Walter Reed Vigil Report No. 14

November 18, 2005
War Day 1,261

Cold night—warm hearts

Temperatures dropped in the District. The vigilers were there in front of the main gate of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). Caring about the wounded housed inside the campus grounds of Walter Reed brings the vigilers out. They don't belong to the same organizations. No one tells them they have to come. They are young, old, and the ones in between—those of us who have seen a lot of years but haven't let those years tear us down.

We hold banners and signs. We quietly talk amongst ourselves. Tonight some huddled around a cell phone to listen to the broadcast of the historic mock debate being held in the House of Representatives.

Attending the vigil, taking two hours to stand in front of this place where the wounded are brought to heal is a matter of the heart. No one has to say this. No one does. There is no chest beating, no false tears. Concern and feeling is enough. There is song and candlelight to fend off the demons. There is camaraderie because a bond does form when people act together.

Others will display their feelings about the war in the ways and places they choose.  That is their choice. We choose to do it here.

A brief story

A veteran who returns periodically to Walter Reed for treatment, stopped tonight to speak to us. We were just packing up to go. He said he had seen us out in front of the medical center since last April. He admitted he did not understand why we were there. His hands trembled involuntarily as he spoke. He was sincere. He said he was opposed to the war but did not think it was appropriate to be protesting in front of the hospital. We explained that the vigil is not a protest and that we were here because we did not want the wounded to be forgotten. We are opposed to the war but not the women and men who were sent to fight it. These are very special people and we know it. He thanked us and said he was glad he stopped to ask and hear what we had to say. He said he felt a lot better.

What is appropriate?

There are those who are opposed to the vigil. They make an issue out of our being in front of Walter Reed. They say that a handful of people holding candles each Friday evening are hurting our wounded soldiers. We are told we should go away. The vehemence and hatred spewed by these people is astonishing (and I am not referring solely to the Free Republics).

My answer is that the issue is not the vigilers in front of Walter Reed; it is, our troops in Iraq.

It is not appropriate for our troops to be occupying Iraq. Our government should not be building military bases there. The US and Britain should not be handing out Iraq's resources to the global corporations. The development of an Iraqi government and the society it will represent is the business of the Iraqi people, not a small cabal in the White House.

It is not appropriate for the US and Britain to be meddling in the affairs of the Iraqis causing divisions amongst its various peoples.

It is not appropriate for our troops to be used to protect the interests of the Iraqi comprador classes; to suppress unions and other organizations that are created to fight for the rights of the working people; to suppress the rights of women; and by their presence foster a state of violence and chaos.
The hurting is going on in Iraq, not in front of Walter Reed Medical Center. The victims are the Iraqi people and our troops still stationed in Iraq. The invasion and war were inappropriate. The time is now to declare peace and bring our troops home. It is our government's responsibility to make recompense for the destruction and havoc it caused. We can't bring back the dead or make whole the disfigured and dismembered victims but our country can behave justly out of a sense of humility for the great wrong done in our names.

In the meantime, the vigil will remain. Those who are moved to be there will continue to come. I think it is fair to say that until the Vigil made its appearance Walter Reed and those inside were forgotten by many. Now, it is on people's lips. How tragic that in the midst of the mock debate Friday night, it came out that only two out of 435 US Representatives have made regular visits to Walter Reed. They can send our children, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives to war but not find the time to travel the approximately four miles from the Capitol Building to visit the several thousand wounded in Walter Reed. It's a straight shot up Georgia Avenue. How hard is that?

At the same time, some people say that it is wrong for a dozen private citizens, who happen to want our troops brought home, to hold candles outside the Medical Center on Friday evenings to remember the wounded. What kind of world do we live in? Who is inappropriate?

It is inappropriate that one hundred senators and 435 representatives don't have the courage to stand up to the power of the White House.

Bruce Wolf
A Walter Reed Vigil Participant