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Watermelon Slim Supports IVAW
By Suzy Webster
Bill Reynolds, Watermelon Slim and Marty Webster
The evening began when VVAW National Coordinator Marty Webster spoke to the overflow crowd and gave a brief history of VVAW and its relationship with Iraq Veterans Against the War. He discussed the ineffectiveness of the VA and our government's failure to address the physical, psychological and material needs of returning veterans and our active duty GIs. Cincinnati IVAW member Lt. Harvey Tharp, who suffers gravely from the effects of PTSD and other physiological maladies related to his Iraq experience, shared some of his negative experience with the USAF and the VA. Harvey received a standing ovation when he finished. Marty and Slim began the old VVAW chant, BRING THE BOYS HOME (sung) NOW! As Harvey, Slim and Marty tearfully embraced I don't believe there was a dry eye in the place. Southeastern Ohio VVAW Contact Bill Reynolds welcomed the crowd and thanked those responsible for the evening including co-host of the evening Lyn Cady from the Marietta Ohio Peace Initiative.
Earlier that afternoon the first annual Ohio VVAW get-together took place at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Marietta, Ohio. Members of the Mid-Ohio Valley Peace Initiative, a growing number of Vietnam War veterans and everyday citizens joined together to support the latest generation of veterans. VVAW contacts Mark Hartford from Columbus, Ohio and Annie Bailey from Milwaukee joined us. Vietnam veteran Bill Reynolds of Marietta, Ohio spoke of how he joined other veterans 40 years ago in peaceful demonstrations calling for peace, justice and the protection of rights for US GIs and veterans. Reynolds said he can relate to today's soldiers because they were both asked to win wars that could not be won. "There are some similarities, but for the most part they are dealing with a different set of circumstances," Reynolds said. "Their casualty rates are less but their traumatic experience rates are much higher."
Marty Webster said today's vets are being forced to stay abroad longer and often to complete three and four tours of duty and many are physically and emotionally unfit for combat. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Webster said VVAW campaigned to bring troops home and to ensure veterans access to adequate medical and mental health care. Today the goals of VVAW are very much the same. According to a recent RAND Corporation study, roughly one in five soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Researchers at Portland State University found that male veterans are twice as likely to commit suicide than men who are not veterans. "We have more Iraq veterans and active duty personnel who have committed suicide than have been killed in Iraq," Webster said. "We are trying to facilitate help. "Webster said VVAW has helped get a veterans' suicide hot line established. The veterans' hot line, which is linked to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, received 55,000 callers in its first year, including veterans and people who are concerned about them.
For one weekend the geography from Cincinnati to Marietta, Ohio to Parkersburg, West Virginia became an anti-war island in space and time. The evening ended as the veterans locked arms and challenged everyone present to up all their resources to BRING THEM HOME NOW! BRING THEM HOME NOW!
Suzy Webster is a member of VVAW and the daughter of VVAW National Coordinator Marty Webster.
She is also involved in anti-war activities at the University of Cincinnati.
Watermelon Slim embraces and thanks Lt. Harvey Tharp
from Cincinnati for his participation at the concert
VVAW National Coordinator Marty Webster gives the overflow crowd a short
history of VVAW & IVAW and thanks Watermelon Slim and the workers for their participation in the IVAW event