From GI Special 107

Active Duty New Jersey Soldier Leads Protest to Bring Troops Home!

by David Cline

On Friday October 3, a demonstration took place at the Newark offices of NJ Senators Corzine and Lautenberg led by Army reservist Frank Mendez, along with 25 family members, friends and members of Veterans For Peace, to demand the troops be brought home.

It was Mendez’s 23rd birthday and he is home on a thirteen day leave from the 310 Battalion, which is deployed in Iraq. Since 9/11/01, his unit has been on active duty almost two years, first at Fort Tyler and Fort Drum and now in Iraq.

Mendez stated, “I had no problem going into this. I knew the mission going in: We were going to find weapons of mass destruction. Only there weren’t any, then the mission became bringing democracy to Iraq. But now we’re just in the country sitting on our butts wasting taxpayers money and wasting our time”

A banner read “God Bless America—Bring The Troops Home Now” and demonstrators chanted slogans and displayed signs, receiving numerous thumbs up and horn blasts of support from the motorists driving by. Only one motorist voiced opposition, shouting “it’s better to fight in Iraq than here.” Most people walking by signed petitions calling for a return of the troops and several joined the picket line as well. One veteran joined VFP on the spot.

After demonstrating for an hour, a representative for Senator Jon Corzine came down to speak to Mendez who explained the situation he and his fellow reservists are in and the many problems they face. Mendez said he represented many of his fellow reservists who asked him to speak out on their behalf while he was on leave.

Soon after that Senator Frank Lautenberg came out and spoke to Mendez as well, stating that originally he had been for the war but now was opposed to it. He said that much of what Congress had been told were the reasons for war have turned out to be misrepresentations and falsehoods. He also stated that he did not see how the Bush administration could get out in less than five years.

As the protest ended, we presented a VFP “Support the Troops—Bring Them Home Now” lawn sign to the family. I also gave Frank a “Bring Them Home Alive” button and asked him to take it back to Iraq and show it to his comrades to let them know that we are in sympathy with them and against the occupation as well as those politicians who are responsible for this unjustified military adventure.

Frank Mendez returns to Iraq next Tuesday. He has shown real courage by speaking out while home on leave. The more our servicemen and women take actions like this, it will broaden the antiwar movement and hasten the day when all our troops are brought home.

October 5, 2003