weds aug 19: vigil for war resister dean walcott

Next Wednesday, August 19, the federal court will hear an appeal by Iraq war resister Dean Walcott. Dean, a former US Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, is appealing the negative decisions on his Pre-Removal Risk Assessment and his request to be allowed to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.

I've interviewed Dean, and his story affected me deeply. When he received his first deportation order, for January 6, I wrote this.
Dean joined the United States Marine Corps in 2000, a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, hoping to get a college education and some structure in his life. Dean knew if the US went to war, he would be expected to fight, and he fully accepted that risk. In 2003, he was involved in the United States' invasion of Iraq, and was deployed to Iraq a second time in 2005.

Between those two deployments, Dean was stationed at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a US military hospital in Stuttgart, Germany. There, families of mortally wounded US soldiers are flown in to see their loved one for the last time.

Alarmed by the high suicide rate among Landstuhl patients, military brass assigned soldiers to act as liaisons for both patients and visiting families. Dean, who had no training in either health care or counselling, was charged with that duty.
He was totally unprepared for what he saw – US soldiers, as well as Iraqi civilians, blown to bits, but somehow still clinging to life, burn victims dying in unimaginable agony.

"That was the only time I ever saw Marines drop the tough-guy act," says Dean. "I would hold someone in my arms – a mother, father, son or daughter – who was losing a person they loved, and we would cry together."

Dean began having nightmares and became severely depressed. He eventually came to feel that "if people are going to suffer this much, there has to be a better reason than 'because the president said so'."

Back in the US, Dean found his disgust at the futility of the Iraq War didn't go away. The Marines obstructed his efforts to get help for his depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but there was no legal way for him to leave the military.

Frustrated, trapped and heartsick, in December 2006, he walked away from his base in North Carolina and boarded a Greyhound bus for Toronto.

Dean now trains high school students in computer repair, working for reBOOT Canada, a non-profit organisation that provides computers and technical support to charities and low-income Canadians. He still grapples with PTSD, but has built a quietly productive life in Toronto. He also does public speaking on behalf of war resisters - and on behalf of peace.

Canada should be proud to welcome this man to our country. Instead, the Harper government calls him and all the war resisters "bogus" refugee claimants and does its best to kick them out.

August 19 is also the removal date for war resister Rodney Watson, now living in Vancouver. Join us that morning to show support for Dean, Rodney, and all the war resisters.

WHEN: Wednesday, August 19, 8:00 a.m.

WHERE: Federal Court Building, 180 Queen Street West, Toronto (west of University Ave, Osgoode subway)

WHY: Let Them Stay!

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