Trimmed: Veterans Toss Medals to NATO Leaders

by Garret Ean
Jan 22 2013

olsen_nato_medalAs a final segment for the episode of Shire TV that aired yesterday, I included footage I had captured outside of the NATO Summit last summer. There, US military veterans made history when 45 decorated soldiers tossed their medals in the direction of the barricaded McCormick Place, where the world’s military elite were meeting. Perhaps the most well known among the group returning their awards was former marine Scott Olsen, who was injured by a shot to the head from a crowd control device fired by police while breaking up an Occupy Oakland demonstration.

From the Huffington Post:

“I’d like to direct my message to the NATO representatives here in Chicago today,” said Suraia Sahar of Afghans for Peace, according to MSNBC. “For what you’ve done to my home country, I’m enraged; for what you’ve done to my people, I’m disgusted; for what you’ve done to these veterans, I’m heartbroken. I sympathize with their disappointment and being failed by the system and having their lives, their morals, and humanity toiled with.”

What appears in the episode is not the statement of each participating veteran, which spans about twenty-four minutes. Previously released on Free Concord was a longer version of the demonstration from which this segment derives, running fourty-four minutes. To follow up the content featured in the episode, I trimmed into its own video only the speeches of soldiers immediately before throwing their medals away. Below is the trimmed video, further down is text extracted from some of the more gripping and informative statements.

My name is Pete Sullivan, I served in the Army National Guard for twelve years, and all I have to say is that this is not something that I’m proud of.

My name is Erica Slone, I’m from Ohio. I served in the Air Force from 2002-2008, I’m an Iraq veteran. In the military is where I learned what integrity meant, and I believe I served with integrity. And at this point in my life, if I want to continue to live with integrity, I must get rid of these.

My name’s Scott Kimball. I’m an Iraq war vet. And I’m turning in these medals today for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world. And also, for all the service members and veterans who are against these wars, you are not alone.

My name is Christopher May, I left the army as a conscientious objector. We were told that these medals represented democracy and justice, and hope and change for the world. These medals represent a failure on behalf of the leaders of NATO to accurately represent the will of their own people. It represents a failure on the leaders of NATO to do what’s right by the disenfranchised people of this world. Instead of helping them, they take advantage of them, and they’re making things worse. I don’t want to be a part of that anymore. These medals don’t mean anything to me, and they can have them back.

My name is Maggie Martin, I was a sergeant in the army, I did two tours in Iraq. No amount of medals, ribbons, or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage, we want our human rights, we want our right to heal.

I’m David Van Damme, I was in the US Navy, I’m a GI resister. I got an other-than-honorable discharge, and I want to say that their policies are other than honorable. And I’m honorable, and all the GI resisters that refuse to fight in unjust wars are honorable. This is in solidarity with all GI resisters of unjust wars.

I’m Jacob Crawford, I went to Iraq and Afghanistan ,and when they gave me these medals, I knew they were meaningless. I only regret not starting to speak out about how silly the war is sooner. I’m giving these back. Free Bradley Manning!

My name is Jason Hurd, I spent ten years in the United States army as a combat medic. I deployed to Baghdad in 2004. I’m here to return my global war on terrorism service medal in solidarity with the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan. I am deeply sorry for the destruction that we have caused in those countries and around the globe. I’m proud to stand on this stage with my fellow veterans and my Afghan sisters. These were lies, I’m giving them back.

My name’s Phil, I’m from Atlanta, and the reason why I’m throwing my medal back is because we are the global 99%, and we refuse to be silenced, from Egypt back here to Chicago.

My name is Michael Thurman, I was a conscientious objector from the United States Air Force. I’m returning my global war on terrorism medal and my military coins on behalf of Private First Class Bradley Manning, who sacrificed everything to show us the truth about these wars.

My name is Matt Howard. I served in the USMC from 2001-2006, and in Iraq twice. I’m turning in my Iraq campaign service medal and global war on terrorism service and expeditionary medals, for all my brothers and sisters affected with traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and post traumatic stress disorder.

I’m Mark, I haven’t been too convinced of anything the last seven years except for the fact that I’ve been hurting. I have three daughters, Anelle, Leah, and Nora, and I’m convinced looking out across this crowd of peace-loving people that my daughters are gonna have peace.

I’m Joshua, I’m a member of IVAW, and I’m from Chicago. And honestly friends, I’m here to tell you that I blame myself first. I should have done my homework, I should have realized the lies before I participated in them. So this symbolic act, this throwing of the medal, is for all those people out there who are wondering why we’re doing it, do your homework.

My name is Michael Applegate. I was in the United States Navy from 1998-2006, and I’m returning my medal today because I want to live by my conscience rather than being a prisoner of it.

I’m Graham Cloughner, I’m an army veteran, and I spent a good amount of time in Afghanistan, and I just want everybody to look around. Take a second to look around, look next to you right now. I’m talking to the police officers, I’m talking about everybody out here. There are thousands of people out here for something important. We’re hearing, we’re having a conversation for the first time in a long time, for many of us, for the first time. And I wanna say that all of us, in some way or another, are trying to serve this great land that we live in, but it’s only great because of what we do with it. And sometimes we make mistakes. And the way we change that is we admit our mistakes and we take responsibility for our mistakes. And we change and we become better, and we do it together. So I’m returning my global war on terrorism medal because I don’t fight wars on adjectives.


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