"Mel and I are also working with activist writers to try to get our family's story written to remember our sons and hopefully help others.
"Thank you for your support and thank you to Veteran's for Peace."
Melida Arredondo's Presentation:
"When a family member joins the military, the family is also drafted.
"In retrospect: I realize now that both our boys were targeted by military recruiters for being from low income, Latino and divorced families.
"Over the years, Carlos and I wonder how this all happened to our family. Slowly, we came to realize that what affects us also impacts other families no matter race or color of skin -- the connection between those families and ours is that we are low income. So I'm speaking on behalf of all the other families who are unaware of how the economics of recruitment in this country works.
"According to the US Census, families and their children are experiencing the highest degree of poverty since the 1960s.
"Much of the work Carlos and I do is to aid and support military families. Some of the efforts we have successfully worked on include speaking with the two Massachusetts Secretaries of Veterans Affairs to share the economic difficulties face by military families during deployments and if a loved one dies.
"Most recently before Memorial Day, a new law, called the Valor Act, was passed in Massachusetts expanding state assistance to families who have someone who is deployed and families who have lost a loved one. (Let me clarify that due to divorce or if the service member is married, many parents do not receive any life insurance -- which is the case in our family.)
"Massachusetts is a special case, however, where services for Veterans and Military families are the best in the nation compared to other states. So I ask you to consider taking on the task of seeing what your VFP chapter can do with legislation in your state to better support services for your military families. The needs of these families are not recognized.
"Peace and justice work should be combined with support for military families. These acts of kindness further the message of the peace and justice community.
"In addition, education of parents who are likely to have their children recruited is an important place to target peace messages. A public awareness campaign can target neighborhoods combining the realities of warfare and the violence on the streets.
"It is vital for peace and justice efforts to be targeted to the society-at-large and not continue simply preaching to the converted.
"We must find venues to reach out to new people. For example, recently, two members of the Smedley Butler VFP chapter (Boston), my family and I went to the finish line for the Pan Mass Challenge, a bicycle race that raises funds for cancer.
"We did this to support John Niles a 75-year-old VFP member who had ridden 80 miles that day. We had several VFP flags, a peace and an American flag waving in the Cape Cod air at the finish line. Dozens of people who had raced or who were cheering on cyclists came up to us and thanked us for being there and had conversations with us.
"Carlos has run to the finish line of the Boston marathon with the peace flag several years, and we've attended the 4th of July celebrations in Boston with the peace message and countless other public forums. We attend many events with a message of peace whether we are invited or not.
"Finally, let me put a plug in for Military Families Speak Out. This organization is facing financial hardship and lost most of its staff. Carlos and I are members and we've worked with MFSO often on lobbying on the state and national level. Through MFSO we've met other families who are faced with similar situations or have lost their loved ones as a result of war. I am asking you to consider supporting MFSO by going to www.mfso.org and make a donation.