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World Service Corps Can Save Our Vets

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John Kennedy often said he preferred sending the Peace Corps rather than the Marine Corps.  Had the Kennedys lived we probably would have quickly grown the Peace Corps to 1 million, as Kennedy wanted.  Consequently, we would have had smarter public policies for generations.  He, his brothers, and those millions who were interested in serving in New Frontiers would have by now erased a lot of today’s ignorance, poverty, and terrorism.

In recent years, our public policies have been anything but smart.  Consequently, we pour more into our military machine than all the other nations of the world combined.  As People’s Lobby points out,  in 2007 we spent $760,000 per active military personnel versus about $35,000 per Peace Corps volunteer.   And because of these kind of resource allocations, our military is almost broken and our economy IS broken.

But on a more personal level what does the lack of smart public policy do to our men and women who serve? What does it do to our national character when we are locked into sending the Marine Corps rather than rehabbing the infested terrorists’ battlefield by wisely using an overwhelmingly sized Peace Corps?

Let a soldier’s mom writing to a Gold Star mom tell you what it does.  And let the soldier tell his story.  And consider helping build a better way.

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This is the story of Pfc. JOSEPH EDWARD KYLE VANTASSEL, born 1979/11/18.  He served 2YRS /03 MONTHS/24 DAYS and was honorably discharged 2005/10/22.  He did Foreign Service for 10MONTHS / 13DAYS.  He received the National Defense Service Medal//Army Service Ribbon//Global War on Terrorism Service Medal//Iraq Campaign Medal.

Dear Nadia, (Gold Star Mom Nadia McCaffrey) 

I am so grateful to Peter and Sally, and of course, dear Lane, for introducing us.Tonight was the first time I realized I have never told any of the media what really happened, so please read the brief summary of the event that I have written before my son's letter  ... Thank you for giving me the courage to speak out for my son  

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Patria Fuentes Van Tassel

On November 3, 2008 my son held up traffic on a very busy Santa Barbara overpass bridge above Highway 101 for 3 hours during Monday Morning rush hour traffic.  He was dressed in Army fatigues, an army mask, waving an American Flag upside down.  I learned later from other Veterans that holding the flag upside down is a sign that a soldier is in distress. 

Unfortunately, he also had an unloaded gun. It should be explained here that I called 911 that morning reporting him missing.  My daughter Ginnie Myers had just dropped off Elijah, my 2 year old grandson, as I take him to Little Angels Pre School each morning.  Normally I take my son to work first but that morning was different.  As soon as my daughter had driven away, I realized our car was gone and my son was missing.  I called 211 to find out who I should call and I was told to call 911.  Panicked and confused, I called my daughter and she immediately came back and was here when the detective arrived, almost immediately after getting the call.  While we were explaining what happened, Ginnie's mother in law, called and said not to take "101" because there was a man on the La Cumbre Bridge in fatigues holding up traffic.  We immediately turned on our local television station and saw him. 

After we realized what was going on, Ginnie asked the detective if she could go and talk to him, but we were told that in cases like this, the police on the scene do not allow family to intervene, so like the rest of Santa Barbara we watched the whole thing on TV.  It was like a movie, the police were all around my son, the swat team was called out, and a computer robot  and even helicopters were flying ..  After 3 hours, he was arrested and told he would be arraigned, brought before a judge, after 48 hours. On November 5, when he was to be in court, we, his family, friends and Lane Anderson the Veteran who offered to help and has since been my connection to so many wonderful veterans that have helped us, were in court but my son was forgotten and not transported from the jail.  He wrote the following letter that day in jail: 

Dear America (Land that I love) WAKE UP!  PLEASE!

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Imagine this if you can.  Your locked in a 6' by 12' foot room, it is completely empty save for a 1/2 foot grate in the floor with bars 1/2 inch wide.  In the grate and on it is human feces.  Your feet are bare, your tee shirt has been taken away.  Two vents blow an endless stream of cold air that chills you to the bone!  When you stand you shiver uncontrollably.  After 48 hours all you've been given to eat is 2 pieces of cold bologna and a glass of water.

Am I describing a cell for an Iraqui detainee, perhaps a POW?  No, I am describing the cell I have been housed in.

Who am I to deserve such treatment?  Who am I?

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Dwayne served in the Peace Corps in the slums of Mumbai, India, worked several Habitat Projects, and was on the start-up team of the California Conservation Corps. He has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, has been a builder, teacher, (more...)

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