Nobody is thrilled with the nasty turn of events that have once again spilled out across the small but robust community of Ferguson, although it is refreshing (and simultaneously bizarre) to see riots break out and it have nothing to do with a great deal on a 60″ LED TV or a pumpkin festival. Of course, a lot of the rancor and tumult could’ve been avoided had the county prosecution taken a much different course than it did, which many legal experts justly criticized. But when military veterans start weighing in, we tend to listen more.
It seems a wide assortment of military veterans and active U.S. personnel, including many who fought in Iraq, have come together to send an open letter to members of Missouri’s National Guard. The letter has one simple message: Join Ferguson protesters, don’t fight against them.
To our brothers and sisters in the Missouri National Guard:
We are writing to you as active-duty U.S. service members and veterans, most of us having served in the Iraq war.
You have a choice you can make right now.
The whole world is watching the Ferguson police with disgust. They killed an unarmed, college-bound Black youth in broad daylight, and subsequently responded to peaceful, constitutionally-protected protests with extreme violence and repression.
Countless constitutional and human rights violations by these police have been documented over the course of the Ferguson protests; from attacking and threatening journalists, to using tear gas against peaceful protesters, including children.
Now, Governor Nixon has again activated the National Guard to ‘support law enforcement.’ But you don’t have to follow their orders—you can stand with the protesters instead.
Our true duty[.]
When we signed up, we swore an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States.
The police in Ferguson are violating that Constitution.
The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.
These laws are, as we are taught our entire lives, our most cherished Constitutional rights—the whole basis for the ‘freedom’ we are told makes us the greatest country on Earth.
It is undeniable that the Ferguson police has [sic] used extreme violence against peaceful protesters, suppressing the right of the people to free speech and the freedom to assemble. They have attacked crowds, with children in them, with rubber bullets, sound cannons and tear gas. People have been mass arrested for simply being at the protest.
Freedom of the press has also been severely infringed upon by Ferguson police. Journalists have been arrested; photo evidence shows riot police firing tear gas directly at reporters and tearing down their camera equipment; Ferguson police have been caught on video threatening journalists with violence if they don’t leave, and declaring that they are not allowed in the protest area.
With such important and dramatic events unfolding, the right of the people in the United States to have the truth covered by the press is essential to any so-called democratic society.
The people have the right to protest. If we were truly honoring our oath, we would be in Ferguson to protect the protesters against the repression of their rights by the police.
We don’t just have a legal obligation, but a moral one[.]
Clearly, we would be within our legal rights to refuse to help the Ferguson police unconstitutionally suppress these protests. But beyond the constitutional case, we have a moral obligation to refuse to participate.
The Ferguson police are treating this like a war. And we know that not all wars are just.
These protests have done something very important in our society: they have raised the deep issues we face of inequality, poverty, racism and police misconduct onto a national stage. It has turned public consciousness to these real problems that plague our society.
Do you really want to be part of suppressing those civilians raising all these important issues on the national stage?
Racist police brutality is a real issue in America[.]
The autopsy of Michael Brown confirms at least five eye-witness accounts that the young man—who was not even suspected by Darren Wilson of any crime—was shot while he had his hands in the air.
Those of us in the military—especially with combat experience—knows that this flies in the face of any Rules of Engagement, and we know that it is completely ridiculous to believe that Darren Wilson feared for his life in anyway whatsoever.
Increasingly, the issue of rampant police brutality in America—most frequently by white officers against people of color, with an African American killed every 28 hours by police—is garnering more and more attention on a national and international scale.
Outrage by the community against the state’s refusal to hold Darren Wilson accountable is entirely justified; the movement, led by Black youth, is a just movement.
History is unfolding, with the whole world watching. You have a decision to make on which side of history to be on.
You will make history, one way or the other[.]
If you take part in the suppression of the protests for Michael Brown, we will be enshrined in history just as the National Guard soldiers who followed their orders to attack and repress civil rights actions, union pickets and anti-war protests. History has not looked kindly on them.
But you have the chance to make a different kind of history.
Imagine the powerful impact it would have if you abandoned your posts and marched with the protesters.
That single action could have the biggest possible effect on the crisis in Ferguson and the larger issues it represents in the entire country. It could be a major turning point in the fight against racism, inequality and police abuse.
You wouldn’t be alone. There is a whole community of service members, veterans and civilian supporters who would defend your right to do so. And now, in this critical moment, we are urging you to exercise that right.
Justice for Mike Brown! Arrest Darren Wilson!
