Physically and emotionally unable to continue playing his part in the US occupation, Brockway turned his back on the war and came to Canada. He and Ashlea have been in Canada for several years, but are only now beginning to tell their story publicly.
Next week, a group from the War Resisters Support Campaign will travel from Toronto to Port Colborne to meet the Brockways and add our support to the community they have already found in their town.
If you live in the Niagara region, join us to support Jeremy and Ashlea, and everyone who says no to war.
From the St. Catharines Standard:
Semper fidelis is Latin for always faithful.
It's the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps, a motto Cpl. Jeremy Brockway lived by after he joined in July 2005.
A motto he further lived by while serving in Iraq from July 2006 to February 2007.
"He was always faithful, whether it was training or serving -- and now when he's in need, there isn't the same faithfulness back," says Rev. Robert Hurkmans of St. James and St. Brendans Anglican church in Port Colborne.
Hurkmans says the 25-year-old Brockway suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder and has other mental-health related issues, including anxiety disorder, from his time spent serving in Iraq.
Brockway is now living in Port Colborne and is considered a deserter by the Marine Corps.
He lives with his wife, Ashlea, 24, and sons William, 2, and Wesley, seven months.
Ashlea says her husband started having trouble coping with what he was seeing while serving in Iraq.
When he came home to Camp Lejeune, the marines base in North Carolina, Jeremy tried to get help but was "blown off," his wife says.
"He was diagnosed with PTSD and depression. His doctor suggested he be discharged, but that was denied. He tried to be a conscientious objector, but the paperwork was never filed."
Ashlea says while her husband was off for medical time, his unit redeployed to Iraq and he wasn't with them. He tried transferring to another unit, but the transfer was denied and he had no unit to go overseas with.
With no options open to the family, in February 2008 they moved to the London, Ont., area where there was a group of war resisters. The family then moved to Welland before eventually settling in Port Colborne last year.
Hurkmans says a community worker at his church introduced him to the Brockway family and thought there might be some way to help them.
The actual parish itself isn't helping the family, says Hurkmans, adding some members took it upon themselves to do what they could.
"They wanted to help the family out."
The family is now in legal limbo. They could be deported at any time, there is an arrest warrant out for the marine so if he does return to the U.S. he faces immediate arrest.
"The marine corps is harder on people. Jeremy would be charged with felony desertion and would be discharged," says Ashlea, adding her husband would also face jail time.
Hurkmans says Jeremy would lose all military benefits, including medical, if discharged.
Ashlea says her husband needs mental-health help, as he can barely leave the family's apartment because of his anxiety disorder.
Hurkmans says soldiers deserve to get the help and support the need.
"We need to take care of people that are laying down their lives for us," he says.
On Thursday, the Brockway family will speak at an event called War Resisters: From Iraq to Port Colborne, at the Guild Hall at 72 Charlotte St. in Port Colborne, at 7:30 p.m. A film called Let Them Stay will also be shown. People will hear more about the war resisters' campaign and have a chance to ask questions.
And from Niagara This Week:
A war not worth fighting
Port family to share experiences at Guild Hall event
When American marine Cpl. Jeremy Brockway enlisted in 2006 to fight the War on Terror, little did he know what lasting effect it would have on him.
Stationed in Iraq, the hardships and stress of the war affected him both mentally and physically. After being diagnosed by a specialist stationed there with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Brockway sought help but wasn’t given any by the American military. Eventually, his infantry had redeployed without him and Brockway was left alone with no one to turn to.
“He didn’t have anyone to report to. We knew he had a problem,” said Brockway’s wife, Ashlea, who spoke on his behalf. The whole experience had left Brockway physically and mentally unstable.
Ashlea said her husband had sought and exhausted all legal options. Without any notice, Brockway left Iraq and ventured to Canada where he currently resides with his wife and his two sons, two-year-old William and seven-month-old Wesley.
Brockway couldn’t return to his native Minnesota. Upon entering the United States, he would’ve been detained and given a dishonourable discharge under military law.
Seeking refuge in Canada, Brockway found support from the War Resisters Support Campaign, a non-profit organization founded in 2004 to mobilize support here to convince the Canadian government to offer sanctuary to all American military personnel who wish to live in Canada because of their opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The organization offers practical support to U.S. war resisters in Canada, including temporary housing, funds for everyday expenses when needed, access to legal advice and representation, and many other less formal supports.
“In our eyes, the war was unjust,” Ashlea said. “Here’s a guy who is sick of the war. He enlisted voluntarily but that doesn’t mean they should put people in situations they don’t want to be in.”
According to the War Resisters Support Campaign website (www.resisters.ca) there are about 40 American war resisters living in Canada.
The resisters had contacted the organization and have applied for refugee status in Canada.
“That’s why we’re here (in Port Colborne),” Ashlea said. “We shouldn’t be forced to fight a war with no real reason.”
The Brockway family applied for refugee status in Canada but that was denied by the federal government. So far, no one has been granted such status, Ashlea said.
The Brockway family received support from St. James and St. Brendan Anglican Church, which will be hosting an information night, War Resisters: From Iraq to Port Colborne, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Guild Hall, 72 Charlotte St.
The evening will feature a screening of the moving Let Them Stay, and provide information about the War Resisters Campaign as well as the Brockway family story.
Pastor Rob Hurkmans said the evening was to inform people about the war resisters group and to explore ways they can help.
“Port Colborne remembers the Vietnam War. We had plenty of draft dodgers that lived here,” Hurkmans said. “Same thing. They were fighting a war they didn’t want to. The family had shared its story with our congregation we thought it would be interesting to hold an event to discuss it.”
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War Resisters: From Iraq to Port Colborne
June 17, 7:30 p.m.
The Guild Hall
72 Charlotte Street
Port Colborne, Ontario