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Lietta Ruger; profile in speaking out as military family, as a citizen civil activist on Iraq war

Profile: Lietta Ruger
Date of Birth: July 07, 1951
Marital Status: Married
Parental Status: 8 grown children & 14 grandchildren
Location: Bay Center, WA, USA
Email: lietta@swandeer.com
Lietta's blog: Dying To Preserve The Lies
Lietta, giving presentation
Hi, my name is Lietta (pronounced Lee-etta). While I have a rich life history that makes my world-views what they are today, at this time in our current history with the war in Iraq, I pull heavily on my focus as a military family with 2 loved ones deployed in Iraq. Both served already in an extended 15 month tour in Iraq 2003 - 2004, and are now under orders for a re-deployment (2nd deployment) to Iraq.
Having been raised as a military brat, I come from a history of being a child inside a military culture. As a young wife to a husband drafted to Vietnam, I am marked by that era in our history as is the family we raised in the following years.
Now I find that I am a mother-in-law and aunt to 2 new Iraq veterans who will be serving yet again in the carnage and destruction that marks the war in Iraq. My history as a professional social worker has amply taught me  to assimilate a variety of world-views.  Yet it did not prepare me well enough for the divisiveness we see in our popular culture now in our country.
I struggle to grasp, comprehend and understand it and am not sure I am doing such a good job in "getting it" yet. Well, I do "get it", of course.  I understand the phenomenom that has set citizen against citizen and civilian against civilian all while the troops have devolved into a culture of their own as they  try to cope with the discrepancies that have become hallmark characteristics in the war in Iraq.
I did not live my entire adult life, raise my children in accordance with the rules of the culture, only to find those rules of accord have been turned upside down. As a mother and grandmother, I cannot turn away from the inheritance of the richness of this country as our children's rightful legacy - nor can I be idle in watching it slip away to be replaced by whatever is morphing into our country's new identity.
Lietta Ruger;  16 years occupation in social work specification with state of Washington;  an Episcopal lay preacher, and now has four years as activist with Military Families Speak Out, as coordinator of Washington state chapter in effort to end Iraq war and bring troops home, .
She has two returing Iraq veterans in her family facing multiple tours of duty in Iraq, was herself a young military wife to husband drafted and deployed to Vietnam.  She was was raised in the military life in an Air Force family where home was numerous military installations abroad and in U.S.
Lietta, speaks with experience, conviction and authority about the role and conflicts a military family faces in supporting their loved ones who serve and are deployed in combat. 

Where speaking out began for me

Lietta, lay preacher,  giving sermon she prepared calling for examination of Iraq invasion/war July 2004 at her church, St. John's Episcopal Parish, South Bend, WA, 2004

Lietta speaks out as military family with two family members who served in combat tours in Iraq, now returning Iraq veterans, OIF March 2003 - July 2004.
Both are preparing for second combat deployments to Iraq this year, 2007.
 Four Annivesaries of Iraq War
* First Anniversary Iraq war, 2004; South Bend, WA
Lietta prepares and delivers her sermon at St John's Episcopal church challenging the actions of Iraq invasion and war.
link to her sermon 'The Prodigal Son Parable; Midst of War'
[excerpt] I hope with all my heart with what right now feels like the last vestige of hope I have that we as a global people of God will come to our senses and come home in humbleness of heart for our foolish wastefulness of God's abundant resources.
I hope that we might find that what we have lost may come alive again - that which we have made dead come to resurrection.
I pray that this parable teaching of the Christ imprints itself in our hearts and guides us all to reconciliation.
I do fervently pray for our President to hear the call and heed this Christ-teaching; to return to the Father's grace and lead us in life-giving rather than death-making pursuits. I pray that he might be inspired to lead us to reconciliation.
In the Name of the One,
* Second Anniversary Iraq war, 2005; -Seattle, WA 'Cost of War' rally.  Lietta and Arthur invited to speak

Lietta with her husband, Arthur; guest speakers in Seattle, WA  March, 2005
[excerpt from article in Seattle Times, March 2005]
Thousands rally to protest Iraq war,
As military families go, Lietta Ruger said, she is as red, white and blue as any proud mother.

But how could she reconcile her loyalty to the armed forces with her disdain for the Iraq war?

For months, she kept silent — until her son-in law faced mortar attacks every night at his Baghdad compound. That's when the Episcopal preacher in her came out.

Ruger, 53, of Bay Center, Pacific County, spoke out against the war on PBS' "The NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer last fall and to her congregation at St. John's Episcopal Church in South Bend, Pacific County.

And again yesterday: On the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, she gave an impassioned speech explaining why she believes the war in Iraq is unjust, before a crowd of anti-war protesters at Seattle Center. Organizers put the number of participants at 5,000.

The Seattle protest, put together by the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Washington State Jobs with Justice and Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, was part of a worldwide movement designed to place pressure on the military and get attention from Washington, D.C.



