Monday, November 10, 2008

Local woman protests upcoming Oregon Guard deployment

This isn't a simple case of "here we go again."

A Corvallis woman has taken up station on the State Capitol steps in Salem, Ore., protesting the upcoming deployment of the Oregon Army National Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team.

Michele Darr is on a hunger strike, drinking water with lemons, in an effort to stop the deployment of nearly 3,500 citizen-Soldiers to Iraq in early 2009. She has demanded an audience with Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, citing his position as the Oregon Guard's commander-in-chief.

Many people remember another Iraq War protester named Cindy Sheehan, who gained international attention by her extended demonstration outside of President Bush's Texas ranch in 2005. Sheehan demanded a second meeting with the President, in the hopes of influencing a pullout from Iraq. (Sheehan and several other family members of military personnel killed in Iraq had originally met with President Bush in June 2004--three months after her deployed son Casey was killed in Iraq).

Sheehan was one of the nine founding members of Gold Star Families for Peace, spoke at many public rallies around the world since 2004, was actively involved in a growing international peace movement, and, in 2007, and lost a bid to unseat Nancy Pelosi for her post in the U.S. House. Her run at Congress wasn't a fluke--running as an independent candidate, she tallied 16.4% of the vote--placing second in the 2008 California election, according to the California Secretary of State.

Darr on the other hand is a supporter of the new Campaign to Bring Troops Home effort led by community groups such as Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group. According to Jillian Daley of the Salem Statesman Journal, the groups have a draft resolution to prevent Oregon troops from being federalized, and deployed.

As part of her protest, Darr intends to meet with Governor Kulongoski to demand he stop the deployment. But according to Rem Nivens, the Governor's deputy communications chief, while Kulongoski has legitimate concerns about any impact to the state mission caused by the unit's deployment, he can't stop it.

All of this has stirred up lively discussion both in favor of Ms. Darr’s position, and that of the National Guard. You can read some of these comments as a result of the article, "Woman protests deployment of the Guard" published by The Salem Statesman Journal on Nov. 10 on their website.

In the article written by Jillian Daley, Darr said the deployment of Oregon Guardsmen in 2009 is "not true to the Guard's original mission."

However, according to Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution, which provides for the "... organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."

The key phrase here is "employed in the Service of the United States".

To be fair, many people misunderstand the dual missions of the National Guard—both outlined in the U.S. Constitution. The federal mission (outlined in Title 10 of the U.S. Code), provides for combat-ready units and support units to the armed forces to protect American interests at home and abroad.

Under the state mission, national guardsmen are available to the state governors to protect lives and property, especially during times of natural disasters. As the oldest military service specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, this dual mission has not changed since Congress enacted several militia and defense acts in 1792.

Moreover, the National Guard is based on an entirely volunteer force. No one is being forced to deploy, and everyone who wears the uniform of an Oregon Guardsman has, at one time or another, raised their right hand and taken an oath to volunteer their service.

Captain Maurice Marshall, an officer with the 41st Brigade Combat Team, who is deploying with the unit next year, disagrees with Darr's position.

"Darr says this is not true to our original mission, but it is," Marshall said. "We took an oath to protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The President wants us to support this mission and I'm happy to go."

Granted, the Oregon National Guard--and to be fair, guard units throughout the country--are operating in a different world. The operational tempo has increased in recent years, and more deployments are the norm.

Major Michael Braibish, Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard said the strategic use of the National Guard has changed since the end of the Cold War, but the purpose of the guard remains the same.

“We have gone from being a strategic reserve to an operational reserve, standing shoulder to shoulder with our active duty counterparts,” Braibish said.

One thing that hasn't changed is the national guard's commitment to making a sacrifice in order to uphold and defend the Constitution and lifestyle we all enjoy as Americans.

According to the Statesman Journal article, Darr said she is concerned about all parents whose children are being sent to fight. And rightfully so. She is quoted in the article as saying, "I have four children at home, and I can't fathom having to make that sacrifice."

But if guardsmen had not agreed to defend the free world against Nazi tyranny, we'd be living in a very different world today. Indeed, if the militia had not put down their plows and taken up arms against the British Army, the United States may not even exist today.

The "darkest place of the human spirit" Darr refers to in her interview with the Statesman Journal has happened before. Both WWI and WWII can be considered a "dark time", but according to Marshall, people made sacrifices and changed the course of history.

"If we didn't address that in WWII, the world would still be a dark place," Marshall said.

"This is not something new," he said. "Millions of people have served overseas and in combat. What makes me any different?"

"I have three children," Marshall continues. "I'm making a sacrifice too. This country was built on sacrifices."

As we collectively observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11, I implore Ms. Darr, and all other patriots, like-minded or not, to take some time to remember the many men and women in uniform, present and past, who have made, and continue to make, sacrifices every day.

Consider all the missed birthdays and anniversaries, time spent away from children, and in some cases, the lives laid down for their fellow countrymen. All so that we can enjoy the freedoms and liberties this country affords its citizens.

Even the freedom to sit on the capitol steps and protest.

Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy,
Oregon National Guard New Media Manager

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