Military Families Speak Out Washington State Chapter


Bring Them Home Now!

One of the features of military families in this war that differs from previous wars is that there are more young married soldiers.

Here are some statistics:

-- in Iraq war, soldiers often married, with children

-- 55% of military personnel are married. 56% of those married are between 22 and 29.

-- One million military children are under 11.

-- 40% are 5 or younger.

-- 63% of spouses work, including 87% of junior-enlisted spouses.

Source: Department of Defense and National Military Family Association.

Dissent is loyalty Robert Taft, the conservative Ohio senator who is a hero to many of today's conservatives, gave a speech at the Executive Club of Chicago in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

There are a number of paragraphs that are just grand, but here's the best one, which is worth quoting in full:

As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government

... too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism.

If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because
the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy,
and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.

Drink in those words.

That's not William Fulbright two years into the Vietnam War.

It's not Ted Kennedy last week.

It's Mr. Republican, speaking -- when? Not mid-1943, or even March 1942

Taft delivered this speech ... on December 19, 1941!

That's right: Twelve days after the worst attack on American soil in the country's history,

perhaps with bodies still floating in the harbor,

the leader of the congressional opposition said to the president, 'we will question, we will probe, we will debate.'

By Michael Tomasky,
The AMERICAN Prospect online

Order and send postcards to Congress - Fund our Troops, Defund the

Bring Them Home Now postage stamps

For more information see Appeal for Redress website.

For more information go to dvd 'The Ground Truth' website.

Some Past Campaigns - Washington state chapter MFSO members participation


(photo - Daniel Ellsberg, Lt. Ehren Watada)

(photo - Organizing Team; Lietta Ruger - MFSO - WA chapter introduces the Panelists)

(photo - on the Panel - Elizabeth Falzone - GSFSO/ MFSO - WA chapter and Rich Moniak - MFSO - Alaska chapter listen to two days of testimony)

(photo - close up of Panelists Elizabeth Falzone - GSFSO/ MFSO - WA chapter and Rich Moniak - MFSO - Alaska chapter)

(photo - rRetired Diplomat Col. Ann Wright gives her testimony)

(photo - Organizing Team - Lietta Ruger - MFSO - WA chapter with retired Col. Ann Wright - Testifier)

(photo - Stacy Bannerma, wife of returning Iraq veteran - WA Natl Guard, gives testimony)

(photo - close up Stacy Bannerman, author of 'When The War Came Home' gives her testimony. Formerly MFSO - WA chapter. For more on Stacy, her book, media archives, see her website at

(photo - IVAW veterans Geoffrey Millard and former Lt. Harvey Tharp give their testimony)

See website; 'Citizens' Hearing on Legality of U.S. Actions in Iraq';

Jan 20-21- 2007, Tacoma, WA.

A 2 day citizens' tribunal support action in defense of Lt. Ehren Watada court martial at Fort Lewis.

(Organizing Team from MFSO - WA chapter; Lietta Ruger, Judy Linehan)


(photo Lietta Ruger, MFSO- WA, in support Lt. Ehren Watada, June 2006, Tacoma, WA)

(photo - Jenny Keesey, Judy Linehan, Lietta Ruger - from MFSO-WA in support of Lt. Ehren Watada June 2006, Tacoma, WA)

(photo - Lietta Ruger, Judy Linehan, Jenny Keesey - from MFSO - WA chapter, June 2006, Tacoma, WA)

(photo - Judy Linehan, MFSO - WA at support rally for Lt. Watada, June 2006, Tacoma, WA)

June 2006 ongoing through court martial Feb 2007

For more information, see 'Thank You Lt. Ehren Watada' website.

(photo - right is Stacy Bannerman, MFSO -WA; organizing team)

Representative Brian Baird, Washington state 3rd Congressional District, in blue shirt comes out to talk with MFSO members at 'Operation House Call')

'Operation House Call' June thru August 2006 in Washington DC.

MFSO members make individual calls on Senators and Representatives advocating to Bring Them Home Now.

For more information go to 'Operation House Call' website.

postcards sent to Congress - summer 2006, 'Operation House Call'


(photo - Lietta Ruger, MFSO-WA on central tour. Not pictured - Stacy Bannerman, MFSO -WA on northern tour)

Bring Them Home Now tour - Sept 1 thru Sept 25 2005. From Crawford, Texas to Washington DC. see Bring Them Home Now tour website

(photo - left Lietta Ruger, MFSO -WA with center Cindy Sheehan and right Juan Torres at Crawford, Texas, Camp Casey, Aug 9, 2005


photos from Newshour with Jim Lehrer; segment 'Homefront Battles' aired Oct 2004.

