4,000 Vigil in Orlando

Last year on this day, we all had hoped that we would not be gathering again. After 5 years of the War in Iraq, we have now arrived at the sad milestone of 4000 American soldiers killed in Iraq. Regretfully, the time has now come to mourn and share our heartfelt sorrow at this agonizing loss to our nation and our people once again.

CODEPINK Orlando will host a vigil and rally to end the war TODAY, Monday, March 24 and invites you to join us at Lake Ivanhoe Park from 6:30-8pm. We will be placing the candles (as below) for the 4000 and may* also have a flag draped casket to lay flowers upon after we read the names of the 170 soldiers from Florida that have been killed since March 2003. Please bring flowers, candles and signs.

*f you can help transport a large cardboard casket from the Longwood area to the event, please call/email Leslie and/or Deidra. To get to the vigil: Exit I-4 at Princeton and go east to Orange Avenue. Turn right on Orange Avenue. The park is just south of Princeton on the right side. There is parking along Orange Avenue and also along the North side of the park along N. Lake Ivanhoe Blvd. The address is 57 South Ivanhoe Boulevard, Orlando if you want to mapquest it.

You are also welcome to bring any other items or props to this vigil. Some cities are doing chalkings of the bodies with the numbers of the US and Iraqi casualties on the sidewalks outside their congressional offices. Some women are dressing in black and wailing in the streets. Some are wearing black armbands with the number 4000, some will be wearing pink tape with the number 4000, some are marching and closing down intersections to draw attention to this travesty and some will be reliving the day they were informed that their loved one was dead.

Regretfully, 4,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. According to CBS, we currently have 120 veterans committing suicide every week or an average of 17 every day. One third of our soldiers have reported to being raped or had an attempted rape during their service. Over 40,000 Iraq veterans have returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, loss of limbs and/or severe head trauma. Their families now bear a heavy burden and are suffering from physical and mental abuse, loss of their homes, jobs and loved ones.

Nobel Laureate Stephen Stiglitz of Columbia and Harvard University public finance Professor Laura Bilmes estimate War costs to be 3 trillion now and the service (interest) on the debt alone will amount to $900 billion. Gas, Bread, Milk and eggs have risen to all time highs in our country and the dollar is pitiful in the world markets. It is not going to get any better, any time soon. In fact, most experts are predicting even worse economic times to come.

Yet the national media has all but ignored the peace movement and entirely ignored testimonies last week of the Iraq veterans who spoke at Winter Soldier. The Washington Post only covered this event in the local section of their paper and none of the major television stations even bothered to show up to hear OUR veterans speak! Testimony by Vets at WINTER SOLDIER: http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony/video We do not know accurately how many lives have been devastated in Iraq but the chaos and constant trauma has left no one untouched or unaffected. It's possible that over a million have now died and we know that millions more have been displaced and/or had their daily lives destroyed.

I hope that YOU will hear this call to action and let your voices be heard.

CODEPINK: http://codepinkalert.org/calendar.php
American Friends Service Committee : http://www.afsc.org/4000
UFPJ: http://unitedforpeace.org/calendar.php
For the latest count: http://icasualties.org/oif/

Testimony by Vets at WINTER SOLDIER http://ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony/video

More news you should know...
Rise in homicides by US Iraq war vets -NY Times.
A survey of public records by The New York Times found at least 121 U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing or were charged with one after returning home from duty, the newspaper reported on Saturday. The Times said the numbers indicated a nearly 90 percent increase in homicides involving active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six-year period since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

http://www.reuters.com/article/asiaCrisis/idUSB398610 The Women's War -NY Times. One-third of a nationwide sample of female veterans seeking health care through the V.A. said they experienced rape or attempted rape during their service. Of that group, 37 percent said they were raped multiple times, and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped.

Other organizations:
Veterans for Peace: http://www.veteransforpeace.org/
Iraq Veterans Against the War: http://ivaw.org/

The following are resources for veterans and current service members suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts, or PTSD:

The Wounded Warrior Call-Center 1-877-487-6299 - This is a hotline for injured, wounded, or ill former and current Marines, Sailors and their family members. They offer information, resources, and advocacy for men and women suffering from either physical or psychological wounds.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - By calling and pressing "1" you will be connected with round-the-clock access to mental health professionals who focus solely on helping veterans.

SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) www.save.org - This non-profit's mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce stigma, and serve as a resource for those touched by suicide.

Vets 4 Vets, (520) 319-5500, www.vets4vets.us - Vets 4 Vets is a peer support group for recent veterans. In weekend workshops and local groups, veterans talk and listen to each other to help heal from negative wartime and military experiences. Contact them to find out about upcoming workshops.

National Veterans Foundation, www.nvf.org, 1-888-777-4443 - This non-profit, non-governmental organization gives assistance, information and resources to veterans from all military branches.

RESIST in March! ~ Washington DC

I arrived in DC last night and went immediately to Walter Reed hospital where the weekly vigil and counter-protester action was in progress. It was so great to see so many faces from my trip here last year but especially wonderful to see the young women from CODEPINK UCF chapter. They were charged up and so full of energy that it made my heart proud. Here's some photos of them yesterday afternoon at the recruiting station. They also went to the Press Corp event yesterday and were eventually kicked out for being CODEPINK dissidents. I will post more photos as I have them.

CODEPINK Peace Team including members from University of Central Florida's chapter delivered Winter Soldier Fliers and Posters to the recruiters friday afternoon- though no one came to the door to receive our gifts!

We Demand Peace & Want Our Troops out of harm's way Now!
Support Winter Soldier whatever way possible! http://www.ivaw.org/
Join CODEPINK in DC! http://www.codepinkalert.org/