2012 has been a big year for Civilian Soldier Alliance. We have just about doubled in size nationally and as of November we have a brand new eight(!) member Steering Committee. And we are still coming down from the high of our second annual joint Iraq Veterans Against the War(IVAW)/CivSol National Convention in Baltimore. We started the year off last January with an in-person meeting of our steering committee at Under the Hood, the awe-inspiring GI Coffeehouse in Killeen, Texas. Our SC meeting was a convenient add on to the Operation Recovery Campaign Meeting that brought campaign members from across the country to Fort Hood. It was an intense and exhilerating beginning to our year to be down at Fort Hood together building the campaign to take us through the year.
CIvSol is deeply committed to the OPERATION RECOVERY Campaign. Members serve on each of the working groups. We materially supported the OP REC Resident Organizer program at Under the Hood in 2012 by funding the dedicated work of both L.T. Taylor and Rushelle Frasier, and by sending other members, Adele, Jenna, Drake and Eva to name a few names, down to Fort Hood as guest organizers for briefer stays, some multiple times. Those four have been instrumental in developing our important Interviewing and Research team. Their work gathering testimony with the Fort Hood community will serve as the foundation of a human rights framing of the right to heal campaign, as well as support our appeal for redress.
Our steering committee met again in person in Philadelphia directly after the powerful and deeply inspiring IVAW lead March on the NATO Summit Meeting in Chicago in May. 44 IVAW members threw their hard earned medals back towards the NATO Generals in heartfelt protest of NATO’s leadership of the continuing war in Afghanistan. Members, especially our fierce and tireless Sarah Lazare, were deeply involved in the planning and logistics of that action. Those of us who were able to be there are grateful and honored to have shared that experience.
At our Philadelphia meeting we worked hard to envision a future in which we could hire some paid staff, two people, part time, to help us shepherd the administration and fundraising of our work. As the year went on though, we had to push that dream into the further future. As an all volunteer organization we have not been able to wrangle the time to do as much concentrated fundraising as that bold move would require, and would commit us to continue to do.
In August, along with IVAW Director of Development Amadee Braxton we co-organized a beautiful team to attend the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training Conference. Ten members of Civ/Sol and IVAW came out to Oakland to attend. It was great for our skills and great for our teambuilding. These few times when we are able to come together face to face are so precious. We were able to spend productive weekend together at the training, topped off by a sweet house party featuring the fabulous catering skills of our own Jenna Haywood. CivSol skills run broad and deep!
After the summer outreach drive at Fort Hood, CIvSol members also joined with IVAW and the folks from Coffee Strong up in Lakewood, Washington to support the first major outreach drive to active duty service members at Joint Base Lewis McChord. Doing outreach to active duty service members in the base towns has been a major focus of our work for the last two years. In the coming year we will also focus on bringing our campaigns to veterans in non-base towns and cities across the country. We have a campaign starting up with National Nurses United(NNU) around work at The Veterans Administration Hospitals (VA) centered in Chicago that will be carried to other VA hospitals across the country.
The heart of our work for the coming year will also include a new Appeal for Redress campaign wherein service members and recent veterans will address their demands for the Right to Heal to Congress and our work. We are beginning a joint project with a national civil rights group, an international human rights clinic, and several Iraqi civil society groups to request a human rights hearing about the health effects of the Iraq war. This will publicly launch in March, near the tenth anniversary of the war’s start. We hope this is just the beginning of our work with Iraqi groups to highlight and seek redress for the longterm effects and human costs of US militarism.
Two CivSol members Sergio Espana and Anna Simons from Baltimore, stepped up hard for a couple of months to be the anchors, and the legs of the Convention planning in Baltimore. These two laid it out and gave us all, IVAW and CivSol alike, a well thought out, organized and productive stay in Baltimore where we were able to get caught up on these projects and to participate in moving the work forward.
All of this organizing, planning, traveling and logistical support is the daily grind, and joy, of our work. CivSol supports IVAW Nationally, fiercely, and our chapters are often deeply involved in the day-to-day work of local IVAW chapters, including fundraising. This letter is, of course our end of year fundraising appeal, and all this has been itemized so you can picture how we spend our limited dollars and feel excited to help us continue. But, it is important to note that all of this activity is in service of developing and advancing our political work. We are here working as volunteer organizers, making daily contributions to the work because we believe this particular work is important, valuable, and strategic. We believe that organizing to withdraw military support from war can not only win tangible victories, but can also be a transformative process whereby vets and civilians alike develop the skills and confidence necessary to organize for long-term change. We believe that taking our message directly to active duty service members and veterans is a route to undermining the deeply ingrained militarism and paternalism that supports and enables the current U.S. foreign policy of domination and expansionism. We seek as always to support those most effected by these policies and that includes those both overseas and here at home.
Please give as generously as you are able to help us in this work. We need your support and we appreciate every bit of it. If you cannot make a monetary donation, you can make an investment of your valuable time. Currently, we are in need of folks with grant writing skills, website skills, graphic design, and more. We’re looking for people to participate in the Guest Organizer program to do outreach through GI coffeehouses. Or you could throw a CivSol fundraiser or house party. If you’d like to learn more about the myriad ways you can get plugged into the work please contact us. Join our supporter list: as a first step to get more involved, or, if you just want to receive a few newsletters a year to keep up with our adventures.
THANK YOU for what you do,
Civilian Soldier Alliance Steering Committee,
Adele, Amanda, Anna, Cassidy, LT, Rushelle, Sergio, Siri