…add your name to this open letter to the National Guard by emailing your name, branch and dates of service, and any deployments to [email protected]
The poignant letter was then followed up by signatures from members of various veterans, including ones from past wars like Vietnam and the more current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also urges other interested military members to add their names to the open letter, which they can do by simply emailing their name, branch, date of service, and any deployments to [email protected]
This appeal is signed by:
Kourtney Mitchell, US Army, 2011-present
Sara Beining, US Army, 2004-present (Iraq war veteran)
Kelsa Pellettiere, US Army, 2009-present
Anonymous Air Force Technical Sergeant, 2000-present (Afghanistan war veteran)
Jhassier Laurentes, US Navy, 2013-present
SSG Al Robinson III, US Army, 1999-present (Afghanistan war veteran)
Lisa Wnek, US Air Force, 2009 – 2014 (Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran)
Monique Salhab, US Army, 1997-2007 (Iraq war veteran)
Margaret Stevens, US Army, 1997-2004
Chantelle Bateman, US Marines Reserve, 2003-2009 (Iraq war veteran)
Mike Prysner, US Army, 2001-2005 (Iraq war veteran)
Sean McCrea, US Marines, 2005-2012 (Iraq war veteran)
William Felton, US Army, 2005-2012 (Iraq war veteran)
Kevin Benderman, US Army, 1987-1991 & 2000-2008 (Iraq war veteran)
Alynn McLellan, US Army, 2008-2012 (Iraq war veteran)
Danny Birmingham, US Army, 2009-2012 (Iraq war veteran)
Adam Fuentes, US Navy, 2007-2012
Ryan Endicott, US Marines, 2004-2008 (Iraq war veteran)
William Griffin, US Army, 2004-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
Jason Cardenas, US Army, 2002-2007 (Iraq war veteran)
Hart Viges, US Army, 2001-2004 (Iraq war veteran)
Ross Caputi, US Marines, 2003-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
Camillo Mejia, US Army, 1995-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
James Circello, US Army, 2001-2008 (Iraq war veteran)
Jayel Aheram, US Marines, 2006-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
Miguel Colon, US Marines, 2001-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
Wendy Barranco, US Army, 2003-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
Michael Sullivan, US Army, 2005-2007 (Iraq war veteran)
Kristen Walston, US Navy, 1996-2003
Vincent Emanuele, US Marines, 2002-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
Jeremy Berggren, US Marines, 1998-2004
Ken Braley, US Army, 2002-2005
Jessie Ryan, US Army, 2000-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
Nick Kallio, US Army, 2007-2013 (Iraq war veteran)
Joe Soel, US Army, 2006-2014 (Iraq war veteran)
Jami King, US Army, 2004-2005
Richard Stroder, US Marines, 2004-2009 (Iraq war veteran)
Anonymous, US Army, 2005-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
Jonathan Engle, US Army, 2007-2013 (Iraq war veteran)
Amber Royster, US Navy, 2000-2006
Michael Downs, US Army, 1985-2009
Zollie Goodman, US Navy, 2002-2006 (Iraq war veteran)
Kasey Keck, US Army (Iraq war veteran)
Curtis Sirmans, US Army, 2006-2012 (Iraq war veteran)
Michael Nelson Hanes, US Marines, 1994-2004 (Iraq war veteran)
Clifton Hicks, US Army, 2003-2005 (Iraq war veteran)
Aaron Myracle, US Army, 2002-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
Kelvin Rodeo, US Navy, 2007-2011
Danilo Deocampo, US Navy, 1997 – 2003
Nate Yielding, Virginia Army National Guard 2001-2007, Maryland Air Guard 2007-2011
Aaron Myracle, Washington Army National Guard, 2002-2010
Damien Boyd, US Army, 2001-2014
Victor Agosto, US Army, 2005-2009 (Iraq War Veteran)
Alec Stevens, US Air Force, 1999-2008
Jason Mizula, US Army &US Coast Guard, 2002-2008 (Iraq War veteran)
Daniel Fargason, US Army, 2005-2009 (Iraq war veteran)
David A Meyer, US Air Force, 1979 – 2001
Lara Gale, US Army & Air Force Reserve , 1999-2006
Andrew Dyer, US Navy, 2001-2012
Gloria A, Downey, US Air Force, 2002 – 2009 (Iraq war veteran)
German Martinez, US Marines, 2010-2014
James Poteet, US Army & National Guard, 1993-2001
Carmine Matlock, US Air Force, 2005-2010
Maggie Martin, US Army, 2002-2006 (Iraq War Veteran)