Online video, audio and article still available at Newshour website. photo - Sue Niederer, MFSO. Her son U.S. Army 2nd Lt.Seth Dvorin, 24 yrs old was killed in Iraq Feb 3, 2004.

photo - Nancy Lessin, MFSO Co-Founder

photo - Lietta Ruger, MFSO - WA

photo - Stacy Bannerman, MFSO - WA

See at Seattle PI; List of casualties with Washington state ties

This is one of WA state casualties; Army Spc. Jonathan J. Santos, Whatcom County, Washington died Oct 15, 2004

Watch a slide show of family photos and listen to audio recordings of Army Cpl. Jonathan Santos' mother, brother and the woman who's documenting his life.

See the trailer for the documentary "The Corporal's Boots." (QuickTime 7 required).

A special thank you to mother, Doris Kent - GSFSO/ MFSO - WA for her generous sharing and contribution in speaking of her son's life and death in Iraq

Title 17 disclaimer In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Contact us

Military Families Speak Out
is an organization of people who are opposed to war in Iraq and who have relatives or loved ones in the military. We were formed in November of 2002 and have contacts with military families throughout the United States, and in other countries around the world.

As people with family members and loved ones in the military, we have both a special need and a unique role to play in speaking out against war in Iraq. It is our loved ones who are, or have been, or will be on the battlefront. It is our loved ones who are risking injury and death. It is our loved ones who are returning scarred from their experiences. It is our loved ones who will have to live with the injuries and deaths among innocent Iraqi civilians.

If you have family members or loved ones in the military and you are opposed to this war join us.

Send us an e-mail at
You can call us at 617-522-9323
or Send us mail at:
P.O. Box 549
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130.

click here - MFSO Membership Form – to join Military Families Speak Out or

JOIN us by sending an e-mail to

MFSO - Become a Member

Membership in MFSO is open to anyone who has a family member or loved one serving, since August 2002, in any branch of our Armed Forces

* The Reserves

* The National Guard

* Returned from serving but still eligible for redeployment under stop loss.

There is no membership fee. Donations are welcome.

People who are not eligible for MFSO membership may join our Supporter Group. You are welcome to attend meetings that are open to the public, volunteer to help with event preparation and participate in our community actions and events. Supporters may purchase MFSO t-shirts and wear them with the "Proud Supporter of MFSO" button. Buttons may also be worn without the t-shirt.

Our Supporters provide emotional encouragement and physical help to our MFSO military families who are under extreme stress, especially if their loved one is in Iraq or Afghanistan

We welcome your involvement, please contact us.

click to see the list MFSO chapters other than Washington state forming around the country.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman, Lietta Ruger, Susan Livingston
Topic: Local Lobbying

Families want Guard excused from Iraq


Published: March 8th, 2005 12:01 AM

Family members of soldiers serving in Iraq urged Gov. Christine Gregoire on Monday to call on President Bush to release Washington National Guard troops from service in Iraq.

The family members, who oppose the war, said the heavy use of guardsmen in Iraq is diminishing the state’s response to natural disasters and creating long-term hardships for the part-time soldiers and their families.

Their meeting with an aide to Gregoire follows similar efforts in at least two other states.

Members of the same groups – Military Families Speak Out, Gold Star Families for Peace and Veterans for Peace, among others – rallied in Salem, Ore., last week to press a similar resolution to Oregon’s governor and lawmakers.

In Vermont, the majority of residents participating in the state’s annual March 1 town meetings endorsed a call for their governor to ask for the return of the state’s deployed guardsmen.

And in Montana, Gov. Brian Schweitzer asked the Pentagon last week to send home 1,500 of his state’s guardsmen and their helicopters, so they’ll be available for what is expected to be a difficult fire season.

The families who met in Olympia on Monday with Antonio Ginatta, an executive policy adviser for Gregoire, presented a mix of political and practical considerations. They contend the president’s primary reasons for war in Iraq “have been proven false or declared invalid.”

Long deployments are straining police and fire departments and other public safety agencies, many of whose members are part-time soldiers, they argue.

And there is a social cost.

“We need to be looking at the devastating effect these deployments, the unprecedented use of the Guard and Reserve, has had on families,” said Stacy Bannerman of Kent, whose husband is a Washington guardsman in Iraq.

Others who met Monday with Ginatta included Susan Livingston, whose brother, Spc. Joseph Blickenstaff, died in Iraq in 2003 while deployed with the first Fort Lewis Stryker brigade. His family is also active in the anti-war effort in Oregon, his home state.

Ginatta said he will present the group’s concerns to Gregoire and told the families they could expect to talk more with the governor’s office.

“The reintegration of our troops, getting them back into our state with as seamless a transition from combat to kitchen, is very important to the governor,” Ginatta said. But he added the groups’ demands “raise some very heavy federal questions that we have to look at.”