* Third Anniversary, Iraq war, 2006; Lietta speaks in Tacoma, WA rally and march

Third anniversary of Iraq war. Speakers included Lietta Ruger, of Military Families Speak Out - Washington state chapter (photo right); Joe Colgan, Gold Star Families for Peace (photo left).

 excerpt from  Tacoma News Tribune article; Community Marches Against the War

Joe Colgan, of Kent, said his son, Army 2nd Lt. Benjamin J. Colgan, was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad in November of 2003 while serving in an artillery unit.

After what’s come out about the conflict, he said, the fact that more people aren’t protesting “drives me nuts.”

Lietta Ruger, whose son-in-law and nephew, both 28, are in the Army and facing additional time in Iraq, said she hoped her efforts would prevent other families from feeling the uncertainty and pain of having loved ones in Iraq.

An Iraq war veteran took the stage with her.

“I did nothing positive in Iraq,” said Joshua Farris, 24, who said he served as an Army cavalry scout during the war’s first six months.

Referring to the protest, he said, “This is the right side of it.”

State Rep. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, read a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s conduct of the war: “Convincing us Saddam was linked to 9/11 was wrong! Denying civil war is imminent is wrong!” she said to cheers.

“Every American is contributing at least $1,500 per person per year” to the war effort, said Warren Freeman, pastor at Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tacoma and Associated Ministries board member. “Too much money is being spent on the war, and not enough on health care, education, and housing.”


* Fourth Anniversary Iraq war, 2007, and Fifth Anniversary Iraq war 2008, Lietta stays home with heavy heart. 


Lietta's other speaking out media interviews

What began in March 2004 on a small, local scale with sermons I prepared and delivered in my local church, speaking out about the war in Iraq, was altered when I agreed to do an interview with Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

Chronicling below a list of media interviews I've done since then as a military family speaking out. Listing chronologically with most recent interviews at top.

Lietta speaking out media interviews June 2006 to January 2007 - Lietta was actively involved representing Military Families Speak Out - Washington state chapter in weekly organzing committee meetings - a) , and b)organizing committee for
Bring Them Home Now Bus Tour, Crawford to Washington DC September 2005

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Lietta Ruger,of Military Families Speak Out, front row - white t-shirt on Bring Them Home Now tour, Central Route, Crawford, TX to Washington DC, Sept 2005 Back row: Mia Lorraine, MFSO; Kallisa Stanley, MFSO; Chris Snively, VFP; Hart Viges,IVAW; Vince George, MFSO
Front row: Lietta Ruger, MFSO; Beatriz Saldivar, GSFP.

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Lietta Ruger, Military Families Speak Out,right, having breakfast with Chris Snively, Veterans for Peace, left, and Kellisa Stanley also of Military Families Speak Out, center, at host home on the Bring Them Home Now tour, Central Route, Crawford, TX to Washington DC, Sept 2005

Lietta Ruger, member Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), week at Camp Casey, Crawford, Texas representing our
  • Washington state chapter of MFSO
  • to sleep in a tent in a ditch to support Cindy's message 'what's the noble cause'. The military community voice coming out of Camp Casey from military families, Iraq veterans and other veterans of and

    Lietta in Crawford, Texas with Cindy Sheehan
    August 2005

    Lietta in Crawford, Texas, Camp Casey just outside President Bush ranch. Moving the Military Families Speak Out banner
    August, 2005
    Media interviews given by Lietta Ruger while at Crawford, Texas - Camp Casey, supporting Cindy Sheehan.


    Lietta on  the Bring Them Home Now bus tour
    from Crawford, Texas to Washington DC
    Aug 31 - Sept 24, 2005 

    Lietta speaking in Columbus, Ohio September, 2005
    Bring Them Home Now Tour website
    4 week tour Crawford, Texas  to Washington DC, chronicles events and media reports for all the participants on all three tours; Northern, Central and Southern routes - Aug 31 - Sept 24, 2005. 

    Lietta interviewed on KOMO TV, Seattle, WA
     after returning from Crawford, Texas - Cindy Sheehan's Camp Casey  followed by  the 4 week Bring Them Home Now tour from Crawford to Washington DC.
     August, 2005, local Seattle KOMO TV 4 interview with Lietta when she returned home from Crawford, Texas.  Also KOMO 4 interviewed her son-in-law, returning Iraq veteran, OIF , 15 month combat tour Iraq - March 2003 - July 2004.
    KOMO 4 TV Local Mom Joins Cindy Sheehan's Protest in Texas
    By Tracy Vedder
    [excerpt] Lietta Ruger just got back from a week spent camped outside the Bush ranch. Ruger grew up a military brat, was a military wife and now has a son-in-law and a nephew in the Army.

    She says it's that military connection that compelled her to travel to Texas and join in Sheehan's vigil.

