Guard families call for soldiers’ return

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(Host) Several families of soldiers in the Vermont National Guard want Governor Jim Douglas to speak out against the war in Iraq. The family members held a news conference on Monday and called on the governor to do what he can to end the deployment of Vermont soldiers to the Middle East.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) On Monday, another 70 members of the Vermont Army National Guard were called up for active duty in the Middle East. That’s in addition to the 130 who leave this week for training and eventual service in Iraq. Ten days ago, about 600 Vermont soldiers were deployed.

Now several family members are speaking out against the war, and against the Pentagon’s reliance on the citizen soldiers of the National Guard.

(Nancy Brown) “I’m here to ask, to urge Governor Douglas to publicly demand that President Bush stop further deployments of the Guard and allow the return of those already in Iraq, including my son.”

(Dillon) Nancy Brown’s son Ryan turned 25 in April. He’s now stationed south of Baghdad and drives a Humvee for the military. Nancy Brown is a Montpelier schoolteacher and a member of Military Families Speak Out, an organization opposed to the Iraq war. Brown supports the troops, but she believes the war is wrong.

(Brown) “We have nothing but the greatest respect for our loved ones in the Guard and their willingness to serve our community and nation and when then called on. But we want to impress upon you today our utter fear for them as they are put body and spirit in harm’s way.”

(Dillon) Nancy Robinson’s son Steve was called up for active duty this week and will be sent to Iraq. She says he’s against the war, but now has to keep quiet about his political views.

(Robinson) “There’s nothing over there, he says, that is worth any one of our lives. And there’s nothing over there that is worth even one of their lives, the Iraqis he’s speaking of. If you really care about us, then do whatever you can to get us home as soon as you can. And that is what I’m going to do, I’m going to fight as hard as I can for the life of my son.”

(Dillon) About a quarter of the Vermont Army National Guard has been activated. Governor Douglas says he can’t order them home once the troops are placed under federal command.

(Douglas) “Regardless of how we got there, whether we ought to be there, the fact is that we’re there now. And most Americans understand how important it is that we finish the job and bring our troops home as quickly as we can.”

(Dillon) More National Guard deployments are likely. Besides the 800 soldiers called into service this month, another 350 are expected to be activated in the coming weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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