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Soldiers Speak Our on Memorial Day: Remember Sgt. Kirkland! May 30, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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more deaths from Wall Street’s wars!’

their own words
Kevin Baker

lives do not matter to the officers and politicians in charge. Those who mocked
Kirkland, and the doctors who neglected him still go unpunished. They are going
on with their lives while Kirkland’s family is without their loved one. But
Kirkland’s case is not isolated. The abusive behavior that is thrown onto us is
organic to the military; it is organic because this military fights for a lie.
We in March Forward! will fight for justice for Kirkland and all other soldiers
with PTSD, but we will also fight to make sure no more of us are traumatized in
the first place by being sent to these wars based on lies. I demand justice for
Kirkland and an immediate end to these wars for profit.

Joseph Chroniger

good friend Derrick Kirkland was deployed to Iraq and was going through more
than just a difficult time. He was found in his room in Iraq with a shotgun in
his mouth about to pull the trigger. Derrick was sent home, and attempted
suicide on that day as well. Upon reaching Fort Lewis he was hospitalized, and
almost immediately cleared for active duty. When he reported to rear detachment
he was met with more hatred than malcontent. There where numerous people in the
room when he was humiliated and basically beat down emotionally. Not three days
later Derrick hung himself in the barracks room that he was given by himself.
Let me repeat: my suicidal friend was give a room in the barracks to himself.
There are many more instances of what I would call more that misconduct that I
have witnessed while in the service of this Battalion, and want to speak out. I
demand justice for Kirkland and his family.

Andrew Bussy

is a serious problem with the US Army medical care system. The problem is not
with financial coverage, as most any visit to the doctor is paid for, but with
the quality of care and of the many stigmas which are attached to seeking
treatment. Physicians prescribe medicines which only mask the symptoms, but if a
condition is not immediately life-threatening it goes unaddressed until it
worsens. Sadly, when a suicidal soldier’s situation “worsens,” he is dead; When
a soldier with a spinal injury “worsens,” he is irrevocably paralyzed. These are
the end results when our only goal for wounded soldiers is to get them back to
work. I demand justice for Kirkland and all wounded soldiers.

Cary Ellis

Chain of Command made fun of Kirkland in front of everyone, saying “he can’t
take it” and was “a horrible soldier.” They never cared or attempted to help,
they put him in a room by himself. Regulation states that if a soldier attempts
suicide he should have a roommate, but they said it was just him “wanting
attention” and “there’s nothing wrong.” They wanted to clear him and send him
back to duty. I demand justice for Kirkland and accountability for those
responsible for his death.

Staff Sergeant

been deployed to Iraq three times, once with Kirkland. Shortly after I came back
from my first tour I was diagnosed with PTSD, sleeping disorder and night
horrors. All the doctor did was give me three different medications, one for
each symptom. After more deployments, all they did was gave me pills of all
colors. I demand justice for Kirkland, and I demand that nobody else be put
through what we’ve been through.

The following is a statement from veterans and
active-duty troops in the organization March
, an affiliate of the ANSWER Coalition.

On Memorial Day, we are asked to remember those who
have died in Washington’s wars. Of course, we’re only asked to remember the
lives of U.S. troops; the lives of civilians killed in the current wars are
supposed to not exist. As veterans, we know the human toll all too well, and
cannot forget the more than one million innocent Iraqis, and the tens of
thousands of Afghans, including an entire home just obliterated yesterday by
NATO that killed ten children–cut from life before it had even begun.

In the United States, there are many families who
will be mourning a loved one this Memorial Day: over 6,000 U.S. troops have been
killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past ten years. That number is climbing by
the day as casualties hit record numbers in the hopeless Afghanistan war, and
troops continue to be killed in the “ended” Iraq war.

today to March Forward! Support a movement of anti-war veterans and service

But what this government doesn’t want us to remember
is the record number of troops who have lost their lives to suicide. They, too,
are victims of the U.S. military’s wars. Over the past two years, more
active-duty troops have killed themselves than have been killed in combat.
Outside the military, veterans commit suicide at a rate of 18 per day.

This epidemic is the result of criminally negligent
mental health care from the U.S. military and Veterans Affairs—but no matter how
much the mental health care system is improved, it doesn’t stop the constant
flow of thousands of young people who are sent to be traumatized in the first
place in two imperial wars. A recent study found that now 80 percent of soldiers
and Marines have witnessed a friend killed or wounded in combat. Morale is down
the drain.

Under these conditions, the wave of suicides can only
get worse.

