Independent vets group aims to counter right’s clout in military
Progressive vets demonstrate in Washington D.C. | continuetoserve.vet

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Remember the kids’ game “Capture the flag?” Well, former Army Sgt. Linsay Rousseau and her colleagues at a relatively new veterans’ group, Continue To Serve, want to “recapture the flag,” so to speak, from the radical right.

And the word “patriotism,” too.

The sergeant, one of four full-time staffers at the group, which seeks non-profit status, wants to show the nation—especially fellow veterans and active service members—that not all of them are or should be captives of conservative politics, or worse.

“When we got out of our military service, we didn’t feel people were speaking for us” as veterans who support the U.S. Constitution and civil liberties, Rousseau said in a telephone interview from the organization’s office in suburban Alexandria, Va.

“We’re really trying to reclaim what it means to be a patriot. The alt-right has bastardized that. Same thing with the flag.

“As vets who fought in illegal wars, it’s up to us to reclaim these things from the people who are trying to take our rights away.”

“We’re trying to find ways we can be there to let people know that a conservative minority is desecrating our democracy.” One way was its latest event, a March 5 rally in downtown D.C. against white nationalism. Another is finding varied ways to help homeless vets.

So Capture The Flag’s volunteers support progressive causes, such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ rights. But unlike other progressive veterans groups, such as VoteVets or the Union Veterans Council—which just became the latest AFL-CIO Constituency Group—Capture The Flag will not endorse political candidates. They also welcome non-vets to join.

That’s because it’s applying to be a non-profit, with the appropriate federal status for income tax deductions for charitable contributions. Non-profits are legally barred from backing candidates. But the IRS doesn’t bar non-profits from issues advocacy.

In Capture The Flag’s case, that means campaigning for progressive aims.

Capture The Flag was formed after its founders decided to show the nation that not all veterans sided with the brutal sweep then-Oval Office occupant Donald Trump ordered in 2020. He had uniformed, but unidentified, federal law enforcement and military personnel forcefully evict peaceful protesters from D.C.’s Lafayette Square.

After that sweep, Trump strutted across to brandish a Bible upside down in front of a nearby church for a campaign photo-op. The protesters, led by Black Lives Matter members, had been marching against police killings of unarmed Black men.

Capture The Flag’s stayed with that cause, and other progressive positions ever since, as a reading of its website—and particularly its home page—shows.

“We are veterans and we can stay silent no more,” it declares. “There are many issues that are under threat by our current federal government. Let go of the tireless debate about whether it is the Democrats or Republicans fault.

“Instead of finding fault, let’s find solutions. From the Patriot Act to the use of military forces in Washington, D.C., veterans must hold to their oath to support and defend the Constitution on both foreign and domestic fronts.” They’re “veterans that are remembering their oath and standing up for all who are being denied justice, liberty, and equality.’

But the group, all volunteers except for the four paid staffers at its Alexandria, Va., office, really came forward as the alternative to the right after the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection and invasion of the U.S. Capitol, in the coup attempt to retain Trump in office.

The coup attempt also brought an ugly truth to light: Approximately 10% of the invaders were either active-duty or retired members of the military. Others received military weapons training. And Pentagon brass have since acknowledged there’s a similar in-depth problem within the active-duty ranks and is wrestling with what to do about it.

The invaders also stashed an arsenal of powerful weapons in Virginia, ready for use. They didn’t tote them into town, due to D.C.’s stiff laws against concealed arms. But many carried their own weapons—lances, flagpoles, body armor, bear spray among them.

“We let people know there is an alternative,” the sergeant, a 4-year combat veteran with the 101st Airborne Division wounded by an improvised explosive device—also known as a roadside bomb—in Iraq-Afghanistan theater of war.

“We had a huge outpouring of volunteers” to help clean up the Capitol after the invaders caused $1.25 million worth of damage, and injured almost 150 overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police and National Guard members. Four of the police later died, one from physical injuries and three from acute psychological depression which drove them to suicide.

So did three of the invaders, two from unknown causes on the Capitol grounds. Police fatally shot the third, a female combat veteran from California, who was trying to batter her way into the U.S. House chamber to stop the electoral vote count and to hunt down lawmakers. The radical right, Trump included, now lionize her.

Rousseau and her colleagues are the other side of the vets’ coin and seek to hook up with other progressive groups, too. And even though they’re non-profit and issue-oriented, they too know the ramifications of the 2022 voting. “As election season comes closer, we’ll have to see what we’ll so,” she says.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

Comments

comments