President Obama addressed the nation Tuesday regarding the withdrawal of so-called combat forces from Iraq. While members of Military Families Speak Out are heartened that more troops will be coming home, we know that this would not have happened without the concentrated efforts of our members and other organizations around the country over the last seven years. The harsh truth that we know is that this war is not over.The war in Iraq is not over for the families who's loved ones never returned from Iraq, or who returned with significant physical and psychological wounds, or who took their own lives upon return. It is not over for the families whose loved ones in the Individual Ready Reserves were plucked from full-time schooling and recently sent back to serve in Iraq. It is not over for families with loved ones currently serving in Iraq whose relatives have changed overnight from "combat forces" to "advisors." It is not over for families with loved ones who will now leave Iraq, only to be redeployed to Afghanistan. The withdrawal of U.S. service members deemed combat troops provides little solace for the over 4,400 grieving families whose loved ones died as a result of the war in Iraq. Their grief is compounded by the fact that their loss has not made America safer or improved the lives of Iraqis; and that other families continue to face the possibility of this same devastating loss. "With great sadness my family and I mark this occasion. On April 26, 2004 my son died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 4,400 American families who mourn the loss of our loved ones in Iraq; physical and spiritual casualties affect tens of thousands more - and yet the wars that kill and maim our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring all of our troops home, and find real solutions for peace," said Gold Star Families Speak Out member Celeste Zappala of Philadelphia, whose son was the first Pennsylvania guardsman killed in the war in Iraq. "The cost of the war in Iraq cannot be measured only in terms of lives lost or billions wasted. For the Iraqis who have to deal with broken lives, broken infrastructure, a broken political system, the war is not over. It will go on and on for too many of our warriors and their families because of PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other devastating injuries to our soldiers," said Cynthia Benjamin of Mt. Vision, NY, mother of an Operation Iraqi Freedom soldier, emergency room nurse and active member of Military Families Speak Out. Nancy Nygard, a Military Family Speaks Out member from Teaneck, New Jersey, said, "My son served a 16 month deployment in Afghanistan, being stop-lossed and extended past his initial 12 month deployment. In December of 2009, within 24 hours of President Obama's speech on the surge in Afghanistan, my son Joe received FedEx'd orders to report for duty assigned to combat infantry unit to serve in Iraq for 400 days. He had returned home, was honorably discharged and had begun rebuilding his life. He was in school full-time, and raising his two young children. Now what is he doing in Iraq? He was a combat troop when he deployed. Calling it something different does nothing to sooth his wife and young children. Claiming an end to the war when my family is devastated is a farce. This war is not over." Military Families Speak Out continues to call for a true end to the military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for all troops to be brought home quickly and safely from both countries and for returning troops to get the care they need when they return. Contributed by Military Families Speak Out, www.mfso.org.
********** Published: September 2, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 20