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THE VETERAN

Page 27

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Operation First Casualty - Part IV

By Amy Meyers

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Operation First Casualty, Part IV - Chicago

Monday June 18, 2007 marked history with Operation First Casualty (OFC) – part IV, Chicago, Illinois. As IVAW members were coming into town, organizers were finishing last minute details. Participating IVAW members were from Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, DC and Indiana. IVAW participants and volunteers endured 5 hours of training the day before the action; this type of training was new for many, intense for all and a spectacle for those passing by.

The action itself began at 7:00 am at Union Rail Station, fished through the rush of Chicago's corporate downtown workforce and to the shopper's delight of the "magnificent mile" of Michigan Avenue. Acting out major scenes at 15 strategically planned locations, as well as many more spontaneously. We closed the action with a press conference and final action at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The patrol consisted of 9 Iraq war vets, in full DCUs. Another 7 IVAW members wore matching IVAW t-shirts while leafleting, with the purpose of informing passerby's of OFC. Volunteers playing the role of "civilians" were broken into 2 groups of 8 individuals each. There were actions/scenes between both civilian groups and the patrol together or one civi group with patrol separately, as well as, actions focusing on only the patrol in various locations.

VVAW and VFP members and some local anti-war activists participated by maintaining other support roles. There were "peace marshals" on hand to preoccupy any security or police long enough for the scene to happen and for us to move out onto the next, drivers following the civilian and patrol routes in cars, with water, snacks, medic supplies and a change of civilian clothes for patrol members to "get out of character" if necessary. Chicago's National Lawyers Guild provided 2 attorneys acting as volunteer legal observers. Seasoned local organizers took the role of legal mediators with Chicago Police Department and as press conference coordinators. Other volunteers assisted in leafleting, photographing and filming the action. An amazing selection of food and drinks were provided by Chicago's Food Not Bombs, the Chicago VVAW chapter and Marcia, a local activist.

Iraq Veterans Against the War's Operation First Casualty can easily be identified as the most intense action to sweep the nation since Vietnam Veterans Against the War did Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdraw), a similar action in small towns along the east coast in 1970. IVAW's OFC started in March 2007 and has so far been brought to the streets of Washington DC, New York City, New York, Santa Monica, Cailifornia, Chicago, Illinois and Denver, Colorado.

Having an imaginary M16 pointed in your face, being pushed to the ground, having your head hooded and arms zip tied behind your back, or watching your brother or friend being thrown to the ground and taken away, all the while yelling and chaos is going on around; the cries out, confusion, aggressiveness and fear became a natural response. "Acting" was not as hard to do once the action was underway. Everyone involved took this operation seriously and stayed in character for the entirety. Those on the streets or seeing the news clips probably would not have guessed the patrol and civilians were actual comrades only acting, albeit in a surreal far less extreme portrayal of a day of life under war and occupation.

Following the action and press conference, IVAW members had their Warrior Writers Workshop for the remainder of the afternoon; leading to the official art opening containing pictures, paintings and poetry of IVAW members at the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum. The turn out was great and the exhibit, beyond words, a very powerful way to end the weekend's events; an emotionally tiring and somber weekend filled with achievement, substance and despair. To see and feel the guilt and hurt felt, as both a soldier and a civilian, engrained permanent marks on many souls. The poems were heavy and hard and astonishing. The emotion and vulnerability displayed by warriors gripping humanity left most speechless and many in tears of shared sorrow and encouragement.

VVAW and IVAW have been an inspiring force for many and the most prolific anti-war organizations. Appreciation of VVAW's historic significance and leadership has met and guides their generation's sons and daughters in IVAW now, joining together and continuing the fight for the truth, peace, justice and GI rights.

As much as veterans are called on for speaking at events and heading demonstrations and marches...everyone in "the movement" must show solidarity by donating support, time and money to them. Follow their lead and help ensure the long term success of our shared goals, wrapped up in a very clear and simple request "end the war and occupation, troops home now!"

Bringing "the truth of the war home," a glimpse into the reality, brutality, confusion and pain of a war and occupation from the civilian and soldiers' perspective, is not easy, but absolutely necessary.

For more information on IVAW and Operation First Casualty check: www.ivaw.org

You can find further articles and video footage on the internet by performing a Google search and checking www.youtube.com, keywords IVAW OFC or Operation First Casualty.


Amy Meyers is a member of Vietnam Veterans against the War – Chicago Chapter and the Chicago Coalition Against War & Racism.


Operation First Casualty, Part IV - Chicago

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