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Stacy Bannerman

 

...activist, author, WHEN THE WAR CAME HOME: An Inside Account of Citizen Soldiers and The Families Left Behind (May, 2006, Continuum Publishing)

Stacy Bannerman is an Advisory Board member of Military Families Speak Out, which she joined when her husband was deployed to Iraq in 2004. She has met with Washington State Legislators, Congressmen, and Senators, calling for an end to the war while advocating for veteran and family benefits, mental health care, and support for soldiers. Born and raised in North Dakota, Stacy is a lifelong peace and justice activist, and as a third-grader, she wrote a Bill of Rights for her elementary school. Stacy has been deeply engaged in the non-profit and education arenas for over 15 years, serving as the past Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Outreach Center. She is the Founder and President of Reconciliation Works, in Kent, Washington, and a Consultant for the Voices In Wartime Network.

Stacy Bannerman

Stacy received her M.S., Magna Cum Laude, from Minnesota State University, and a B.A. in International Relations with research in Biotechnology. She attended the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute's Center for Visionary Leadership, and completed Doctoral work at Wisdom University. A previous member of the Spokane Human Rights Commission, she created and hosted Value Added: We're talking about what Really Matters, a talk radio program on KSBN AM 1230. Stacy has conducted over 100 multimedia interviews, including Deborah Norville on MSNBC, Hardball with Chris Matthews, the Lehrer News Hour, NBC Nightly News, The Connection on PBS/NOW, and was the spokesperson in a thirty-second television ad sponsored by Texans for Truth.

Dear Members of Military Families Speak Out,

We wanted to let you know about a new book by MFSO member Stacy Bannerman
 
 "When The War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind"
 
details the experience of a military wife who opposes the war that her husband has been sent off to fight. We were able to review a pre-print manuscript and said this about Stacy's book:
 
"For military families who have experienced the heart-ache, fear, pain and anguish of having a loved one deployed to Iraq, Stacy Bannerman's compassion, anger, humor and raw honesty will be immensely healing. For the rest of the nation, this is the book to read to understand and be able to reach out to those who have. When The War Came Home will help bridge the divide between those who have been touched so directly by this war, and those whose experience of the war comes largely from the sanitized news media."
Stacy is a member of MFSO's Advisory Board, and works with the Washington State Chapter of MFSO. Her book is published by The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc. and will be available in bookstores soon -- By mid-February or early March.

Also, as many of you already know, MFSO member and Gold Star Families for Peace co-founder Cindy Sheehan also wrote a book last fall entitled
"Not One More Mother's Child".
It was published by KOA Books of Hawaii and is available now in bookstores across the country.

MFSO is still collecting letters you have written (or are writing) to your Member of Congress and/or Senators, to publish in a book of letters from Military Families Speak Out members to George Bush from April, 2004 and to Congress now. Please send a copy of your letters asap to MFSO at
letters@mfso.org

Thank you all for speaking out, whenever and however you can. Our voices are making a difference.

In Peace and Solidarity,
Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson

for
Military Families Speak Out

BringThemHomeNow.org

Where to buy the book and Stacy's Home Page

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Stacy's testimony to the House Appropriations Sub-Committee
 
Link to this story at the national MFSO site.
 
Testimony provided to:
House Appropriations Sub-Committee on
Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs.
March 1, 2006
Statement of Stacy Bannerman
Advisory Board Member
Military Families Speak Out

I am the wife of a National Guard soldier who served twelve months in Iraq.  I am also a member of Military Families Speak Out, an organization of more than 3,000 military families opposed to the war in Iraq.  I am joined by Tia Steele, Gold Star Families Speak Out, Liz Frederick, Military Families Speak Out, and Garett Reppenhagen, Iraq Veterans Against the War.  We are the military families and personnel who pay the price of war.
 
This is the medal given to family members of Iraq War veterans.  National Guard Specialist John West took a very long time making it to the Freedom Salute stage to pick it up.  Sixteen months earlier, he’d been hit by an IED that broke his back, and bones in his foot and leg.  It tore out a few pounds of his flesh, and ruptured multiple internal organs. SPC West gets around now with the help of a walker.  He still struggles with post-traumatic stress, depression, and flashbacks of fellow soldiers being killed in front of him.  West was granted a ten percent disability.
 
