Support Coffee Strong and Under the Hood
This is the third and final article highlighting the important work of the veteran owned and operated GI coffeehouse movement. In addition to providing desperately needed GI support, GI coffeehouses remain one of the strongest and consistent voices in the antiwar movement. Please go to http://www.coffeestrong.org/ and http://www.underthehoodcafe.org/ and donate generously.
Obama's endeavor to conduct an indefinite war of aggression on seven fronts -- with an overstretched, all volunteer army -- is ill-conceived, morally bankrupt, and opposed by the majority of the American public. Despite widespread civilian atrocities and war crimes, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed miserably in achieving (overt or covert) strategic goals. On the one hand, unprecedented fraud and corruption by war contractors, such as Halliburton and Kellogg, Brown and Root has caused hundreds of billions of tax dollars to simply vanish. On the other, gross underfunding of troop services has put US troops on the front line without armored jeeps, body armor, adequate health services, and, in some cases, safe food and water (http://www.halliburtonwatch.org/ and http://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/the-fbi2019s-efforts-to-combat-international-contract-corruption).
Given their first hand contact with corruption, officer misconduct and civilian atrocities, returning veterans are a critical voice in an antiwar effort that was scattered to the winds by the election of Barack Obama. Just as Wikileaks has been instrumental in exposing Pentagon and State Department lies and misconduct in the war effort, the GI coffeehouse movement has been instrumental in blowing the lid off the Pentagon cover-up of GI suicides, the scandalous deployment of troops on psychotropic medication, and the gross underfunding of troop and veterans health and support services.
Coffee Strong at Fort Lewis
Coffee Strong, recently featured in the award-winning documentary, Grounds for Resistance, by Dr. Lisa Gilman, has been at the center of pro-soldier, antiwar activism since 2008. The veteran-owned and operated coffeehouse is situated just 300 meters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord AFB (Air Force Base) in Lakewood, Washington. JBLM has been rocked by a rash of recent suicides and combat stress-related violence. There have been eleven suicides so far in 2011. Of the 50 suicides committed at the base in the past nine years, 10% have occurred since July 2011.
Coffee Strong has spearheaded campaigns to end unjust Stop-Loss policies, secure the release of war resisters and prisoners of conscience. In 2011 alone, they have served over 2,000 active duty personnel. This includes making anonymous referrals to civilian health professionals for soldier survivors of PTSD, military sexual trauma, and other combat/noncombat related injuries; providing information about applying for conscientious objector status as well as other options for separating from military service; GI Rights counseling in cases of command abuse and other rights violations; and assistance in applying for veterans' disability benefits. The veterans at Coffee Strong also coordinate with educators to bring "Truth in Recruiting" presentations featuring combat veterans and war resisters in local high school classrooms.
Recent projects at Coffee Strong include the Free PFC Ryan Reed campaign (see http://www.facebook.com/FreePFCRyanReed about the GI court martialed for leaving his unit for six months to care for his seriously ill wife -- after repeated denial of requests for compassionate leave); the campaign to support Ashley Joppa-Hagemann whose husband was deployed eight times to Iraq and Afghanistan with the Army Rangers before committing suicide; and in August 2011 the first State of the Soldier Address, a unique opportunity for active-duty personnel, veterans, and military families to share their untold stories.
Under the Hood at Fort Hood
Under the Hood Outreach Center and Cafe opened in Killeen, Texas in February 2009 in the spirit of its predecessor coffeehouse, the Oleo Strut. The Oleo Strut was a major fixture of the GI resistance movement during the Vietnam War. Under the Hood's mission is to create "a space where GIs, veterans, military families and the public can speak freely, get referrals for assistance and become educated about GI rights." Fort Hood has been rocked by the same epidemic of GI suicides as Fort Lewis (http://www.usatoday.com/news/military/2011-01-06-suicides06_ST_N.htm), as well as the horror of a Fort Hood army psychiatrist opening fire and killing thirteen people.
Under the Hood offers similar referral and support services as Coffee Strong, and has campaigned heavily to end Stop Loss and to gain conscientious objector status for active duty personnel, as well as to free soldiers of conscience court martialed for refusing illegal orders, refusing to deploy or going AWOL. They also have a regular calendar of GI art exhibits and free concerts.