Active-duty troops are standing up and fighting back.
This Memorial Day, let’s remember those killed by the U.S. government’s actions,
and honor those who are memorializing a fellow soldier by speaking out and
fighting to punish those responsible for his death.

Sgt. Derrick Kirkland, from 4-9 Infantry at Fort
Lewis, Wash., deployed to Iraq twice. He was rated a “low risk” for suicide
after three consecutive suicide attempts, was publicly ridiculed for seeking
help by his superiors, then placed in a barracks room alone in violation of Army
regulations. Days later he killed himself, on March 19, 2010.

Kirkland’s mother, Mary Corkhill, told March
Forward!: “the Army has massively failed him … I am very angry at the Army and I
feel they killed my son.”

here to read the powerful interview with Sgt. Kirkland’s mother.

March Forward! members in 4-9 Infantry immediately
sprung into action upon his death to expose those responsible. They have been
heroically organizing and speaking out. They are still working today to expose
Sgt. Kirkland’s case and the criminal treatment given to all troops, and to
organize against the wars.

You can help their voices be heard by signing their
petition and circulating their statements widely.

here to sign the petition demanding justice for Sgt. Kirkland.

Help build the campaign to win justice for Sgt.
Kirkland, to hold the government accountable for their mistreatment of
traumatised soldiers, and to end the wars!

For more on the Kirkland

to read the original statement March Forward! members circulated in the barracks
after Kirkland’s death.

to read a speech given on the anniversary of Kirkland’s death.

to read the interview with Kirkland’s mother.



What assisted suicide really looks like May 25, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Health, Oregon.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011 11:01 ET

Having been through this experience, I know how harrowing it is — and so does HBO’s “How to Die in Oregon”      Video

By Zoe FitzGerald Carter

Courtesy of HBO
Cody Curtis

The new documentary “How to Die in Oregon” opens with footage of Roger Sagner, an elderly man with advanced cancer, demanding that he be given a lethal dose of drugs. His impatience — and absolute lack of ambiguity — is startling. After swallowing a milky concoction of Seconal in one long gulp, Sagner thanks his family and the voters of Oregon “for allowing me the honor of doing myself in,” lies down on a bed under a large picture window, and begins to sing.

“I’s coming, I’s coming. Oh my head is hanging low. I hear the gentle voices calling … Old Black Joe.”

His final words? “It was easy, folks. It was easy.”

Watching this documentary (which airs on HBO this Thursday), however, was not. In fact, it took me three separate viewings to get through my advance copy. Given that my mother ended her life after struggling with Parkinson’s for many years, an experience I wrote about in my memoir, “Imperfect Endings,” I was perhaps especially predisposed to find it difficult viewing. But apparently even hardened HBO staffers couldn’t sit through the entire film, and the film’s publicity team at this year’s Sundance was astonished at the reluctance of the media to attend the screening.

This is unfortunate because, while the film does ask its viewers to be willing to be moved and, yes, saddened, “How to Die in Oregon” is a well-crafted, beautifully understated film about an important topic: whether people should have the legal right to end their lives. Without resorting to Michael Moore-type polemics, director Peter D. Richardson follows a half-dozen terminally ill people as they go about the business of planning the end of their lives under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. (Passed in 1994, the law makes it legal for physicians to provide “aid-in-dying” for their terminally ill patients.)

Although Richardson clearly supports individuals’ rights to end their own lives, he keeps the proselytizing — and the politics — to a minimum. Instead, he gives us a series of fly-on-the-wall scenes with patients, as well as interviews with oncologists, activists and volunteers. We see how planning for death can involve everything from the mundane (filling prescriptions, giving away one’s clothes and jewelry, even getting a final haircut), to the wrenching and the profound (tearful conversations between family members, and the final recording of a personal eulogy by an 84-year-old terminally ill broadcaster named Ray Carnay). And thankfully, we see people who, despite being in pain and close to the end, have maintained a sense of self — and even a sense of humor, although largely of the gallows variety.

But the warm, beating heart of “How to Die in Oregon” is Cody Curtis, a lovely, articulate 54-year-old wife and mother who has liver cancer. We see her taking walks with her daughter, meeting with her doctor, and joking with her husband all while stockpiling barbiturates and planning her own death. Although in good shape when the film opens, she has suffered the cruel effects of her disease and is determined not to repeat it. “I’m not going to die with the fluid oozing out of the pores in my legs,” she says in one of numerous interviews. “I’m not going to lose my hair again. I’m not going to weigh 200 pounds again. I’m not going to be humiliated with losing control of my bodily functions again.”

