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Oregon Officials Will Meet Group Protesting Guard DeploymentTim King Salem-News.com
Demonstrators staging a 24-hour-a-day vigil and fast on the capitol steps in protest of sending Oregon Guard troops to Iraq, get a glimmer of hope as state officials agree to meet with them.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A group protesting next year's deployment of Oregon Guard soldiers to the war in Iraq received news Tuesday that representatives of the state governor's office and leadership elements of the Oregon Guard, will sit down and meet with them on Friday.
"The Governor 'won't be available' to meet personally, but it's a start and we are grateful and eager for the opportunity of furthering dialogue," Darr said.
The meeting, set to take place this coming Friday between Camp Homebound and legal council for the Governor including leadership of the Oregon National Guard, is an opportunity for Darr and others to explain their point of view.
They say they believe sending Oregon Guard soldiers to Iraq at this point in time makes no sense, as the soldiers have already deployed repeatedly, and suffered the stresses of combat.
In Darr's appeal to the Governor, she says, "...it is inconceivable to fathom forcing 3500 of our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends and neighbors to once again uproot their lives and go off to fight in a war that is not justified under the Constitution or the laws of the United States.
The terms of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq have expired, removing any vestiges of justification for the continued presence of the Oregon National Guard in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Multiple combat deployments to Iraq are increasing serious mental health problems among soldiers, triggering drug and alcohol abuse and contributing to record suicide levels, The high price of deployment being extracted from our brave Oregon National Guard has resulted in grievous harm to them and to their families including death, injury, loss of time together, and financial hardship including job loss."
I first met Michele Darr when she protested the Iraq war from Oregon's capitol steps several years ago. I see the same spirit in Michele Darr that I have seen in the eyes of the Oregon Guard soldiers I have spent time with in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. They are all people willing to do something difficult and even extraordinary with their lives. In the end, what's important to Darr and the soldiers I know, is keeping other soldiers alive.
I had the pleasure of discussing our individual time in the Marine Corps many times with Gov. Kulongoski when I was based at the KATU News bureau at the capitol in Salem.
I have flown in Blackhawks with Kulongoski over Oregon wildfires, I've seen him at dozens of stories all over Oregon, and I spent an afternoon with him in Kabul, Afghanistan, when he came to visit Oregon Guard soldiers deployed there; the same group I was embedded with as a TV and Internet war correspondent.
These are the same soldiers that are set to be deployed to Iraq next year. They are the Guard's 41st Brigade Combat Team. They are great soldiers, and I am tentatively planning to go to Iraq with them if they go.
I reference my knowledge of the governor in order to make one simple point: Ted Kulongoski is a patriotic human being and I know in my heart that he really loves the men and women of the Oregon Guard. I think that if it is possible to not send them into harm's way again, that he has what it takes to consider it. If it is possible for him to keep those soldiers at home, I believe he would truly do that.
If Governor Ted Kulongoski were to take the concerns of Camp Homebound "to the top" and stand up to the federal government over the deployment to Iraq, it would make a statement about his ability to connect with Oregon's most critical and controversial issues, while maintaining his standing as a forceful representative for his state military forces.
Other Salem-News.com articles on Michele Darr and the capitol fast and vigil against deploying Oregon Guard soldiers to the Iraq War:
More Salem-News.com articles related to the war in Iraq:
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