Rochester, New York
VETERANS FOR PEACE, Chapter 23, MINUTES of meeting 8/19/20
Present: Marybeth Knowles, Bruce Pease, Bruce Freeman, Jack Spula, Steve Heveron-Smith, James Swarts, Roger Griswold, Mick Cole, Jeremiah Knowles
Minutes of the July 15, 2020, meeting were approved.
Treasurer’s report by Marybeth Knowles. Current balance--$1090.99; still owed: $100 to National for chapter ad; reimbursement of payment to Zoom by Jim Swarts; 18 dues-paid members, 11 lapsed members
The virtual convention took place from August 2 through August 9, 2020. Many of the recorded sessions are still up on the national Veterans for Peace website. Members who attended portions of the convention had high praise for it.
Jeremiah Knowles took extensive notes on the session about deported veterans. His notes are quoted below:
Robert and Hector lead the discussion
Deported Veterans Advocacy Project - Funds site in Tijuana Mexico
Hector Lopez shared that he was veteran before the Persian Gulf war. He realized many friends died in the Persian Gulf war which started shortly after he got out. Drinking started as a way to “adjust” this also led to drug abuse. “It could have been me.” Received a DUI, possession of marijuana, and selling marijuana. The selling marijuana led to his deportation. Looked for veteran for assistance, and found other veterans that had been deported. One veteran had returned to the US illegally. “Double punishment” with being deported. Constantly delayed in order to return to the United States. “Americanized” can be a risk when returning to local areas of Mexico. Family is in California. “If I am eligible to be buried in the United States, hell I should be able to live there.”
Jose Alani. Came to the United States when he was 6 years old. Joined the Marine Corps. Did 4 years of service. Served in Gulf War in 1990. 7 sisters and 4 brothers “nothing out of the ordinary.” Machine gunner. Worked for dominos delivering pizza to military bases. Had 3 DUI in California. Moved to Texas and suffered economic hardship and felt that he had to plead guilty. Did not realize deportation was in the cards. He was on the road to citizenship and thought all he had to do was swear in. He had maintained his residency without completing citizenship. Just started the process of obtaining citizenship. All families are in the United States; Texas, California, Tennessee. Still in Tijuana. Children still in the United States.
Mario Rodriguez. Served in Army, Vietnam, 1970. Awarded two Bronze Stars. Served 7 years 8 months in detention before deportation. Wife and children still in United States.
Alex Murillo. Born in Mexico, raised in Phoenix Arizona. A baby when his family came to the United States. Grew up as a normal American kid, joined Navy ar 18. Stationed in Jacksonville Florida. After leaving the military with AUD. Deported after being arrested due to AUD. Living in Tijuana has been a culture shock for him. Had to learn spanish. Lucky to have deported veterans group in Tijuana. Coaching sports at local high schools. All families are in the US. Son was able to come to Mexico.
Miguel Hernandez. 6 months when he came to the US. Family were migrant workers in the United States. Grew up all over. Joined in 1977 - 79 in the US Army. Became a barber using Military funds. No issues integrating into civilian life after the military. Owned own business, started drinking. Drinking and driving all the time. All of his family still lives in the United States.
Frank De La Cruz. Served Navy and Army National Guard. Children still in the US. Haven't seen them in years.
Robert Vivar: Children serving in the military. Family history of military service. Not a military veteran but cares for military families. Supporting Tijuana Mexico. Located 50 years from the border crossing and deportation area. Mission to find and support military veterans who have been deported. Provide legal assistance to overturn deportation. Many deported veterans do not know Mexico. Dr, Rudy Melson helps deported veterans in obtaining benefits.
https://www.consultvets.com/rudy-melson/. Partners with Cal Vets and ACLU to provide legal assistance. University law clinics have been helpful. Working with 12 different Universities. Need legal access in every state. Trauma and mental health issues related to military service directly relate to maladaptive coping mechanisms upon reintegration. This leads to many veterans getting in trouble, however non-citizen veterans result in deportation and are not provided services such as veterans court or rehab. Would not exist without the support of Veterans for Peace. Pass HR 5151 Honoring the Oath Act. Command dropped the ball in order to finish citizenship paperwork. Call Congressional representatives to support HR 5151.
Partnering with https://viacafe.org/ for Spanish Language teaching. (Could be shared with University Spanish classes).
Calling Congressman in order to support deported veterans. State pardons can be helpful in preventing deportation.
Executive Order signed by Bush 13269 July 3rd 2002 indicated that you still had to apply for citizenship while serving in the military. Current president may not support something similar.
They intercept veterans through word of mouth and partnership with visitation in detention centers about to be deported. Their location right next to the border also provides a convenient location for people to find.
Many veterans had applied for citizenship, completed some interviews, and unfortunately never was able to complete their citizenship for one reason or another.
Still need assistance for building water purifiers for local shelters. Can donate here https://veteransforpeace.salsalabs.org/deportedveteransadvocacyproject/index.html (Maybe a fundraiser for this through Chapter 23).
Jeremiah Knowles, LMSW
Nazareth College ESports Coach
Mental Health Counselor
Health & Counseling Services
4245 East Ave, Rochester NY 14618
Jim Swarts has committed Chapter 23 to helping out a veteran from New York who is under a deportation order. The first step is a pardon from the Governor to erase the veteran’s conviction. Chapter 23 will write to the Governor seeking a pardon.
Several sessions of the convention were discussed. The perspectives of Native American and Black veterans were well represented. The sessions addressing the Afghanistan war, Israel-Palestine, China, Hiroshima/Nagasaki, and contamination of military bases were mentioned, as was Jane Fonda’s appearance and the music performed by veterans.
POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN
Marybeth explained that the New York Poor People’s Campaign is holding a virtual assembly on October 16 – 18, 2020—the leadership of the Poor People’s Campaign wants Veterans for Peace to play a larger role re: the Campaign’s opposition to militarism and the war economy.
The Genesee Valley Citizens for Peace held a vigil at the traffic circle in Avon, New York at 7:30 p on August 5, 2020. Six Chapter 23 members participated
BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTESTS/RALLIES
The local Saturday rallies are continuing.
Steve Heveron-Smith described an incident at a Webster rally. An enraged woman in a car yelled something like “Fuck you protesters” and then had difficulty driving away from the rally.
Steve provided the following link to a story about a “mutiny” by Black marines in 1972: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/magazine/black-marines-mutiny.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
NEW VFP PRESIDENT TO BE INVITED TO THE OCTOBER 21, 2020 MEETING
It was agreed that Adrienne Kinne, the new President of Veterans for Peace, will be invited to participate in the October 21, 2020, Chapter 23 meeting.
Next meeting: September 16, 2020, 7:00 pm---Virtual by Zoom