The National Guard generally works at the direction of governors unless the president calls units to active-duty service.

About 3,200 Washington guardsmen are in the process of returning home after a year in Iraq with the 81st Brigade Combat Team. It was the largest deployment of the Washington Guard since World War II.

But members of the groups that met in Olympia on Monday say their message is still relevant because U.S. troops are likely to be in Iraq for several years and Washington’s part-time soldiers might be sent back.

Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PST
Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman on Hardball with Chris Matthews
Topic: Media Involvement

'Hardball with Chris Matthews' for March 2 

Transcript of that portion of the MSNBC show that included Stacy's participation.

MATTHEWS:  Welcome back to HARDBALL

As American troops continue to be shipped off to Iraq and to Afghanistan, the wives of soldiers are left behind to take care of business at home. 

Karen Houppert is a freelance journalist who spent two years profiling military wives and is the author of the new book “Home Fires Burning:

Married to the Military for Better or Worse.”  Also with us is Stacy Bannerman, whose husband, Lorin, is a reservist serving now in Iraq. 

Thank you, ladies, both for joining us. 

I want to start with Karen. 

What surprised you about the military wife experience in these wars? 

KAREN HOUPPERT, AUTHOR, “HOME FIRES BURNING”:  I think the most surprising thing I learned in the course of reporting for this book was how many wives actually were opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq, the U.S.  invasion there.  That actually came as quite a surprise to me. 

But, also, I was surprised to discover that, while the military on paper has a lot of support programs out there for wives, when it comes to the actual execution, they don‘t do so well.  And...

Let me go right now to Stacy Bannerman, because I think we‘ve got exhibit A here. 

Stacy, where do you stand on whether the United States should have gone into Iraq? 

STACY BANNERMAN, WIFE OF U.S. SOLDIER SERVING IN IRAQ:  Well, I believe that we shouldn‘t have.  Clearly, we shouldn‘t have, because we didn‘t have the facts right and the rationale presented to go to war was based on lies. 

MATTHEWS:  What did you make of the elections over there a couple weeks back? 

BANNERMAN:  Well, they conducted them and now they‘re over.  That was the third reason given for the troop presence being in Iraq.  But yet we haven‘t brought an exit strategy together to bring them home. 

MATTHEWS:  Among the other wives in your situation whose husbands or friends who are males whose wives are serving over there, to keep it equal here, is there a lot of dissidence—dissent on this policy of going into Iraq, even though you have spouses over there? 

BANNERMAN:  Well, I think that there‘s an increasing number of military wives, whether they be married to men in the regular Army enlisted or in the Army National Guard and Reserves, such as I am, that have really begun to question why it is the troops are over there and certainly why they‘re there after all of this time. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you anti-war? 

BANNERMAN:  I believe that we‘ve got other options available to us, and we certainly did in Iraq.  We didn‘t need to launch an attack on this country. 

MATTHEWS:  Right. 

BANNERMAN:  There were other things that could have been pursued, and that wasn‘t done.  I think that was a real mistake. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, that‘s a common argument, but are you anti-war?  Are you a pacifist? 

BANNERMAN:  Oh, yes, I am. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, why did you marry a guy in uniform? 

BANNERMAN:  My husband is in the Army National Guard.  The Army National Guard is not intended as being primarily overseas combat troops.  That‘s not what they were about.

MATTHEWS:  But they do wear uniforms and they carry weapons.  And the purpose for their existence is fighting wars when the democratic government that we all have to live under chooses to fight those wars.  Didn‘t you see all that coming? 

BANNERMAN:  Chris, the primary purpose of the National Guard is actually as a state-based force to provide assistance to their state and local communities.  That‘s what they‘re recruiting the National Guard for and that is what those ads still say, even though those troops are now being sent overseas and are 42 percent of the boots on the ground. 


MATTHEWS:  Let‘s go to Karen.

HOUPPERT:  Oh, sorry.  I was just going to...

MATTHEWS:  Karen Houppert, your thoughts on this.  Is this a common view, that spouses of people who serve in the guard don‘t think of themselves as G.I. wives or spouses; they think of themselves as having a husband who is involved with the home guard, more or less? 

HOUPPERT:  Yes, I think that‘s true.  And I also think it‘s interesting to note that about 40 percent of the soldiers that are stationed over—or that have served in Iraq or Afghanistan also think it‘s a mistake for the U.S. to be over there.  And about 42 percent of them think that we are at greater risk of terrorist attack now than we were before this.  That‘s...

MATTHEWS:  How can they express that view?  Is there any way they can legitimately express that view while their husbands or wife is in uniform? 

HOUPPERT:  It‘s very difficult, I think.  There‘s a lot of overt and covert pressure to not speak out against the administration‘s views. 

