Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Boondocks Chapter Christmas at Fort Bragg

Brownies Will Get You Five to Ten
A Boondocks Chapter Christmas at Fort Bragg
By Jason Hurd

On the morning of December 17, 2007, Steve Casey and I awoke bright and early at the Quaker House in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Steve and I had driven nearly three hundred miles from our home-base in Asheville, North Carolina to distribute holiday gift bags to the wonderful servicewomen and men stationed at our nation's busiest military post--Fort Bragg. Our friends and supporters in Asheville stuffed nearly three hundred small lunch bags full of holiday cards, chocolates, cookies and home-made brownies. The gift bags had a humble feel to them: brown paper lunch sacks with the tops folded down, green and red ribbons, a copy of our newsletter Sit-Rep stapled to the outside and a small sticker that said, "To: A Warrior, From: IVAW." Our mission was to ensure that these bags--each made with love and kindness--got into the hands of our deserving soldiers.

With gift bags in hand, Steve and I drove to Fort Bragg's Mini Mall and set up a small collapsible table to distribute the bags from. We taped two large poster boards to the front of the table; one said, "Happy Holidays From Your Fellow Veterans," and the other proclaimed, "We Love Our Service Women and Men." Immediately, Steve and I began handing the packages to soldiers as they exited the Mini Mall. I greeted each soldier by saying, "Hello. My friend and I are veterans and we are giving holiday gift bags to our soldiers to show our appreciation for your service. Thank you and happy holidays." Nearly every soldier I spoke with replied with a large smile, "Thank you very much. I'm glad there are people like you doing this. Happy holidays to you too!" Within an hour, Steve and I had given out nearly one hundred and fifty bags. In that time, only one soldier reacted negatively toward us; every one else seemed extremely pleased.

Around one o'clock in the afternoon, a female manager who worked for the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AFFES) came out of the Mini Mall and said, "Hey guys I'm glad your giving out packages to soldiers, but you can't do this on Fort Bragg without a permit." I replied, "Great! Where do we get a permit?" The manager explained where we needed to go, and we began packing up shop to go get our permit. That's when the Military Police showed up. Three MP's--SSG Netwig, PFC Murray and PVT Garren--approached us and began questioning us about our gift bags. SSG Netwig glared at a copy of Sit-Rep and said, "I'm going to keep my personal opinion out of this, but you are disrupting the order and discipline of my post." I explained that we were on our way to get a permit for our bags and we had no intentions of disrupting the order and discipline of Fort Bragg. SSG Netwig replied that we had offended a lot of people with our bags (which was news to Steve and I) and that he would not allow us to continue distributing them.

At that moment, a Special Forces Captain (apparently one of the people we had offended) approached SSG Netwig and spoke with him privately. Immediately, SSG Netwig said that we were going to the Provost Marshall's office to answer questions.
"Are we being arrested?" I said.

"No. But you are being detained," SSG Netwig replied.

At that moment, the MP's shoved Steve and I against their patrol car, searched us, handcuffed us and placed us in the patrol car like criminals. They drove us away leaving a box of gift bags on the trunk of Steve's car. In the back of the patrol car, I looked at Steve and said, "Don't worry, this is a good thing--trust me." "OK," Steve said. SSG netwig drove us to the Provost Marshall's office where, after being searched a second time, we spent the next four hours as detainees. One investigator told Steve that Fort Bragg is a conservative post and that anti-war views were in the minority. The officers separated Steve and I and began questioning us. I asked four times to make a phone call so that I could consult with an attorney; the officers denied my right each time. A criminal investigator entered my room.

"Are you affiliated with any other groups besides IVAW?" he asked.

"No, I am not, " I replied.

"How did you and this Steve guy meet?"

"Look," I said, "I'm not going to continue answering questions without consulting an attorney."

"But you aren't under arrest. You're merely detained and we are trying to have a friendly conversation with you," the investigator said.

"I feel like like it is in my best interests to consult with an attorney before continuing," I replied.

Then the investigator and officers walked out leaving me alone in the room. Against my captor's wishes, I began text messaging the Quaker House and IVAW members to let them know what was happening (the officers had mistakenly left my phone). Immediately, the investigators began receiving calls from every peace activist from North Carolina to Philadelphia urging them to release Steve and I. The MP's knew they had a situation on their hands.

Before we knew it, an investigator apologized to Steve and I for the inconvenience and released us. The investigator informed us that we just needed to get a permit for future activities of this nature. Two young MP's escorted Steve and I back to our car and we talked about Iraq on the way. One of the young MP's said, "Yeah, fuck Iraq. I hate that place. I had friends die there. I don't ever want to go back." We pulled up to Steve's car and rubbing the cuts on our wrists from the handcuffs, we saw the perfect ending to our day. The box of gift bags was still sitting atop Steve's trunk and some passerby had written on it the following:

"Hi, I heard what happened. Listen up cops, politicians, and OVER EGOTISTIC DRAMA QUEEN SENIOR NCO'S AND OFFICERS! Many friends in my platoon DIED BRUTALLY for the First Amendment. We have the right to peaceful protest, damn you! Why did you arrest these guys? To all ya'll who don't believe in: freedom of speech, press, council, religion, assembly, and petition...GO TO HELL!! Sincerely, A concerned passerby and witness to the arrest of protesters."

So much for being the minority.

uhc comment: I can't tell you how proud these guys make me feel. Rock on, Brothers!

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