Military Veterans and their Role in Revolution

by Michael Clift

This article is directed to veterans who are frustrated with the direction their lives have taken. The Establishment expects us to come home and get back in the game, but we know it isn’t that easy. They would like us to sink into the couch and keep our appointments, get back to working and keep waving that flag; that flag that shrouds thousands of coffins. A flag that only gets buried with “good” soldiers, not chicken shits or suicides.

They do not expect us to show up at anti-war rallies or police brutality marches; they do not expect us to produce art and poetry and beautiful things; they do not expect us to LIVE beyond our usefulness to them, they do not expect us to ride bicycles across the country, teach and speak at schools and libraries.

They do not expect us to stand up and fight back. They hope that the fight has been driven out of us. We are supposed to be too tired and wasted to struggle against them, we are supposed to be apathetic and jaded; and we are to be grateful.

Ever since the first army was mustered, soldiers have borne the brunt of a nation’s poor choices. The nation suffers whether in victory or defeat, and every victory brings more problems and gives birth to new enemies. Every defeat heaps on more suffering and discontent. There is no escaping the fact that warfare is the sad, slow, suicide of humanity.

Throughout history, soldiers have mutinied, rebelled against the chain of command, and have killed their leaders; particularly when the army is getting its ass handed to them and it seems the war is lost. And veterans have led resistance to injustice after their service. Some of the better known instances of military veterans participating in acts of civil disobedience or even outright revolt, are Shay’s Rebellion and the Bonus Army, the GI Resistance Movement during Viet Nam, and the Occupy movement. Everyone comes home knowing the war is fucked, but fewer ever stand up to say it.

art by Heather Wreckage

During the formative months of Occupy, every encampment had its share of homeless veterans spanning the generations. It was possible to share a bottle of cheap liquor with 4 generations of veterans standing in the driving rain. The veterans basically self-organized, and many were instrumental in the establishment of camp infrastructure such as medical tents, field kitchens and security patrols. They trained people in the use of radios and taught basic first aid classes in public parks. Going forward the challenge is to draw in the homeless and radicalized veterans, the ones still in possession of the strategic faculties granted to them by the United States Military, and the ones who most need to refocus their lives through this type of work, so they can come together as organized groups to combat social injustice and end war.

The veteran has a vested interest in ending the war (Now). The problem these days is that the average American civilian “…has no skin in the game” since America’s wars have increasingly come to be fought by other peoples’ children. With no draft, war is fought by poor people commanded by rich people.

Today’s anti-war movement is vigorous; it is hard at work, everyday, somewhere in the streets protesting the ongoing wars. But who is fighting against the wars? Who is sabotaging production facilities, jamming communications, interrupting supply lines? Who is blockading munitions plants, hacking the Pentagon or physically preventing military recruiters (head hunters) from coming onto our children’s school campus?

Veterans from all walks of military life need to step up their duty and reclaim some fresh living. Our hearts may still weep, yet our stories can inspire and our hands can teach. If we can provide some safety; some collective wisdom, learn from what it means to be under constant stress and hungry, and how through team work and dedication we were able to overcome our challenges, we can become an invaluable asset to the “revolution”.

I say, quite LOUDLY: Fuck the system. Fuck it for every sleepless night, every bottle of pills, every failed relationship, every lost job, every lost limb and every life wasted making those fuckers at the top richer than we will ever be. FUCK THEM for every drunk driving accident, every beaten spouse and every bottle hidden under the bed.

It is better that military veterans compost our skills and experience into a productive force for change, not succumb to the pressures of “re-integrating” into the War Culture; not throw away the GI Bill money trying to “become” a happy tax payer by getting a business degree, getting into security jobs, and all that.  Use that money for music lessons, art school…pursue your passion, and if it is business; let your business lead the way in hiring veterans for “green” jobs…do not try to fit into the social templates that are expected of you.  Recall the many jams you got yourselves out of by coming up with unexpected solutions.

To learn more about the efforts to organize veterans in SF, follow the author’s blog at: