March 16, 2008

ACTIVISM: Winter soldier in Boston

Testimony from vets in D.C. fires up local protesters
By Renee Nadeau | Sunday, March 16, 2008 |
Photo by Faith Ninivaggi

A dozen Massachusetts veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars piled into a van bound for Washington, D.C., on Friday or traveled by other means to spend the weekend testifying about their experiences overseas and to protest the five-year war in Iraq.

A portion of the four-day “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan” public testimony at the National Labor College, just outside the capital in Silver Springs, Md., was shown at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square yesterday.

“I feel it’s not just something we should be against but we should actively work to end,” said Liam Madden, a Northeastern University sophomore and ex-Marine sergeant. “Our presence there could not fix the harm we had done.”

Madden served in Haditha, Iraq, from September 2004 to February 2005. He is on the board of directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War and helped organize the events. He did not give testimony.

“Over the last five years, many peole have expressed that they want to support the troops. This gives an opportunity to listen to the troops,” said Angela Kelly, outreach coordinator of Massachusetts Peace Action, one of the groups that sponsored the Cambridge event under the name New England United.

“Hearing the testimonies puts a real human face on the experience that has gone on for the last five years.”

Some 250 people packed the Cambridge church for the eight-hour live broadcast. Kelly said more and more chairs had to be brought in to accommodate viewers.

The term “winter soldier” pays homage to the similar event held by Veterans of Vietnam Against the War, at which Sen. John Kerry spoke, and a play on the words of Thomas Paine.

The Founding Father stated that winter soldiers will stand up for the soul of their country, even in its darkest hours, while summer soldiers will turn their backs, according to IVAW.

The group plans to release a documentary in the coming months.

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