First-hand accounts from military family members and personnel working at Fort Madigan Medical Center reveal a pattern of Reservists being granted lower benefits than active-duty for comparable injuries.
 
The United States Government has known for at least a decade that citizen soldiers have significantly higher rates of combat-related PTSD than their active duty counterparts.[1][1]  But you’ve done nothing about it.  That failure of duty is costing military families their homes, marriages, jobs, and lives.
 
For the 56,000 Army marriages that have ended since the war on terror began, a Freedom Salute medal doesn’t mean much.  It isn’t particularly valuable for this father, whose son returned from Iraq.  He wrote:
 
"I need your help. My son’s body showed up at my house for Christmas but [my wife] and I did not know the person who claimed to be [our son]. He was severely drunk every day for the whole week, belligerent, and generally just someone that nobody wanted anything to do with. He has nightmares every night of the murdered innocent children and civilian Iraqis.  The Army has abandoned him as far as giving him help. They will go out of their way to help him re-enlist though. "
 
A Freedom Salute medal isn’t going to make things better for Pat Gunn, who got this response from the Army after she contacted a member of Congress when her son was redeployed to Iraq following a diagnosis of PTSD:
 
"SPC Gunn…was wounded in the leg…during an attack on his HUMVEE.  The soldier behind him was literally torn in half.  After returning from convalescent leave [Gunn] was informed he would be redeployed.  [He] indicated he would not go back to Iraq…[and] was sent to Heidelberg Hospital for evaluation.  They concluded he was suffering some post traumatic stress from seeing his comrade killed so violently.  They recommended he be retained…and treated at Heidelberg, [which] was contacted by medical authorities from Iraq. 
 
After discussion of his case it was determined [that SPC Gunn be] …treat[ed] downrange [as it] may be in his best interest mentally to overcome his fear by facing it…[SPC Gunn was] cleared for redeployment."
 
The Freedom Salute medal is just tin on a ribbon for the families of Marine Reservist Jeffrey Lucey, National Guardsman Doug Barber, and the dozens of other Iraq Veterans who have committed suicide after the Veterans Administration refused to treat them.  Last year, the V. A. denied requests for care from over a quarter of a million veterans.  Congress has tried to cut funding for veterans, and has grossly underestimated the needs of the soldiers returning from Iraq.  You want to take care of our veterans? Quit making new ones.
The 1.2 million soldiers and their families who have paid for this war with their lives and limbs and loved ones don’t need medals.
We need leaders.
 
We need leaders who will honor the Constitution, not shred it.  We need leaders that hold accountable an administration that promotes a policy of torture but penalizes the foot soldiers that are expected to carry it out.  We need leaders that don’t bankrupt a nation in the interests of bankrolling their personal political agendas.  We need moral leaders who are champions of truth and justice, not lapdogs to private interests and war profiteers.  We need leaders willing to reclaim democracy from the iron fist of imperialistic power and greed.
 
We need leaders who will give America back to Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom want the troops home.  We need leaders that care more about the lives of our soldiers and the material and spiritual health of this nation than the next election.  Congress gave the Bush administration a blank check for a war based on lies. 
 
Stop payment.  Immediately.  Not one more dime, not one more life.  You took an oath of office, and declared yourself a leader.  Be one.
Brings the troops home now.  Take care of them when they get here. And never again send our soldiers to fight in a war based on lies.
 
[1][1] In 1994, the Department of Defense implemented the Comprehensive Clinical Evaluation Program in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs to study long-term stress reactions in soldiers.
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
"Can We Come Home Now?"  Charlie Anderson, Truthout.org,
February 2006
 
"Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers to Care.”  New England Journal of Medicine, July, 2004 Vol. 351, No. 1, pages 13–22.
 
The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of War and the Case for Bringing Them Home. Bennis, Leaver, & IPS Task Force, August 31, 2005.
 
