We had a GI Rights advocacy workshop on August 18th. Kathy Gilberd from Military Law Task Force was gracious enough to donate her time, talent and expertise as a counselor for the six-hour meeting. We covered a lot of ground that Saturday, with subjects ranging from voluntary and involuntary discharges, redress of grievances, sexual assault/ harassment, and protected forms of free speech. While the workshop was not a comprehensive education on the rights of active-duty service members, we walked into the afternoon armed with enough info to give suggestions and track down the right people to ask, which was empowering. The five of us in attendance shared our newly acquired smarts at Ribs and Rights on Thursday.
My last hours in the state of Texas, and I've rewritten this entry four times trying to come up with some compelling statements that will perfectly sum up my experience and have every reader clamoring to volunteer. I've learned so much during my time here in Killeen. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to learn more about grassroots organizing. I've been pushed out of my comfort zone again and again in ways I never realized I was stuck. The past seven weeks have been chock-full of sweat, sincerity and focus on the daily tasks and weekly goals of the campaign. I've taken part in the collection of nearly 150 signatures of active-duty soldiers, helped build community around Under the Hood through weekly programming and other social events, and got a leg up on developing an original podcast that will hopefully prove to be another tool to educate people on the current GI movement in the US. As part of my commitment to self-care, I took boxing and karate twice a week. On top of my work here, I'm updating this blog as a yellow belt. It's been a full summer.
And there's still so much left to do. The summer outreach drive is wrapping up, but Under the Hood still can use the physical help and energy guest organizers bring to the space. Lori and the crew have done so much to nurture roots in the community, already. I'm imagining what could flower out of the conversations a steady stream of visitors could bring to the place. What skill shares! In order to keep our momentum here, it's going to need steady outreach and leadership building. Killeen is not a sexy town. A person coming from a big city with a bumpin' cultural scene should not come out here expecting to find much high art. What Killeen does have is a diversity of voices and its from that variety of experiences that springs all this potential to be an important hub in the antiwar movement.
It was my experience that for every five people who were disinterested in Operation Recovery or UTH, I had two good encounters with new people who didn't know about either. It didn't happen this way all the time, it wasn't a precise science, it was trying some days. But no revolution happens in a day, and it doesn't happen without the spadework. I think about the way history was taught at my school, that movements were built on the words or actions of one leader or small, super-unique cadre that changed the world. What a disappointing view that develops out of believing this fiction. Right now, it's an appeal for redress, making the type of news that murmurs locally at 7 and makes the paper if we're lucky. Who knows what can happen if we keep working at this for the long haul?