    "I just felt that I needed to get down there and stand with her because I'm fully in support of what she's attempting to do," Ruger said.

    Ruger, of Bay Center, Washington, says she's never been an activist, until now. Over the past year she's protested the Iraq war locally, but going to Crawford, Texas, sleeping in a tent, and being a part of something she believes is growing, just felt right.

    "For us as military families, carrying the disproportionate load of the Iraq war, it's our troops and our families affected."

    [excerpt] Ruger knows other military moms disagree, but she insists the protest does not dishonor those who have lost loved ones. Yet nationally there's been criticism of Sheehan's vigil, including from other Gold Star moms who've lost sons in the war in Iraq.

    [excerpt] But Ruger believes it's military families' responsibility to speak out for those who can't.

    Like her son-in-law, a soldier who asked to remain anonymous: "I can look back on this one day, and say I served in the U.S. military," he told KOMO 4 News, "and I take great pride in that."

    In spite of that pride, this soldier doesn't feel safe showing his face. He's done one tour in Iraq and expects to do another. He also thinks the war is senseless. But it's not something he feels free to say publicly.

    "If we say too much, then we can get in trouble for it. So, as a troop, we need people to speak for us."

    As a soldier, he supports the right of protesters to speak.

    "Not only do I support it, but there's thousands of soldiers out there that support it. We know what they're doing here in the states; they're speaking for us - we have no voice."

    He may have no voice, but his mother in law does. And she vows to continue speaking on his behalf.


                    Lt. Ehren Watada

    Lietta worked with the campaign to support Lt. Watada, June 2006 through his court martial Jan 2007. 

    Ehren Watada with Daniel Ellsberg Citizens' Hearing on Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq
    JANUARY 20-21, 2007 Tacoma, Washington, USA

    In an unprecedented two-day Citizens' Hearing held over January 20-21, more than 600 citizens joined a distinguished tribunal panel in listening to testimony about the legality of the US invasion of Iraq.

    The Citizens' Hearing was convened to present evidence that Lt. Ehren Watada would have presented in his February 5, 2007 court martial on the question that the military ruled barred from entry - the question of the Iraq War's legality.

    Lt. Watada has repeatedly asserted that because the Iraq War is illegal, it is his duty to refuse orders to deploy.

    He twice attempted to resign his commission and the Army refused his resignation citing 'stop loss'.

    He stated he was willing to deploy to Afghanistan, but not Iraq as he discerned that would be illegal order on the premise that Iraq invasion/occupation is illegal.

    He is the Army's first commissioned officer to take such a stand.

    click on link below

    Daniel Ellsberg giving testimony at Citizens' Hearing on Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq, Tacoma,WA, Jan 20-21, 2007.

    Lietta introduces the Panelists who will hear two days of testimony at Citizens' Hearing on Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq, Tacoma, WA, Jan 20-21-2007 Lietta Ruger and Ann Wright at Citizens' Hearing on Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq, Tacoma, WA, Jan 20-21-2007.

    Lietta in support of Lt. Ehren Watada at his first press conference, June 2006, Tacoma, WA. Photograph: Ted S Warren/AP Lietta with MFSO- WA chapter members Judy and Jenny in support at Lt Watada noon press conference, June 2006.

    Broadcast Interview on PBS-Newshour with Jim Lehrer
                    Segment 'Homefront Battles' which aired October, 2004
    Dealing with and countering the criticism
    LEE HOCHBERG: Their message has resonated among some families with longtime military backgrounds. In rural South Bend, Washington, lay pastor Lietta Ruger used her church pulpit to assail President Bush for misleading America.
    LIETTA RUGER, Military Family: I am a military family. We are a military family. I speak out in support of the troops, by bringing them home and ending this war that we know is a product of lies.
    LEE HOCHBERG: Ruger's son-in-law and nephew are in the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. Her husband, Arthur, and her father, were in the Air Force.
    LIETTA RUGER: I am not from the peace movement. I am not Jane Fonda on the street. I am not a leftover '60s protester. I am a military brat, wife of a veteran. But Vietnam taught us something. We have to do critical thinking when we give permission for our country to go to war.
    LEE HOCHBERG: The Rugers say their son-in-law doesn't object to their criticism of the war. He shared his thoughts with us by phone, requesting we shield his identity.
    SON-IN-LAW: To go to war on the basis that we went to war on, I don't agree with that. And then to get lied to by the president. We know people are speaking out against the war, not against us. We're not dumb. We know.
    LIETTA RUGER: He said, "Mom, it's wrong here. We're not doing anything. We're hurting, we're harming."
    LEE HOCHBERG: Despite her son-in- law's support, Ruger's extended military family has been furious with her stand, and she has been severely criticized over the Internet.

    Leisure time, I paint among other things;
    Winter Cabin, oil painting by Lietta Ruger

    See more of Lietta's paintings at  Lietta's painting gallery