Tonight, I attended a meeting of the Global War Veterans' Alliance over at the Senior Center on 276 Broadway.
The group is an amalgam of post-Vietnam era veterans -- all services, all branches, all theaters, and all Military Occupational Specialties are welcome to join.
Among the present were Bob Page (in an advisory capacity to the group, Army Air Corps from Korea), Dick Howe (Cold War, Europe), Jason Christian (Kosovo, soon-to-be Afghanistan), your author (Western Iraq, soon-to-be Afghanistan), Jack Mitchell (Desert Storm), Thayer Eastman (Army in Desert Storm era), and Jeff Hall (Corpsman who served with Marines in Iraq and elsewhere, in addition to several sea tours).
Also there was Lauriann Deely of the Life Choice Hospice network to talk about volunteer opportunities that might help give vets a chance to talk about their service before passing.
Of course, there is no shortage of veterans' organizations in Greater Lowell, but this one is unique as far as I know in the sense that it draws its membership from veterans of more recent campaigns. I also like the way it doesn't draw any distinctions based on whose unit(s) got called to go where, and when. When you say "any type of uniformed service after Vietnam" you're casting a wide umbrella.
If you're interested in joining or learning more, contact Eric Lamarche at elamarche (at)lowellma.gov.
As an interesting aside, after the meeting adjourned I headed over to the Bank of America ATM near 6th and Bridge to deposit a bunch of checks...while waiting in line, I overhead some guys speaking an Iraqi dialect of Arabic, so of course I had to ask..."Afwan, intum min Iraq?"
Sure enough, all four were recent arrivals to Centralville (all new enough to have not yet experienced an American winter). One spoke excellent English, and it seemed that all had arrived under the auspices of a State Department program.
When I asked them about life in the States, they all talked about feeling much freer here, with the gist of the story being that under Saddam they were treated like animals, and that since the American invasion in 2003 they felt like they were constantly under threat from sectarian militia groups.
I think we probably could have stood in that spot in front of the ATM booth all night talking about Iraqi culture and politics, but when it was time to pick Ratriey up from work, I left...however, phone numbers were exchanged all around along with offers to drink tea in the near future...I hope to report back in the coming weeks and months with updates on how brand new Iraqi-Americans transition to life here in this city and nation.