In short, she plans to get out while the getting is good, an attitude shared by my mother whose need for control made the Parkinson’s endgame intolerable. But unlike my family, in which my sisters and I debated about whether my mother was actually serious about ending her life, and tried to talk her out of it, the Curtis family is remarkably unified in their support. Her son, “T,” does express some trepidation about the death itself — something I could relate to — but none of them challenges her decision.

As death circles closer, Cody openly shares her shifting emotions, often moving from tears to laughter in the space of a sentence. By contrast, my mother never cried, never expressed any doubt, and never asked us how we felt about being there when she ended her life: She maintained a stoic, unsentimental attitude right to the end. And while I’ve always chalked this up to emotional reticence on her part, when Cody tells the filmmaker, “I want to model for my children a kind of grace and acceptance because I’m really scared of being a coward at the end,” I wondered if my mother was also protecting us from the burden of her ambivalence.

Of course, Cody is anything but a coward in the end and her last words — “This is so easy … I wish people knew how easy it was” – echoes Sagner’s in the beginning of the film. Although this bookending of sentiments may have been coincidental, it does highlight the film’s one-sidedness. With one notable exception, there are very few dissenting voices in “How to Die in Oregon.” That exception is Randy Stroup, a 53-year-old uninsured Oregonian with prostate cancer who was denied coverage for additional treatment by the state. In a letter to Stroup, they suggested he look into doctor-assisted suicide instead. Although the state reversed its decision after he went public, his understandable bitterness – “They’ll pay to kill me, but not to help me!” — provides a disturbing counterpoint to the rest of the film.

Having never understood the argument that laws like the one in Oregon might imperil the uninsured and disadvantaged, I found Stroup’s story eye-opening and I would have liked to hear more of a rebuttal or discussion. Also, given that assisted suicide is legal in only three states in this country and we have right-wing pundits shouting about “death panels” every time healthcare reform comes up, it would have been useful to get a better sense of the larger debate. As a strong supporter of the Death With Dignity laws, I am reluctant to give those who oppose them more of a platform, but I think the film would have benefited from their inclusion.

And yet, Richardson’s decision to eschew overt politics — both pro and con — in “How to Die in Oregon” allows him to do something more quietly radical: to show real people talking honestly with each other about their own impending deaths. In this death-phobic society where doctors offer sure-to-fail, last-ditch treatments instead of gently telling their patients to go home and prepare for death, Richardson’s film is a much-needed antidote.

Zoe FitzGerald Carter is a journalist and author of the memoir, “Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Tale of Love, Loss, and Letting Go” (Simon & Schuster). She can be reached at http://www.imperfectendings.com/

Texas: The state of sex (mis)education February 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Education.
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I wish this were a bad joke — the unfair caricature of Texas that you might see on a Prius’ bumper sticker — but it isn’t: a whopping 94 percent of school districts in the lone star state teach only abstinence, according to a new report. Worse yet, the review by two professors at Texas State University found that “sexuality education materials” used in the state “regularly contain factual errors and perpetuate lies and distortions about condoms and STDs.” They also found that classes promoted gender stereotypes, sexual orientation biases, shame and fear. Oh, what fun!

Disturbing as they may be, those top-line summaries of the findings are nothing compared to excerpts included in the report (PDF) from actual teaching materials. Suicide is a favorite scare-tactic: One program predicts non-virginal students’ miserable future, “You know people talk about you behind your back because you’ve had sex with so many people … Finally you get sick of it all and attempt suicide.” There are fun skits about suicide, too. In one, titled “Jumping Off the Bridge,” the moral of the story is put like so: “Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, ‘Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads — they may protect you some?'” (Got it: Handing out condoms = assisted suicide.)

Pre-marital sex presents a triple-threat, though: If you don’t kill yourself, you’ll probably die anyway — and if you don’t die, you’ll probably kill your sex partner. In response to a question about having pre-marital sex, an abstinence-only education video warns: “Well, I guess you’ll have to be prepared to die. And you’ll probably take with you your spouse and one or more of your children.” (Noted: Pre-marital sex = murder-suicide.) Boys are warned that they might kill their girlfriend by having sex: If you give her HPV, she’ll “probably end up with a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death.” (So, you know, sure, go ahead and have sex, you murderer.) A curriculum for wee little sixth-graders exclaims: “WARNING! Going on this ride could change your life forever, result in poverty, heartache, disease, and even DEATH.” Another cautions in all-caps: “FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN SEX NOW IS LIKE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH ALL BUT ONE CHAMBER FULL!”

Suicide, death, murder? These programs gotta be pretty good at scaring teens out of having sex, right? Mmm, not exactly. Texan teens “rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors,” according to the report, and the state has the third-highest teen birthrate in the country.