And, for soldiers, that‘s particularly difficult.  For wives, it shouldn‘t be so difficult, but it is.  And many of them fear that it jeopardizes their husband‘s job if they speak out. 

MATTHEWS:  You know, we‘ve been to Pendleton and we‘ve met the young Marines and their wives, in some cases, who were totally supportive of the effort they have to pursue as military active members. 

They are a different category than National Guardsmen.  They want to fight the war because they are trained to fight it, and they believe this cause is justified, in most cases.  But in either case, whether you‘re a Guardsman or Reservist or a regular Army or Marine, you come home with a couple of legs or limbs missing, a couple of arms missing, you come home with brain damage, losing your sight, all kinds of damage, but you survive. 

What did you learn about that experience for the spouse, Karen? 

HOUPPERT:  I think it‘s a very, very difficult recovery process when the soldiers come home wounded, obviously.  But also even if there aren‘t physical wounds, there‘s post-traumatic stress syndrome that a lot of them struggle with. 

And it‘s very hard for families.  Also, another issue that comes up quite often is that the wife has been independent on her own, making decisions on her own for a year.  And it‘s sometimes difficult for the husband to squeeze back into family life that has gone on without him.  And those are the issues that the Army is really not so good at helping families address. 

MATTHEWS:  Karen, what are your views about the general—or, Stacy, your views about the general situation of the military and how it treats spouses and family life? 

BANNERMAN:  Well, I believe that, again, especially with the Army National Guard spouses, we have not been provided really with any kind of preparation for deployment.  We do not have access to the same level of support and resources that regular military wives do. 

For example, the gentleman who was sent to kind of work with a—the group of military wives, National Guard wives, was ex-Marine.  Now, that‘s not really conducive to developing good, strong bonds, that emotional support that these women need when their husbands are called to serve and sometimes given less than 30 days notice, pulling them out of homes and out of jobs and out of families that they weren‘t prepared for. 

I think the military has really fallen short in meeting the needs of the wives.  And that‘s one of the reasons, honestly, that we‘re seeing the diminished return rate, reenlistment rate of National Guard and Reserves. 

MATTHEWS:  Are you angry, Stacy, about this whole situation, this war? 

BANNERMAN:  I am—I am greatly concerned about it.  I do have some anger about it, because I think a gross violation of the national trust has happened with this. 

MATTHEWS:  So, you believe it‘s been misused by the president? 

BANNERMAN:  Unquestionably. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  It‘s great having you on. 

BANNERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  We don‘t hear many voices like yours.  And I‘m glad you came on. 

BANNERMAN:  Thank you. 

MATTHEWS:  Stacy Bannerman, whose husband is serving in the Guard in Iraq right now.

And, of course, Karen Houppert, who has written this new book “Home

Fires Burning,” which contains a lot of stories like this, “Married to the

Military For Better or Worse.‘

Thank you, ladies, for coming on. 

HOUPPERT:  Thank you for having us.

BANNERMAN:  Thank you. 

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PST
Sunday, 23 January 2005

Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman, Judy Linehand & Sherrie Tilstra
Topic: Local Lobbying
Subject: Letter to Congressman Adam Smith


Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2005 11:30:18 -0800


Dear Congressman Smith:


On behalf of Military Families Speak Out members Judy Linehan, Sherrie Tillstra, and myself, I would like to thank you for meeting with us in your Tacoma offices on the 20th.  I understand you've got your work cut out for you with the current administration, and the Republican majorities in both Houses.   We're hoping you will utilize your seat on the Armed Services Committee to call for a Hearing and subsequent vote of confidence/no confidence on Donald Rumsfeld.  The Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal is just one example of his failure of leadership, as you're well aware.


I would also like to remind you of our request that you contact Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell and join her in calling for hearings regarding the plan to extend call-ups for Reservists.  This administration's poor planning, refusal to listen to military advisors, and lack of consideration for the citizen soldiers has resulted in a gross abuse of power and a contractual breach of the terms under which these weekend warriors were recruited and signed up for e.g. the Stop-loss policy.  Furthermore, these soldiers (and their families) are not provided with the same training, treatment, and benefits of regular enlisted, although they are now being deployed at almost the same rates, and often for longer tours-of-duty.  In addition to adding your name to the Letter to the President from 16 members of Congress that I shared with you, please consider calling for Washington State's Democratic Governor, Christine Gregoire, to bring the Washington State National Guard home.  Now.


I appreciate your concern about creating more bureaucracy, but clearly the State Department is not doing its job, and one of the costs of the invasion of Iraq is the significant damage to this country's reputation and international relations. Furthermore, the Bush administration has demonstrated that it's got no plan whatsoever for 'securing the peace', and it certainly didn't consider non-violent options prior to invading the country and initiating a war that's killed over 1,300 U.S. soldiers and at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians.  Now, more than ever, it's critical for the future of this nation, and the world, to support the bill to establish a Department of Peace, which will be reintroduced by Dennis Kucinich in the upcoming months.


