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Speech by Michael T. McPhearson on MFSO

Saturday, November 20, 2004
I sincerly thank the members of MFSO who bravely speak out in the face of opposition and retoric. These men and women who can honestly speak to the real and substaintial horrible cost of a war gone wrong show courage and patriotism in it's truest form. Here are men and women who are proud Americans and who have given so much for us all. I am proud to count myself as a member of MFSO and as a disabled veteran who loves his country but feels that the US Iraq policy is wrong. There can be no doubt that the war on terrorism must be fought but should Iraq have been part of that war? What does it say when we send our men and women into battle but do not provide the needed resources to wage that war? What does it say when big buisnesses profit on the blood of our chosen few? What does it say when the very people that make such desicions to send troops into battle either never served when it was there turn or had questionable time? What does it say when those who send men and women to death and disability also profit from the buisness of war? These are a few of my questions and I think that I am not alone in my views.
Below is a speech given by Michael McPhearson to the MFSO. Additional speechs and letters are contained on the MFSO website which is linked above.
Pray for our men and women in uniform and for our country and let your voice be heard to all! May God bless our country and all the families and service members where ever they may be stationed!!
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

St. Francis

O Lord Jesus Christ, Who said to Your Apostles: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you," regard not my sins but the faith of Your Church, and deign to give her peace and unity according to Your Will: Who live and reign, God, world without end. Amen.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known
that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me.

A few thoughts on the importance of Military Families Speak Out
Michael T. McPhearson

Since I began protesting against the actions of my government, first to stop the invasion of Iraq and now to end the occupation and bring our troops home, I have met many courageous and determined people. Such people give me hope and motivation as I witness their heroism in the face of great tragedy. On October 16 2004, I had the privilege of sharing the stage with three amazing people during the opening session of the Brooklyn Parents For Peace – Peace Fair. The title of the forum was, The Cost of War: A Dialogue with Family Members of Victims of War and Violence, "Overcoming tragedy and giving hope." Robi Damelin, an Israeli Jew who lost her son David 28, when he was killed serving on military duty and Nadwa Sarandah, a Palestinian from east Jerusalem, who lost her sister, Naila a public health consultant, when she was killed on the streets of East Jerusalem spoke on behalf of the Parents Circle. The Parents Circle is an organization of over 500 bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost close relatives to the violence in the Middle East. John Leinung spoke representing September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. He and his wife Elaine lost their son Paul Battaglia who worked for Marsh, Inc. on the 100th floor of Tower 1 at the World Trade Center in New York. September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was founded by family members of those killed on 9-11 who have united to turn their grief into action for peace. I humbly represented Military Families Speak Out. Here are my comments.

October 16, 2004, YWCA of Brooklyn

Thank you for having me. I’m going to dive right into what I have to say because time is short. I am a member of Military Families Speak Out. I have a 19 year old son in the Army. Fortunately he has not been to Iraq. He is scheduled to go within the next 6 to 8 months. I am also a member of Veterans For Peace. I am a veteran of the Persian Gulf War.
I will share with you some information, experiences and thoughts about Military Families Speak Out. And I will also comment on lose of life and peace.
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. It was formed in November of 2002 and has contacts with military families throughout the United States, and in other countries around the world.
Of course this is not the first time family members have protested against a war, but MFSO represents a new level of organized resistance. Families across the country are increasingly speaking out and taking steps to end this war. An example of this unprecedented level of activity is a trip I took in December 2003. I traveled with a peace delegation to areas in and around Baghdad. We traveled to Iraq to see for ourselves the status of the occupation. The trip was sponsored by Global Exchange and coordinated on the ground in Iraq by Occupation Watch. Included on the trip was Anabelle Valencia a military mother and school teacher. She had a son and daughter in Iraq. Mike Lopercio an Arizona businessman had a son in Iraq. We also had a Vietnam vet Sean Doughtery who had a daughter in Iraq. I traveled as a member of Veterans For Peace with two other Vietnam veterans. Many of you may have heard of Fernando Suarez del Solar. He was also on the trip. His son a Marine was killed on March 27, 2003. Two of the parents actually visited their children. Anabelle visited her daughter in Tikrit and Mike went to see his son in Fallujah. Fernando laid a cross at the site of his son’s death.
While there we met with military leadership. They treated us well, but they were confused and not sure how to receive us. They said it was unprecedented for parents to visit their children in the middle of a conflict.
These actions and hundreds of others like them: Beth Pratt speaking out in Fayetteville, NC home to the soldiers of Fort Bragg. Her husband is in Iraq. The Lipscombs speaking out in Fahrenheit 911 about the death of their son, Stan Goff whose son was deployed to Iraq and Sue Niederer whose son was killed in Iraq, are actions of people who have decided to say to government, we will not stand idly by and let you destroy our families. We will not let you ruin our lives. These voices are a potent segment of the resistance to the Iraq war. Parents and spouses of soldiers cannot be easily dismissed. People who have lost their child, husband, wife or sibling must be acknowledged.
These voices are crucial to the wider peace movement. Military Families and Veterans amplify the movement’s message. We provide a bridge to a more conservative America who think peace means tie dyed shirts and long hair. Members of MFSO come from every walk of life. Our faces represent the faces of everyday America. The sincerity of our pain and frustration drives home the true cost of war, loss of life.

