Left Justified: We all suffer from PTSD

At the St. Louis Veterans for Peace Convention, I met soldiers who’ve been to Iraq, and they all spoke of a guy who helped them through heavy times. This guy lives in Chicago and is available at an 800-number for counseling military soldiers, some of whom call him when they return from, transfer to, or while stationed in Iraq.

I thought I’d ask him to come and visit Rockford and tell us what he does (I’m always looking for good speakers to bring to town).

Veterans’ Counselor Ray Parrish will discuss delayed stress of the Iraq vet, the rights of GIs, recruiters’ tricks, and how we all suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. So many problems, maybe we should end the war?

The free program starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, 4848 Turner St., three blocks north and east of Alpine and State. This is the first in a series of “coffee talks” that the local peace group sponsors every Monday night.

Ray Parrish’s life has been one of listening to other people’s problems. He was a mental health worker for the Chicago Health Outreach, served as a veterans service officer for the American Legion, Department of Illinois; and was the executive director of Midwest Committee for Military Counseling, a non-profit organization providing free and confidential draft, military and veteran counseling. Ray presently does military counseling for a coalition of veterans’ and family support groups, including soldiers presently serving in Iraq.

He was a sergeant in the United States Air Force, got an honorable discharge as a Russian linguist and intelligence analyst/reporter at Karamursel, in Turkey. They might have to kill you now, because I told you that.

Coffee Talks are free and open to the public. Rockford Peace & Justice Action Committee sponsors the Coffee Talks, with an assist from Rockford Urban Ministries, the Social Justice Committee of the UU Church, and a memorial gift from friends of Betty Johnson, that tireless League of Women Voters’ member and local environmentalist.


Peace activists sent Manzullo back to Congress:

More than 45 constituents gathered in front of U.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo’s (R-16) congressional district office, to vigil for peace and a quick return of U.S. troops. More than 300 similar events were held across the country in front of scores of congressional offices, asking Congress to bring the troops home safely and quickly.

Congress will be reconvening from the summer recess (about time!). MoveOn.Org, an Internet peace group, has called for vigils to ask Congress to support the troops and bring them home. According to recent polls, a majority of Americans want the president and Congress to provide an exit strategy from Iraq with a timeline. And, a majority of the Iraqi people want U.S. troops to leave Iraq because their presence fuels the insurgency.

“It is irresponsible for Representative Manzullo to stand with the president and his failed ‘stay the course’ policy in Iraq,” said Holly Johnson, member of Rockford Progressive Meetup, one of the co-sponsors of the vigil.

People have found little support for peace from the congressman. Besides supporting the “surge” in troops to Iraq, Mr. Manzullo has indicated he may even support extending the war to Iran. He has refused to investigate cost overruns, and needs to be prodded to vote for mental health counseling for veterans returning from multiple combat tours. After three years of voting against the “School of Americas” (a training ground for Latin American soldiers), he changed his vote without letting anyone know. That was one little bit of sanity in his mad military-industrial complex of yeas and nays. Now we got nothin’.

“We need a new congressman,” said one of the participants, many of whom I had never seen before. This Internet is a great tool for organizing, bringing in folks from the surrounding communities. We’ll probably visit Don’s office a few more times, trying to move him away from war, and toward peace.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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