As discussed, the one-time death 'benefit' of $12,000 is ludicrous, and I will look for you to address that.  For bereaved military families and spouses to find themselves homeless, and forced to go to food shelves and welfare offices after their loved one died serving this country is reprehensible and morally abhorrent.  Perhaps the gross tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy could be revoked as a way to pay for this and some of the other costs of this war.  I am grateful for your efforts to support the troops, but was disappointed by your hesitancy to call for an immediate exit strategy.   I will state what you diplomatically skirted around:  The situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate; the window of opportunity for the occupation to even vaguely resemble a 'success' hasn't just closed, it's shattered; and the American presence has exponentially increased terrorist activity in that country and elsewhere.


The best way to support our troops is to bring them home from this reckless, ill-conceived war based on lies.  Help President Bush to honor his pledge to end world tyranny: get the United States out of Iraq.






Stacy Bannerman, M.S.


Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PST
Friday, 5 November 2004

Now Playing: Lietta Ruger after the Nov, 2004 Election
Topic: Members Speak Out

I feel like voters just signed the death warrant for our kids  

Friday, November 05, 2004
It is over, the elections, and apparantly the Voice of America has spoken. We are stunned, in shock and awe, in a most literal sense. We cannot believe what we have just seen happen in our country.We will likely never forget the image map of red states to blue in this election.

Well, I guess we belong in the blue state where we reside and guess there are very few blue states left in this great country. Blue lined up along the west coast and the northern states of the east coast and a few of the Great Lake states. We comprise the perimeter of the country, I guess, and no place else to go but the oceans.

It is now post-election and the ground truth is that there will be 4 more years of Bush and his administration ... unleashed, unchained. We look for and anticipate the literal blood bath that will ensue and while I have had 2 1/2 years now to protest the war while supporting the needs of the troops, there was a degree of comfort that much of our country felt the same. There was a degree of comfort that Bush was thrust upon us in a bad election debacle in 2000, and that could be "righted" with this election.

The Voice of America has said otherwise. I do not know how to "be" just now as an American citizen out of harmony with my own country. I do not know how to explain to our young when they ask me literally, as they have after this election, "what happened to America". I do not know how to respond to our young soldier who says to me after the election "Mom, you know what this means don't you...there will be a blood bath"... to which I can only say "yes, I know....."

I don't know how to reconcile the definitions now that define christian as it seems to have taken on a morality tone of anti-abortion and anti-gay as if that was the entire message of the christian faith. How did the voters who voted morality and faith overlook the first commandment, Thou shalt not kill....? How did the voters reconcile the aborted life of the young troops who have not yet tasted adult life How did christians not separate morality from ethics? Anyway, a discussion for another day...I have no heart for it now.

I'll get my strength back, I'm sure, but I don't know how to depersonalize this election among my country. I feel like voters just signed the death warrant for our kids and I have to find a way within myself to reconcile my feelings with regard to knowing about half of the country voted for Bush. I don't know how to interpret that as other than our country agreeing to the consignment of our children to war, and why? How utterly selfish to put their "fears" above the well-being of the young generation for which us elders have stewardship. But I know I must find a way to reconcile it within myself. It was never just politics for us...we really did feel we were fighting for our country, for our kids.

So, with the ground truth now being that Bush remains the CIC, I will continue in my work as part of the organization Military Families Speak Out (MFSO.. which has now a membership of close to 2000 military families. It is a non-partisan, non-political organization with one message..Support our Troops. The difference is that it is not a Hooah message as heard from many military families, but one that supports the dignity, honor, ideals, courage and valor of the troops on the ground.

A message that the American people need to do more for our troops and demand more for our troops than to just tell them thank you ... that is not enough. The troops need more, they need all of us now more than ever and they need us to work on the homefront on their behalf, wisely, thoughtfully, intelligently and demand of the administration (no matter who occupies the office) the needs of our troops cannot be explained away as oversights and mismanagement. The needs of our troops are real and deadly and being so poorly managed leaving the troops exposed to danger above and beyond their call to duty. Our CIC owes the troops more..we will demand it.

American well, keep you courage and wits about you in the days ahead.

A proud military family of Iraq veterans,
An old military brat,
A Vietnam era military wife,

Don't even think about challenging my patriotism, it is deeper than platitudes as is my love for the troops and what they represent, what they stand for, what they commit themselves is my love for their families that stand in courage behind the troops.

signing myself; Duty Calls..on the homefront.

Courage doesn't always shout. Sometimes courage is the quiet voiceat the end of the day that says, "I will try again tomorrow."