“Much Ado About Nothing.” Susan Lenfestey, CommonDreams.org, February 18, 2006.
 
 “Possibilities for Unexplained Chronic Illnesses among Reserve Units Deployed in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.”  Southern Medical Journal, December 1996.
 
“Soldiers Neglected after War.”  Stacy Bannerman, Tacoma News Tribune, January 22, 2006.
 
To War and Back. NBC Documentary, December 2005.
“Vets’ medical premiums may triple.”  Seattle Times, February 18, 2006.
 
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research Report on the Mental Health and Well-Being of Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF-II), Annex A, January 30, 2005, chartered by the U.S. Army Surgeon General.
 
“Why 2,245 Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg.”  Erik Leaver, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, February 9, 2006.

Radio Interview

The Other Side: When September Ends [28.1MB mp3]

Stacy Bannerman, Military Families Speak Out; Michael Hoffman and Patrick Resta, Iraq Veterans Against the War; and Carlos Arredondo, Gold Star Families for Peace.

Download instructions for media files:
Windows - right click on the link and choose "save target as"
Mac - control click on the link and choose "download link to disk"
Podcast:
Search for The Other Side in the
iTunes podcast News list and subscribe, or use this feed in any podcast software: The Other Side Podcast


Edge Life: A Holistic Journal

Spiritual Activism in a Time of War
by Stacy Bannerman

I have spent much of my adult life working to change the conditions that create war. I never imagined that my husband would be fighting in one. He got the call in October 2003, and deployed to Iraq with the Washington Army National Guard in early 2004. By the time he left, I was already active in Military Families Speak Out (www.mfso.org), an organization that has been at the forefront of the efforts to end the war in Iraq. If ever there was an opportunity to turn swords into ploughshares, it's now.

Over the past two years, I've made numerous visits to my Congressmen and Senators. So much so that two of them are now on my Christmas card mailing list. I've spoken at rallies and vigils and marches, presented petitions calling for an end to the war, and the return of our citizen soldiers. I rode on the northern route of the Bring Them Home Now bus tour, and met with Cindy Sheehan the day before she made a stand by sitting down outside the President's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

I have conducted press conferences and hundreds of interviews, written letters to the Editor, Op Eds and articles. I have mourned, and meditated, and prayed, not always sure to whom. I have also made some new friends.

One of my friends told me, "I learned my brother was dead during a graduate seminar at Emory University when my mom called my cell phone, and said, 'He's gone.'"

Ryan was killed on the 29th, four days after he should've been home. His sister, Brooke, saw President Bush speaking at a black-tie fundraiser, doing a comedy routine about the "missing" weapons of mass destruction. He was looking behind curtains and under tables, acting like he's searching for hidden weapons, laughing as he did. His joke cost Brooke's little brother his life.

When I asked my friend Bill Mitchell how he'd learned about his only boy's death, he said, "A phone call. I got a phone call at home. They said it was a military representative, and they told me to stay home. They said they were sending some people over. And I knew. But I asked them, 'What for? What are they coming here for?'

"She said, 'Sir, I cannot tell you. Just please stay there. Someone will be at your home shortly.' And I was just yelling, I kept yelling, 'Goddammit! You tell me now! You will tell me now! Is my son dead?'

"And she said, 'Yes, sir, I'm sorry, sir.' I dropped the phone and fell on the floor. Remember that picture of the coffins that was in all the papers? I'm sure Mike was in one of them."

The same day
Casey Sheehan's casket was almost certainly in the picture, too. He died on the same day, in the same place. His mom, Cindy, got the news of her son's death while watching CNN. Like all of us with a soldier overseas, the Sheehan family has a love-hate relationship with the media coverage of the situation in Iraq.

It was the first Sunday in April, and her family was eating supper with the television tuned to the nightly news, which was covering the Sadr City attack. When the footage rolled, they watched, helpless and horrified, as their first-born died. A few hours later, three military officers at the front door confirmed his death.