Peace and Loss of life.

There are many themes that bind us together as we gather here today to discuss and share strategies and information in our efforts to spread and forward peace. This panel is bound together by the underlying themes that have created our individual tragedies. Racism, religious animosity, rampant nationalism and basic pursuit and abuse of power push forward and maintain the conflicts in Iraq, Palestine/Israel and caused the September 11 attacks. But perhaps the most prominent theme, the most powerful theme that effects all of us – right, left, hawk or dove – is lose of life. With this in mind for a moment I would like to focus on parents. I do not intend to take away from the pain of a sibling, spouse, aunt, uncle nor any person who has lost a family member or friend, but I must say I see the loss of a child as the most painful of all life experiences.
Before visiting Iraq I met Fernando. I love Fernando because he and others like him represent a type of courage I pray to never know. I have stood helpless giving token words of support and condolences as mothers like Sue Niederer and fathers like Fernando grieve for their children. While visiting Iraq I met several parents who have lost their children to the violence of the occupation. I met a father who witnessed U.S. soldiers shooting his son and watched him die. He shared this pain with us. There were many such stories. I cried with Fernando and I cried with the father in Iraq. I nearly cried while writing this piece as I remembered the pain I felt through these parents. This is the pain and grief shared by all parents who have lost their children to violence. This pain and grief is the darkest and most unnatural outcome of war. I say unnatural because we all expect to see our parents die before us. Yes it is painful, but it is a part of the natural cycle of life: birth, growth, old age, death and renewal. It is an expectation and it makes sense. It needs no justification. It is what it is.
But the violent deaths of so many people, the daughters and sons of Iraqis, Americans, Palestinians, Israelis, and all people who have died in war has no rhyme or reason. War and other forms of lethal violence cannot be explained via the cycle of life, because it is part of a cycle of death. We use concepts of patriotism and religion to justify the unjustifiable. We are told to hide our pain in a sense of duty and allegiance to identity.
But these courageous parents have said no. They have chosen not to live in a matrix of myth and ideology. They have chosen to live in the light of their love for their children. They ask us to join them in this light as they strive to honor the lives of their children by daring to change the world.
This energy and purity of intention creates an undeniable force. When the parents of the so called enemies can bind together and say there is a better way, then there must be a better way. If a mother and father who has lost their child can find a place to put the pain and join the “other” to say no to war, then those of us who have been blessed not to have faced this challenge can do the same. Peace will not be obtained through treaties, governments or ideological constructs. Peace comes between people. These families are building a foundation for a lasting peace through their courage to look past their pain and take action that honors life.

Thanking for listening to my thoughts. Power to the peaceful

Michael T. McPhearson is the father of a nineteen-year-old son who joined the Army in January 2004. A native of Fayetteville North Carolina and now living in Newark, NJ, Michael was a field artillery officer in the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, also known as The Gulf War. His military career includes 6 years of reserve service and 5 years active duty service. His activist work includes membership in Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, as a coordinating committee member for the Bring Them Home Now campaign and as a steering committee member of United For Peace and Justice.
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