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PST
Monday, 18 October 2004

Now Playing: Kerry Campaign
Topic: Politicians in Action


Kerry campaign courts military-family voters

By Warren Cornwall
Seattle Times staff reporter

[Excerpts below. Click here to read the entire article.

Lietta Ruger, mother-in-law and aunt to soldiers sent to Iraq, has spent months speaking out against the war.

Last night was the first time she publicly spoke out for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Ruger and her husband drove from southwestern Washington yesterday to meet in a Kent living room with several women touring the country for the Democrat's campaign in a bid to show that military families are unhappy with President Bush's handling of the war.

"I think the only opportunity this country has is for a change in commander-in-chief," Ruger said to the roughly dozen people who gathered over coffee and chocolate-chip cookies.

... Ruger, who grew up in a military family, has been active with a national anti-war group called Military Families Speak Out. She said she opposed the invasion of Iraq from the outset, feeling it had no relationship to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that put the nation on a war footing. In late 2003, she turned to Internet chat rooms in search of support and a community.

There she found the military families group and began speaking out against the war, breaking what she described as a taboo among military families against criticizing the president. But she didn't decide to publicly back Kerry until a recent meeting between several Washington military families and members of the Kerry campaign, including Wade Sanders, an undersecretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration.

Regardless of who wins the presidential race, Ruger plans to continue pushing for better protection of the troops.  

The restriction on criticizing the president wasn't apparent in Stacy Bannerman's living room yesterday.

The people there, nearly all of them women, spoke of relatives in the military going without proper supplies, of constant anxiety that the latest combat casualties would include a loved one, and of frustration with a war with no apparent end in sight.

Several praised 18 soldiers who reportedly refused orders to take part in a recent convoy amid concerns that they didn't have adequate security or equipment.

Bannerman is a member of Military Families Speak Out. Her husband, Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Lorin Bannerman, is serving at Logistical Support Area Anaconda. The massive supply base northwest of Baghdad is frequently the target of mortar shelling by insurgents, and is run by Washington state's 81st Brigade Combat Team, an Army National Guard unit.

Officials there recently said they have requested more soldiers to quell the mortar attacks, but they have been turned down, according to a report in The Baltimore Sun.

"They're operating under surreal shortages," Bannerman said. She said her husband's service in the National Guard was supposed to end in June, but he now is being required to stay until April.

Warren Cornwall: 206-464-2311 or

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PDT

A soldier's wife blasts Bush for 'backdoor' draft 

Monday, October 18, 2004 


[Excerpts below. Click here to read entire article.]

Stacy Bannerman has a big stake in the war in Iraq -- 6 feet 1 1/2 inches big.

But to her, supporting the troops -- including the tall, likable National Guardsman named Lorin to whom she is married -- does not mean yellow ribbons or an unconditional salute to her husband's commander-in-chief.

The Kent woman is featured in a TV ad hitting swing states this week that blasts Bush for the so-called "backdoor draft," which is extending the tours of thousands of Guardsmen like Lorin. The ad, sponsored by Texans for Truth, is just one of the ways Stacy is actively questioning the war her husband is being kept on to fight.

For many in the area who have joined groups like Military Families Speak Out, the act of standing up and speaking out is a new and tentative process.

When he married her on Dec. 23, 2000, her husband knew he was marrying someone with a point of view. She had been the first white executive director of the Martin Luther King Center in Spokane.

In turn, Stacy knew her husband had joined the Guard soon after high school and had served almost 16 years. So when he told her he'd decided to answer a (pre-war) call to "re-up" with an eye toward fighting forest fires and securing retirement "bennies," she was surprised but not worried.

Then came war. And soon after -- on a day Stacy was folding thousands of school fliers for a peace-and-poetry workshop -- Iraq.

Lorin should have been home this summer. His 20-year commitment to the Guard ended June 22. Now his tour in Iraq won't end until late March or early April -- a year and four months since the last time she saw him.


"This is the work. This is the critical issue of our time. It's about integrity and defining the soul of America," she said.

Sure, she's been shouted at, told she is "jeopardizing the mission" and not supporting the troops.

"But silence is not support. My husband is 'the troops' and if exercising my right to speak up is truly jeopardizing the mission, if the mission is that tenuous or questionable, then we've got no business being there," she said.

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PDT
Monday, 11 October 2004

Now Playing: Stacy Bannerman
Topic: Members Speak Out
Senator Warner Misses Meeting with Military Families Speak Out
by Stacy Bannerman

Stacy Bannerman
Wife of National Guard Soldier Stop-lossed in Iraq
American Citizen Registered Voter
Kent, WA

October 6, 2004

Senator John Warner, VA
Russell Senate Building
United States Senate
Washington D.C.