Casey was buried 46 days before his 25th birthday, as his three younger siblings looked on. As Cindy Sheehan beat back the overwhelming urge to lay down in that grave with her boy. It's a battle she fights every day.

Elaine Johnson fights that same fight, and I asked her how she was notified of her son's death.

"I was at work, and my husband called. He said to come home. People were looking for me. Nobody would tell me what was going on. So I went home, not really thinking too much about it, I guess. I don't really remember what happened afterward, but I do remember that I screamed when they told me, and my whole body gave out. I just fell down and sobbed. I stayed there for hours."

Notification of your child's death seems to collapse the body as much as it does the heart. A friend of mine sold her house in the months after her son's death, when the walls of her home seemed to be imploding with grief. When Carlos Arredondo was told that his beloved 20-year-old son, Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo, was dead, his grief exploded, and he went to the garage, got a can of gasoline, went to the Marine van outside and torched it and himself. Carlos joined the northern bus tour at the Amherst (MA) Commons, where more than a decade earlier, a Buddhist monk immolated himself in protest of the first Gulf War.

Dianna, another acquaintance I've made, told me about the young Marine wife who was having a party for her 3-year-old daughter. Right after singing Happy Birthday, she answered a knock on the door. Standing on her front step was the same Chaplain that had informed Dianna that her husband was dead.

Smoke from the candles was still wafting in the air when the young woman learned that her 24-year-old husband had been killed in the first days of the Fallujah offensive. His tour-of-duty was set to end in three weeks.

They come to induct the new Gold Star Families (those with an immediate family member KIA) between 6 in the morning and 10 at night. The United States Military Casualty Notification Office won't tell you about the death of your loved one in the dark. Nearly 2,000 military families have been told, "We regret to inform you...." Many of the 80-plus people of Gold Star Families for Peace harbor a profound regret of their own: They knew the war in Iraq was wrong, and they did nothing. People who identify themselves as Christian or spiritual didn't act to stop the bloodshed until after someone they loved was killed.

Founded in January of 2005, Gold Star Families for Peace (GSFP) is made up of families of soldiers who have died as a result of war (primarily, but not limited to the invasion/occupation of Iraq). Members are involved in protests and political actions, speaking out for peace in the hopes of "minimiz[ing] the 'human cost' of this war, and to prevent other families from the pain we are feeling as the result of our losses." [www.gsfp.org]

Where were you?
I met with GSFP co-founder Cindy Sheehan, the California mom who wanted to know the Noble Cause that the President was referring to when he said, "The families of the fallen can be assured that they died for a noble cause."
What I wanted to know on August 5, the day before Cindy drove to Crawford, was, "Where were you two years ago?"

She paused, dropped her gaze, and said, "I was one of the Americans asleep at the wheel, and I got a horrible wake-up call."

Didn't the spiritual community refer to 9/11 as a wake-up call for the nation?

It's time for all of us to ask ourselves not only, "Where were you two years ago?" but, more importantly, "Where are you NOW?"

What are you doing, now, to act on what you know? What are you doing, NOW, that engages your spiritual values in the public realm?

I've been involved in what's termed the New Age community for the past decade or so, and for the most part, what that's meant is buying books, channeled readings and seminars. It's been countless conversations about the inner child and abundance, healing sessions and past life regressions and the steps for attracting our soul mate. I am not diminishing the possibility of the Cultural Creatives for changing the world, WE are.

A surface-level spiritual makeover that is primarily focused on the personal and the material cannot address the deep challenges of our times. Engaged spirituality, or spiritual activism, a combination of prayer and meditation, work, and social and political activity, can.

Engaged spirituality entails two distinct, yet ultimately intertwined, activities. The first, which the New Age community has done exceedingly well, is to connect with those resources that provide spiritual sustenance. The second, which we have yet to really consider, is to engage with the world via acts of compassion and justice, service and citizenship. These four universally held values (there are at least a dozen) are found in virtually all spiritual teachings and traditions. But it's not sufficient to say we hold certain values, we must live them, for "faith without works is dead." (James 2:14-26)

Prayer and meditation, two of the cornerstones of faith, are necessary practices, but they are not enough, as every great spiritual teacher and social activist has shown us. The activists prayed, and the preachers acted: Gandhi, Chief Seattle, Dorothy Day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Thich Nhat Hanh -- and Jesus, one of the original radical political protesters.

