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Anti-War Essay by Atlanta (GA) 8th Grader

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Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition/Atlanta

Politically-engaged 8th graders to march and lobby in Washington this weekend

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Contacts: Paideia Teacher: Martha Caldwell
GPJC/Atlanta: Gloria Tatum, C 404-374-4098

A class of Atlanta eighth-graders will leave by train Friday evening for an unusual field trip a trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the
March on Washington to End the Iraq War on Saturday and the National Lobby Day on Monday. As it turns out, the students are also an usual group of young
people or maybe most adults just don't understand that many 13 year-olds are deeply engaged with the issues of war and peace at this moment in our
country's history.

These students told their teacher that they wanted to do something about the war, not just study and talk about it. Their teacher decided the students were right and, over the past two weeks, has encouraged them to study the issues, arrange lobbying visits with their elected representatives, and write analytical and reflective essays about what they are learning.

Every scar is just another story, he always said and he always loved to tell the stories--until his second deployment, one student recently wrote about his 20-year old friend who serves in the Marines. "That's
when he really changed. Two weeks after he got sent out there his unit got hit by an IED, a big one. He told me about it after I asked where his finger had
gone, but I could tell he didn't want to.

"Most recently he got sent back home early because he got a round from an AK-47 lodged in his chest because his body armor wasn't strong enough to stop it,the student continued. "I just can't stand people talking
about throwing more troops into Iraq. They don't realize what it's like to be over there."

Asked to describe how they intend to approach their Congressional Representative, another student explained,"I want to come from the angle of
being the generation that pays off this war--one that I had no power to vote for or against. I want to push Lewis to vote for a bill cutting funding for
the war and preventing increases in the troops in Iraq without the permission of Congress." The student concluded, "I also want him to sponsor a bill that
would fund an Iraqi-led reconstruction (because we do have a moral obligation now, like it or not.)."

These young adults will gather at the Amtrac station on Peachtree at 7:15 pm Friday evening and leave on the 8:15 train. They have scheduled visits to their Senators and Representatives offices on Monday where they will ask questions about policy and also express their perspectives and opinions. They'll return to Atlanta by train Monday night.


I came to Washington D.C. today with my 8th grade class to lobby against the continuation of the Iraq War. Although we could probably talk politics all day I doubt it will get much accomplished. That is why I am going to skip all of the formalities and get straight to the reason I am here.

It was just over two years ago that one of my best friends, Kevin, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, at 18 years of age, and was almost immediately sent into the heart of Baghdad to fight.

The first letter I received from him was telling me to never enlist in the U.S. military. He said it was the biggest mistake he had ever made. He said people are dying all around, people are miserable, there's no power barely any water and no security at all. He sent me similar letters every month or so, but it wasn't until I saw him again that I realized what he meant.

When I first saw him I didn't even recognize him. He had scars everywhere from shrapnel and heavy bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. The man who had always been there joking and laughing was gone; my friend as I knew him was gone. He never smiled and spent most of his time staring at the sky.

Before I knew it Kevin was thrown back into Baghdad.

This time I received no letters or contact from him.

As the months passed I began to believe he had been killed in action. That is, until I got a note saying that Kevin was coming home again. I was so happy. It seemed that my friend had somehow been rescued from death and was coming back in perfect condition.

When I saw him I couldn't grasp the intensity of what I was seeing. He had a nasty looking scar that ran along his ear that was a few inches long. His leg moved slightly awkwardly when he walked and most disturbing of all, his left ring finger was completely missing.

When I asked him what had happened he told me one of the most horrific stories I have ever heard. He was in a patrol of 5 humvees. Kevin was riding shotgun in the second humvee. They had just turned out of sight of the base when a large IED went off right next to the lead humvee. The lead humvee was shredded to pieces and everyone inside was killed. Kevin's humvee was just too close to the bomb and it got flipped on its side. A twelve inch long piece of flying shrapnel from the IED embedded itself into his thigh and he struggled to crawl out from the flipped humvee. Everyone in the patrol thought it was just a standard 'ditch and run' IED but they were wrong, insurgents were waiting just above the hilltop to ambush them. Just as Kevin stumbled away from the flipped humvee, an RPG hit the roof. Kevin was thrown forward and a piece of the engine severed his finger, everyone who was inside his humvee was killed.

Luckily there were three other humvees which were heavily equipped and drove off the insurgents before anyone else was killed. This is where Kevin could not go on, this was a man I had known since I was eight years old and had never seen him so much as look sad before practically breaking down in front of me.

Fortunately his leg healed unbelievably well and his finger caused him no real trouble. Unfortunately he was seen fit enough to be sent once again into Iraq.

That was couple months ago and Kevin is already back home, but not because he served his tour. He was sent back early because he was shot with an AK-47 and got two rounds lodged into his chest. He took the bullet for a wounded marine who eventually died anyway. He was wearing the standard body armor but it wasn't strong enough to resist the shots.

Kevin is still recovering from being shot but apparently he's healing so nicely that he's being considered for reassignment into Iraq with the troop increase.

For the last two years I have watched my closest friend deteriorate and decay before my very eyes.

This is why we can't afford to send more troops into Iraq, because if we do and Kevin is sent back into action I am sure he will die. He has been unbelievably lucky so far and it can't last forever.

Kevin joined the USMC to protect people, no, not just Americans but everyone, the Iraqi civilians are suffering far more than U.S. forces. There is no accurate number but estimates put the civilian death toll in Iraq at 200 times the number of dead soldiers, that's 200 innocent civilians killed in Iraq for every one U.S. soldier.

I have heard no clear mission worthy of putting 21,000 more young men and women's life's on the line, and who knows how many more innocents civilians lives in peril.

Even if you have served in our military during a time of war can you really think you know what it's like over there? Not unless you have friends or family over there like many of my classmates and I, and if you do, are you really willing to put their life in danger? If this goes on, thousands more will die. Innocent children will die in the streets of a city, they have never seen in a time of peace. How many more friends, brothers, and fathers must die before we're satisfied? Must we flood the streets of Baghdad with the blood of hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers before we are ready to say enough?

Please, you have the power to do what I cannot. You can save my friend's life. You can save thousands of innocent lives, and even if it's too late to save Kevin, I'm sure he'd be happy to know that he had even a tiny part in bringing peace because that is what he dreams of.

Kevin dreams, as I do, of a world where military action is our last choice, where the value of children's lives is more valuable than a dirty dollar bill, of a world in peace.

Please, I am literally begging you to take action. Use your bestowed power and make the change, save lives, for me and for Kevin and for the thousands of soldiers and family members, for yourself and for our country. You have the power to save us.

*We will follow up after the protests in D.C., January 27, 2007, with additional essays and details on the 8th grade children attending the event.
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