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Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson

Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson are co-founders of Military Families Speak Out

November 24th, 2009 7:37 AM

Open Letter to President Obama on Afghanistan

November 23, 2009

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

As you prepare to announce a new strategy for Afghanistan that could mean deploying tens of thousands more of our loved ones to fight a war with no foreseeable end, we call on you to terminate the military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, bring our troops home now, and ensure they get the care they need when they return. We urge you to stop billions more from being misspent overseas to misuse young men and women and instead utilize those funds to help overcome the pressing domestic issues of our time; a growing population of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, a fractured health care system, and a woeful economic climate all desperately demand your attention and action.

Our family is intimately connected to these issues. My husband, Charley Richardson is slowly but surely dying of an aggressive, metastatic cancer, and dealing regularly with the fractured and overstressed medical system. He also lost his job of twenty years at a state university last April as a result of recession-related budget cuts. And our son served one deployment in Iraq as a Marine and was sent to Afghanistan twice after he joined the private army of contractors that is so central to the war efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We are acutely aware of how political will has been so wrongly misdirected toward military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of achieving economic recovery and sorely needed healthcare reform at home.

We were fortunate. Our son returned to us in good physical health and we were able to hold him in our arms and not just keep him in our hearts. So many of our friends within the organization we co-founded, Military Families Speak Out, have not shared this outcome. Their loved ones returned in flag-draped coffins; or with life-altering physical wounds; or with the hidden, often deadly, psychological injuries of war.

We hope you will think again about the faces of the families that you saw when you were at Dover, and the faces that won’t be seen again, hidden in caskets and arriving under the cloak of darkness. We know you are concerned about the unfair burden that this war is placing on a relatively small portion of our population, and the burden that will continue for decades to come. Suicides in the Army have hit a record high. Our returned troops should be re-building their lives rather than seeing depression, violence, divorce and suicide tear those lives apart. The bombs of these wars are indeed exploding at home.

The people of the United States don’t want these wars. Even without a draft, even as we deficit fund the wars, they don’t want them. Public opposition continues to grow, with 57 percent opposing the war in Afghanistan, according to a recent Associated Press poll. The latest CNN poll found that 49 percent of Americans favored reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan -- with 28 percent saying they should all be withdrawn immediately -- compared to less than 40 percent who want to send more. Imagine what the polls would tell us if the burden of the wars, financial and service, were actually shouldered and shared throughout our nation.

The American people want safety and security, as do the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. But we don’t believe these wars are helping to achieve these goals. The more we bring bombs and guns into Afghanistan, the more civilian casualties there are and the more our troops are seen as occupiers rather than liberators.

We put the same challenge before you now that we put in front of President Bush and in front of Senators and Members of Congress. Consider the options available to you as if the lives of your loved ones hang in the balance. Consider if it were your daughters being deployed, would you be so quick to stay, or escalate, the course?

Please do not be the one to dash our hope for an end to these wars; for the swift and safe return of our troops; and for a new foreign policy that truly respects the lives of our service members who volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way, as well as the lives of children, women and men of other countries who are caught in the crossfire.

Please continue to build hope in the world. Send no more troops. Bring our troops home now.

In Peace,

Charley Richardson and Nancy Lessin
Co-Founders, Military Families Speak Out

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