We must reframe the perception that the spiritual life is comprised mostly, or exclusively, of things like contemplation, study and prayer. Thomas Merton, an activist monk, cautioned against "diddl[ing] around in the contemplative life, making itsy-bitsy statues." Authentic spiritual life necessitates movement in the world, which includes the demanding, often chaotic, activities of protest, writing about and speaking out for peace and justice, and tendering mercy, care and compassion to all whom we encounter, but particularly those in need.

If your neighbor were hungry, would you pray for them, feed them, or help them find work? The solution is a trinity. God did not create the problems we are facing; we did, albeit from a very low vibrational frequency.

Given the amount of time -- and dollars -- that so many of us have spent cleansing and healing and toning to raise our frequencies, shouldn't we be bringing that new resonance to the world? And wouldn't now be better than later?

Remembering its heart
A little more than a year ago, a massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami killed at least 160,000 people in Southeast Asia, and donations and assistance began to pour into that corner of the world. Much like the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, national boundaries dissolved, and humanity lost its mind (in the best possible way) and remembered its heart. After initially designating $35 million for relief assistance, President Bush increased the amount tenfold when members of the media and world leaders opined about the lack of generosity from the wealthiest nation on the planet. A nation that is spending more than $177 million a day to wage war in Iraq.

Less than two months ago, Hurricane Katrina devastated America's Gulf region. The initial shock and horror felt in the aftermath of the record-breaking tropical storm was quickly translated into compassionate action to heal the wounded, recover the several thousand dead, and relieve the suffering of millions. People were talking about the horribly inadequate evacuation systems, the failure of the levees, the loss of life, and the devastation of the natural landscape. Some asked how God could allow it to happen, others wanted to know why more wasn't done to warn people or somehow prevent it. The destructive forces of nature dismay us, yet man-made destruction continues.

The combined soldier and civilian casualties in Iraq will surpass 170,000 sometime this year, according to the most conservative estimates. Hundreds of thousands have been wounded or permanently disabled, and millions of Iraqis are without homes or jobs, engaged in a daily struggle for food and water.

The country's landscape has been irrevocably changed by bombs and poisoned by depleted uranium, and I suspect the before-and-after photos of Fallujah and Louisiana have much in common. Yet no one speaks of the dead in the Gulf of Mexico as collateral damage. Because that's a tragedy; this is war.

If we have a spiritual, moral and humanitarian mandate to alleviate suffering, then surely we are ordained not to inflict it. And those of us in the Christian and spiritual communities belie our faith when we do not speak, and act, and work for change.

Empty Boots and Baby Shoes

I am so tired of standing at memorials for soldiers;
tired of weeping for the victims of this war.  
I am tired of watching parents plant crosses for their dead children,
day after day after godforsaken day.  

I am tired of placing flowers in empty boots and baby shoes;
of the way my body shakes at the first readings
of the names that were added to the casualty count this week.  

What's wearing me out is bearing witness to this war.
This foreverness of death, and the unrelenting loss.  

It drains my spirit to meet the widow's eyes;
to watch the fathers falter, falling to their knees.
Christ, that makes me weak.

To stand at the lip of the mouth of a grave that will never get enough
catching mothers tears, a nation driving by the dead, is exhausting to my soul.

I am deathly tired today.

Copyright 2005 Stacy Bannerman. All rights reserved.

Stacy Bannerman is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) and on the Advisory Board of Military Families Speak Out (www.mfso.org). Her book, When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Citizen Soldiers and the Families Left Behind, will be released by Continuum Publishing in 2006. Her husband deployed to Iraq with the Army National Guard 81st Brigade in March 2004, and returned home in March 2005.