Senator Warner:

For shame. You deployed our husbands and children to Iraq, which will take a year or more out of their lives, if not actually costing them their lives, and you couldn’t spare fifteen minutes of yours? You sent your military legislative assistant, Cord Sterling -- anyone with a name like that is clearly not a member of the working class that’s largely responsible for providing the targets, excuse me, troops in Iraq -- to meet several dozen members of Military Families Speak Out. We came to your office on October 1st, at our own expense, with the understanding that you would be there. You were not.

Apparently listening to the concerns of the family members who actually have loved ones in Iraq, or have gotten their bodies back from there, just isn’t important to you, who is sworn to serve the public. Since you avoided us—and mind you, our group included several members from the State of Virginia, with the power to vote you out of the very office they voted you into, let me re-cap.

Although we’d called in advance to confirm our appointment, and provided your office with the size of our group, we weren’t offered a place to sit, or a private conference room. Instead, we were forced to stand in the rotunda. Now, I’m just guessing, but I’d wager that’s not the reception given to Halliburton. Incidentally, it seems that after a dispute with the government about a couple million in overcharges, Halliburton said, “We may withhold all or a portion of the payments to our subcontractors.” Let me bottom-line this one for you, Senator Warner: What that means is that the soldiers in Iraq have had, at times, to subsist on one meal a day and very low water rations, in a desert where temperatures rise to more than 130 degrees during the day. Wow, how’s that for supporting the troops?!

Since we’re on the topic of money, when I asked your assistant why some of the National Guardsmen in Iraq are getting paid about five bucks an hour, and yet government-paid private contractors are compensated to the tune of upwards of a thousand dollars a day, his first response was: “We don’t have any control over that.” Senator, you may want to give your assistant a refresher course in precisely which entity ultimately pays members of the military and the major private contractors in Iraq.

Perhaps realizing that his ignorance was showing, Cord said, “Well, I can’t speak for the Senator.” That, of course, begs the question: What was he doing there? Moving right along, then, since we had a lot to cover in a very little time, we then asked, “Why is the administration telling the American people things are getting better at the same time that our loved ones on the front line are telling us that things are getting worse?”

Perhaps it’s easy to dismiss first-hand accounts, but how about the National Intelligence Council’s report pointing to the possibility of a civil war before the end of 2005? How about the Army lowering its recruitment standards to increase the number of troops in order to put more boots on the ground? How about the fact that 1,100 U.S. soldiers were wounded in August, setting a new record, and that the 80 U.S. soldiers killed in September made it the second-deadliest month of the year? Does that get your attention?

Finally, how come the public is being told things are so much better at the same time that there are reports of plans to triple the size of the Reserve Mortuary Affairs Company by the middle of next year?

Speaking of the dead, something this administration has been loath to acknowledge, thirty members of Military Families Speak Out have buried their husbands, wives, daughters, or sons. Celeste Zappala, mother of Sherwood Baker, the first Pennsylvania National Guard soldier to be killed in action since World War II, showed a picture of her son to your assistant, as did several other grieving moms. His response? Nothing. No “I’m sorry for your loss”, no “Please accept my condolences.”

I had heard politics could strip you of your humanity, but I thought you guys had better public relations skills. Cord, I’m almost sorry for you that you were sent in the Senator’s place. Almost, not quite. However, I meant it when I said, “God be with you.” as you were retreating into your cubicle. Unlike the current administration, which still hasn’t put together an exit strategy to bring the troops home, when we realized we’d been given flawed intelligence, and that you weren’t actually there, we knew when to leave. But Senator, we will be back.


Stacy Bannerman

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PDT
Monday, 4 October 2004

Now Playing: Lehrer News Hour
Topic: Media Involvement

LEE HOCHBERG: Antiwar protesters have rallied every week in Seattle since the Iraq War began. Largely, they're members of the established peace movement, but lately they've been joined by new demonstrators: Family members of those fighting the war.

VICKY MONK, Military Parent: I'm not opposed to war, all war. But what I am opposed to is the irresponsible use of the military, which I believe is what happened in the Iraq war.

LEE HOCHBERG: Vicky Monk hopes her son is home soon, after what she says have been 15 harrowing months for him, with the army's 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. She and other military families are lashing out against a war they first believed was against Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, but now say is meaningless.

Vicky MonkVICKY MONK: When the army itself admitted they were unable to find the weapons of mass destruction, my son began to question, "Why am I here? Why do I have to continue to be here?" So, I feel a certain amount of responsibility, as his mother, to stand up and say, Why did you send my son to war? Why did you put my son in harm's way?




The changing face of the anti-war movement

LEE HOCHBERG: The more commonly seen face of military families is like these, at a "Support the Troops" night at a Seattle Mariners baseball game. ("Taps" playing) For them and most military families, supporting the troops has also meant unwavering support for President Bush and the U.S. military mission in Iraq.