Robert Howell, Illinois Air National Guard, 1999 to 2011 (Iraq war veteran)
Ian LaVallee, US Army, 2005-2009 (Iraq war veteran)
Adam G. House, US Army, 2006-2010
Claire White, US Air Force, 2006-2012
Randall Mayhugh, US Army, 2003-2006
Jovanni Reyes, US Army, 1993-2005
Ramon Mejia, US Marines, 2001-2004 (Iraq war veteran)
Matt Stys, US Army & Penn. Army National Guard, 1990-1998, 2005-2009
Angela Hamnes, US Navy, 2001-2011
Joe Nunley, US Marines, 1997-2002
Justin Thompson, US Army, 2007-2010 (Iraq war veteran)
Daniel Craig, US Army (Gulf war veteran)
Gerry Werhan, US Marines, 1971-1994 (Gulf war veteran)
Curt Schaiberger, US Army, 1987-1991 (Gulf War veteran)
Michael T. McPhearson, U.S. Army 1981-1992 (Gulf War Veteran)
Forrest Schmidt, US Army, 1994-2000
John Fortier, US Air Force, 1952-1955 (Korean war veteran)
Bill Perry, US Army, 1967-1968 (Vietnam war veteran)
Matt Dubuc, US Army, 1994-1997 (Bosnia veteran)
Sanfod Kelson, US Army, 1963-1966
Alexis Fectaeu, US Airforce, 22 years
Benny Harris, US Navy, 1973-1993
Eric Meyer, US Navy, 1967-1971 (Vietnam war veteran)
Victoria Marx, US Navy, 1969-1976 (Vietnam war veteran)
Charles SHelton, US Coast Guard, 1969-1972
Annzala Pitt, US Army, 9 years
Leonard Vernon, US Army, 1964-1966
Tom Adams, US Army, 1971-1973
Paul Appell, US Army, 1968-1971 (Vietnam war veteran)
Derrick Wilson, US Army, 6 years
Danny McGregor, US Navy, 21 years
Douglas Ryder, US Navy, 1964-1967 (Vietnam war veteran)
Arlene Edwards, US Army Nurse Corps, 1966-1970 (Vietnam war veteran)
Tommy Griffin, US Army, 1976-1999
Gary Lail, US Navy, 1964-1968
Selena Vincin, US Army, 1995-1997
Danny Fry, US Army, 1970 (Vietnam war veteran)
Albert Sargis, US Marines, 1956-1962
Dave Logsdon, US Navy, 1966-1970
Ken Ashe, US Army, 1969-1971 (Vietnam war veteran)
Sven Pihl, US Navy, 1986-1990
William Holcomb, US Navy, 1946-1949
Daveed Williams, US Navy, 1987-1990
Nick Velvet, US Army, 1967-1969 (Vietnam war veteran)
Harold Donle, US Marines (Vietnam war veteran)
Paul Turner, US Air Force, 1981-1988
Jamie St. Clair, US Navy, 4 years
Allie Thorpe, US Navy, 4 years
Bill Graffam, US Navy (Korean war veteran)
Mike Madden, US Air Force, 1973-1979
Ron Arm, US Army, 1966-1971
Tarak Kauff, US Army, 1959-1962
Tom Palumbo, US Army, 1978-1993
Patrick McCann, US Air Force, 1970-1972
Mark Foreman, US Navy, 1966-1968 (Vietnam war veteran)
Gerry Condon, US Army, 1967-1975
Ron Arm, US Army, 1966-1971 (Vietnam war veteran)
Mike Budd, US Army, 1968-1971 (Vietnam war veteran)
Amos Sunshine, US Army, 1952-1955
Glenn Wright, US Air Force, 1962-1974
James Domenico, US Navy, 1973-1976
Janice Josephine Carney, U.S. Army 1969-1972 (Vietnam war veteran)
Russell Brown, US Marines, 1966-68
Priscilla J Leach, US Coast Guard Reserve, 1982-94
Ray Reese, US Marine Corps 1956-1962
Ray Albrecht, US Army, 1974 – 1977
Christopher G. Wales, USN, 1980-1986
Marlon Moore, US Navy, 1990-1999
James C. Branch, US Navy, 1985-1996
Thomas Easley, US Army, 1972-1974
Dennis Lambert, US Army, 1992-2000
Douglas A. Stuart, US Army, 1968-1970 (Vietnam war veteran)
Gary E. May, US Marines, 1967-1968 (Vietnam war veteran)
Emanuele Vorso, US Air Force (Retired)
William Miniutti USMC 1968-1970 (Vietnam war veteran)
James Reagan Marcroft-Clark, US Marines, 1996-2000
Maxwell Burgess, US Navy, 1979-1984
April Adams, US Army, 1990-2000
Tom Palumbo, US Army & Reserves, 1978-1992
Russell Bates, US Navy, 1967-1970
Tariq Khan, US Air Force, 1996-2000
Paul Appell, US Army, 1968-1971 (Vietnam war veteran)
Reese Forbes, US Army, 1968-1970
Vernon Haltom, US Air Force, 1986-1992
George Waldman, US Air Force, 1960-1969
Carolyn Rowan, US Air Force, 1976-1978
Steven M Cross, US Army, 1970 – 1972 (Vietnam war veteran)
Michael Mangini, US Army, 1979-1983
Deston Denniston US Army, 1988-1990
Nate Goldshlag, US Army 1970-1972
M. Lara Hoke, US Navy, 1990-1994
Colin Jenkins, US Army, 1994-1998
Bill Mattis, US Marines, 1969 – 1971
Adolph L. Biel II, US Navy, Vietman Era
Aubrey Deloney, US Navy, 1996-2000
Charles Dean Pleasant Jr., US Air Force, 1972-1976
Jeannie Ramsey, US Navy, 1974-1976
George R. Jenkins, US Army, 1965-1967 (Vietnam war veteran)