 
Published on Wednesday, July 13, 2005 by MinutemanMedia.org

Let Mr. Bush Explain the War to Highschoolers
by Stacy Bannerman
 
I’d like to see President George W. Bush go on live television before a tough crowd. Like a high school class in my hometown that includes Iraqi students and boys who are preparing for boot camp. These Seattle kids are still able to exercise their Constitutional right to freedom of speech. My guess is that they’d have some questions.
 
The president has already proven he’s got the time to sit in a classroom. After all, that’s what he did after being informed that this nation was under attack on 9-11, something he mentioned repeatedly in his speech, even though he’s acknowledged that there’s nothing whatsoever linking Iraq to that day.
 
If ever there was a president who needed flashcards to keep his facts straight, it's Mr. Bush.
 
Maybe the president can discuss his statement that “terrorists respect no laws of warfare or morality.” Did not this administration violate international law and it’s own policy against pre-emptive strikes when it invaded Iraq on false pretenses?
 
Perhaps he can clarify for the kids why he clings to the dream that the U.S. invasion is supported by a sizable coalition of the willing despite ample proof to the contrary. As the President inadvertently pointed out, the only real coalition of the willing is the one that has developed amongst terrorist cells converging in Iraq as the result of the American presence.
 
Since the president thanked the soldiers and military families for their service and sacrifice, I’m sure the students would be interested in learning more about just how grateful the administration is. Is it grateful enough to provide all of the troops with tetranike vests and up-armored tanks? Is it grateful enough to help the thousands of military families who’ve had to apply for food stamps to feed their children?
 
Is it grateful enough to deal with the fact that Tri-Care, the military’s medical coverage for soldiers and their families, is rapidly becoming obsolete, as fewer and fewer providers accept it? And does the administration’s gratitude mean that they will take care of the Reserve and National Guard troops who are already exhibiting much higher rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder than active-duty military?
 
Possibly the president would like to explain why this country enforces truth in advertising laws, and considers bait-and-switch sales tactics poor business practice, but plays shell games with the mission in Iraq. And whether he would like to tell the children they’re more valuable as consumers than as citizens?
 
Speaking of citizenry, perhaps he’d like to discuss the Iraqi citizens that have died during this war; many more than were killed during any comparable time frame of Saddam Hussein’s reign. The tens of thousands of dead Iraqis dispel any pretense whatsoever that this war can ever be called "moral.” Yet, it was President Bush’s moral values that got him elected to a second term. I’m sure the Seattle high schoolers would like to hear an explanation of how a moral person justifies it when he creates, rather than alleviate, suffering.
 
Since high schools have strict policies against fighting, I’m sure they’d like to hear the president, a ‘compassionate conservative,’ reconcile the New Testament's command to "turn the other cheek" with his decision to respond to violence with violence. Then the president could talk about democracy, explaining how, counterintuitive though it may be, it actually can be imposed. The president could tell the kids that when he said a totalitarian regime is one that “despises dissent,” he wasn’t referring to his administration.
 
After reviewing the national polls showing that at least half the U.S. population wants troops withdrawn and 60% believe the war in Iraq wasn’t worth fighting, the president could specify which country he was talking about when he referred to a “Constitution that upholds the will of the majority.” Because the children should be forgiven if they want to know how we can presume to do that in Iraq when we seem unable to do it here.
 
The president made it to Fayetteville and talked to the troops at Ft. Bragg in June. Now, he should take his act to Seattle. And don’t forget to bring the cameras. The world will be watching.
Stacy Bannerman is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) and on the Advisory Board of Military Families Speak Out www.mfso.org. Her book “When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Citizen Soldiers and the Families Left Behind,” will be released by Continuum Publishing in 2006. Her husband deployed to Iraq in March 2004, and returned home in March 2005. She wrote this for the Institute for Policy Studies. The Institute for Policy Studies is the only multi-issue progressive think tank in Washington, D.C. Through books, articles, films, conferences, and activist education, IPS offers resources for progressive social change locally, nationally, and globally. www.ips-dc.org.
 
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"It's time to punch the clock ... the Battle for America has begun"

Click on link above for an excellent 4 minutes of getting your patriotic fire relit.