore, Md., and in Sequim, Wash.