In November 2017, I was one of thirty military veterans selected for the Veteran’s Organizing Institute. The following weekend would be a deep dive into grassroots organizing, political theory, bird-dogging, sharing, and telling our stories. The familiar tread throughout the week was that it has always been a military and veteran component at the forefront of social movements, from the Bonus Army to the Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Conservatives and liberal politicians alike have touted their love for veterans and used veterans to promote their hawkish foreign policy agenda since time immemorial. During the weekend, we changed the narrative and refused to be solely used as props to advance jingoism on days like Veteran’s Day and Sunday NFL football games.
The Mission Continues
It was an honor and privilege to be a part of the Veterans Organizing Institute, to know that many of my comrades in arms fight on the side of justice and equality for all. These men and women came from various backgrounds: black, white, Latinx, Muslim, Buddhists, atheist, democrats, conservatives, Marxists, rural, urban, middle class, poor, trans, old, young, straight, and gay. Some women and men were still dealing with the invisible wounds of war and PTSD. Some were survivors of military sexual trauma. There were those who fought honorably for their country only to return home and still face racial discrimination. Others were veterans who served under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era and forced to hide an essential part of themselves. The men and women in that room were a part of my tribe with the common bond of service both during and after their time in the military. Who better to fight for racial equality, economic justice, gender equality, a clean and healthy environment, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, human rights, and freedom of religion than those who once took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We are men and women who understand that we are far from a perfect union but struggle every day to ensure that there are liberty and justice for all.