“Brothers and sisters, I know why you joined the military; because it’s the same reason I joined the military: I wanted to serve my country. I wanted to do something that was honourable, that was worthwhile, that wasn’t like the rest of my friends just sitting around at home going to school bullshitting and the rest. But then we were sent to a bullshit war, a war that should have never happened. And we know why now. We know that there were no weapons of mass destruction, we know there were no ties to Al Qaeda, we know that bullshit Chainy and the rest of them lied to us, and what happened? Well I’ll tell you what happened in the United States with veterans: there’s a hundred and fifty thousand veterans that sleep homeless in the United States every night. 1/5 - 1/4 of the homeless population in the United States are made up of veterans. And there are 22 veterans that kill themselves every day in the United States. More veterans have killed themselves than have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. They aren’t killing themselves because they thought the war was worthwhile, they are killing themselves because they knew that war was bullshit. They knew it when they were there, and they knew that their officers lied to them, they knew that their elected officials lied to them, and then they realised that they didn’t have any power, or they thought they didn’t have any power, and so they blew their brains out. And instead of the government helping them and instead of the citizens of their country actually caring when they go out to deploy two, three, four, five different times, and the rest of the society is being told, “Go to the shopping mall, chill out, have a good time, watch some rugby games. Don’t worry about the wars, because there are only a few people who are fighting them anyway.” That’s why they’re sending us back on two, three, four, five different deployments. And then when we get back, there’s no housing in the United States for veterans. The Veterans Administration Hospital is the only federal agency that has to go before congress every year and ask for a budget. It’s under staffed and underfunded, yet the United States spends close to a trillion dollars a year on the military empire, and we can’t find a hundred million dollars to take care of the Vets when they come home. That’s why when we were in Iraq we were using radios from the 1970’s, 5 tonnes and 7 tonnes from the 1980’s, and M16’s that were used in the Gulf War. And what did our elected officials tell us? “Oh, we have to stay the course. Keep going! We’ll keep lying in congress. We’ll keep lining the pockets of arms manufacturers in the United States. And you keep dying, and you keep fighting, and you keep coming home traumatised. Because we’ll just sit on our arse in the Capital and not do a damned thing to change it.” Then I come home and it still continues. It continues with our sisters in the service in the United States. 1/3 to ¼ of whom are reporting military sexual trauma and rape. It’s an epidemic in the United States Marine Core and in the United States Military at large. And then veterans are coming home and dealing with drug abuse and alcoholism. Why? Because there is a government that doesn’t give a shit about them, and a veterans administration hospital with good people working in it that don’t have the staffing or funding to do what they need to do to take care of veterans. I’ve had two veterans who’ve died since they’ve gotten out of the Marine Core, both 27 years old, both with lung cancer, neither of whom smoked in their life time, neither of whom did drugs in their life time. What they were doing was burning shit with JP8 fuel. So now there’re universities in the United States that have linked burn pits with respiratory illness. That’s how much the military command and elected officials care about us. What they’re interested in is getting re-elected. And those who command you at the highest ranks are interested in getting to the higher rank; they are not interested in telling the truth, they are not interested in informing those who command them just how hurting their soldiers in Marine morals are, and the kind of pain and suffering they’re dealing with. I think people in Australia in the Australian Military can ask themselves a very simple question: “Do you want to continue to follow the United States into military quagmires and illegal, immoral occupations such as Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq?” It’s been a waste of life for the people in Iraq and Afghanistan and it’s been a waste of life for the people of your country, and it sure as hell has been a waste of life for the sixteen thousand brothers and sisters who are dead in the United States because they have killed themselves since they have come home. And the sixty thousand men and women we lost in Vietnam, we’ve lost just as many as them since Vietnam who have killed themselves. Again, for a bullshit war that should have never happened. I think people in Australia and the people in the military in Australia can tell the United States to “Go fuck themselves. We’re tired of your wars, we’re tired of being you lapdog, and we’re tired of jumping every time the United States government says ‘jump’”. I think there are people in that base right now who agree with me, and I think they’re from the higher commands all the way to the lower commands. Because I believe, because I am still friends with my brothers who I served with in the Marine Core, that there are good men and women who are in that uniform, and that the institution and that your elected officials are the problem. Along with the business interest, and the arms manufacturers and the oil companies and the hedge-fund managers, and the wall street ‘fucking’ brokers who make billions of dollars while we come home and make shit, and then deal with that trauma. So I hope that you stand up and speak for yourselves and realise that you are empowered, you do have agency and you do have the power to speak out. People respect you voice in the community and there are people within the military ranks who agree with this message and I’m sure you can find other soldiers in the Australian ranks who agree with you as well. I suggest organising, that way you don’t have to follow what your political leaders and business elites want, or what the higher command commands of you. You have the power to say “No! We’re not going to continue to go fight and die in useless, illegal, reckless and dangerous wars of aggression and occupation.” Thank you for your time.
Talisman Saber - Vincent Emanuele's speak out at Rockhampton's army barracks, 2013.