SPOKESPERSON: He's going to be serving at least 12 months past the time he was supposed to be retired.

LEE HOCHBERG: But as U.S. military deaths in Iraq have risen past 1,000 with an end nowhere in sight, some parents and spouses of soldiers have taken public their growing opposition to the war.

MOTHER: My son was in the army. He was killed Feb. 3 of this year.


MOTHER: How? You tell me --

LEE HOCHBERG: This mother, whose son was killed in Iraq, protested last month at a New Jersey campaign appearance of First Lady Laura Bush.

Woman being arrestedMOTHER: Go ahead. Come on. Arrest me -- right here in front of everybody.

LEE HOCHBERG: She challenged the first lady's assertions that the war is going well. She was handcuffed and arrested for trespassing.

MOTHER: Excuse me! What are you charging me with? Excuse me!

LEE HOCHBERG: Other families have lain memorials for fallen relatives outside the White House fence in somber protest. Such resistance from military families didn't happen in previous wars, according to historian Michael Beschloss.

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: We're seeing something that really is unusual because military families in history have been pretty much inclined not to do this sort of thing. It's in a way sort of part of that culture. And the fact that they are doing it now shows how deeply many of them feel about the fact that they were never convinced at the beginning of this war that it was the right thing to do.

NANCY LESSIN, Military Parent: It was our loved ones who were going to go, and we felt that, in fact, they were going to be used as cannon fodder.

LEE HOCHBERG: Sixteen hundred military families have joined under the banner of "Military Families Speak Out." The group was founded by Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson of Boston. Their son, Joe, a marine, was deployed to Iraq in what the pair saw as a war for oil. Lessin's group attracted other families when she used the Internet to call for a full troop withdrawal. Thirty of the members have lost loved ones. Others were worried about extended deployments, inadequate equipment and post-traumatic stress disorder. All had been afraid to go public.

Nancy LessinNANCY LESSIN: There are so many that have bought into what this administration is trying to sell, which is in order to be patriotic, in order to support the troops, you have to support the war. It is absolutely possible to support the troops and oppose the war.

CHARLEY RICHARDSON, Military Families Speak Out: The people who made the decision to take us into this war aren't giving up their loved ones to this war. We are, and our voices are important.

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. Family life also has been difficult for Stacy Bannerman, whose husband left Seattle for Iraq with his National Guard unit in February. Bannerman's life work has been with peace organizations and she has publicly opposed the war from its start.

STACY BANNERMAN: We should be crying about this. We should be. This country should be.

LEE HOCHBERG: But her husband embraces his mission. One evening last month, as she attended a Seattle-area meeting of Military Families Speak Out, he telephoned from Baghdad.

STACY BANNERMAN: Sometimes I wonder if I'm... am I somehow, in some way, shape or form betraying him? Of course, that's crossed my mind. And yet, how can my wanting to preserve his life and the lives of tens of thousands of others, how could that ever potentially be seen as a betrayal?

Does protesting the war hurt the troops?

LEE HOCHBERG: Some answer that all of the antiwar military families are guilty of betrayal. Outside the church in rural South Bend, Thelma Crawford was critical of Lietta Ruger's antiwar sermon.

THELMA CRAWFORD: You know as well as I that there's terrorists that's living all around us, and all they've got to do is just get a little support and a little momentum and, bing, we're gone.

LEE HOCHBERG: And at a recent "Support the Troops" demonstration outside Seattle, some said even if Saddam possessed no weapons of mass destruction, his removal itself justifies the war. They say military families speaking out undercut the U.S. mission there. Robert Snyder was in the army during the Vietnam era.

ROBERT SNYDER, Veteran: If my family didn't even support me during the 15 years that I was active duty, do you think that would be wrong? That would be wrong. That would hurt me emotionally.

LEE HOCHBERG: Nadine Gulit agrees.

Nadine GulitNADINE GULIT, Military Family: You cannot support the troops without supporting the mission that they are on.

LEE HOCHBERG: She has three grandsons in the army, one in Iraq. She says criticism of the military mission emboldens the enemy and puts U.S. soldiers at risk.

NADINE GULIT: When the protesters and the people spoke out against, it's demoralizing and it is a form of treason. Yes, the enemy does use it. They will use it. It builds up their morale.

LEE HOCHBERG: But military families opposed to the war say they are every bit as patriotic as those who support it. They traveled to the nation's capital this weekend to talk to members of Congress and staged a very public demonstration, carrying caskets from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.

Posted by SwanDeer Project at 12:01 AM PDT

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Criticism of the President is Patriotic

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else.

But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

Theodore Roosevelt, 1918, Lincoln and Free Speech