Fear for my daughter
By Sara Rich
It started out with being scared for her life when she signed up for the military. She assured me that she was promised she would not go to Iraq. I was not as trusting.
She was sent to Iraq right out of her basic training. She assured me she would be ok as we cried while she was packing. One of her Sgt. assured me. "Don't worry Ma'am, we'll take good care of your daughter." I desperately hoped that I could trust him to watch over her. I later found out he was one the first predators to try and have sex with her and make her "his private"
She spent a long year in Iraq. I feared for her safety every waking minute. She called me crying frequently. Telling me very little of the horror she was witnessing. Only telling me it was hard. Telling me that almost all of the other soldiers sexually harass her and many of her Sgt.'s and Lt. really pressuring her and making her life miserable for rejecting them. Calls from her ending with, "o, there goes gun fire, gotta go mom, love you."
She returns from Iraq. She is much more quiet and anxious. I offer to get her help and she refuses. She tells me that if she opens that can of worms she will not be able to function as a human being. I ask her if she wants to deal with the horrible sexual harassment charges against so many of her fellow soldiers, she says no mom, it would only make my life even more of a living hell. Then she finally blew the whistle on one of her superiors for sexually harassing and she was treated like a pirana while he was moved to a different unit and promoted. She put her head down and worked as an Military Police officer on Ft. Lewis. She was always shocked by the number of domestic
violence calls she went out on. The fear of a mother of a peace officer was there, but at least I could call her and knew she was safe. We know that she is going to be re-deployed to Iraq sometime after the mandatory 18 months stabilization time is over. So, we were looking at November of 2006 for a second re-deployment. Our heart were heavy at the thought.
She comes home for a visit and can't face me to tell me she is going much sooner than expected back to Iraq. My fear is skyrocketing. How can they do that, you will have only had 11 months of stabilization time. She tells me that she refused to sign the waiver waiving her rights to 18 months. She was told that her life would be hell in a shit hole if she refused to sign. They screamed in her face and intimidated her to the point that she would shake when she told the story. Our family prepares.
She is packed, ready to redeploy. Keys in hand. "I can't do this, Mom, I can't go back there." We shift into action to protect our daughter. We networked with everyone imaginable. We knew that we would rather see her in jail than spend another minute in Iraq. We hired an attorney with experience in these kinds of military matters. And Suzanne went into hiding.
Now here we are facing what we knew was a real possibility. Suzanne is in jail and waiting to be taken up to Ft. Lewis and I am really scared.
The military treated her horribly when she was a soldier, I can only imagine what they will do to her as a prisoner. She is a brave young woman and my hero. There is only just so much stress an Iraq war veteran can handle.
My fear for my daughter is real. My hope for and belief in my daughter and what she is doing is strong and unshakable. I truly believe she saved her own life with her courage. Hopefully by telling her story and standing strong she can encourage others in the military to stand up, speak out and refuse to participate in this illegal and immoral war.
Thanks to you all. I knew this was going to happen eventually so I had my ducks in a serious row. Today, I has a press conference, a vigil at the jail where Suzanne is, spoke to 10 different radio shows, some nationally syndicated, three TV stations, 3 newspapers and had a million calls.
I only got to talk to Suzanne for one short minute in which we were both were crying so hard we could not talk.
They are transporting Suzanne tomorrow early morning to Ft. Lewis and returning her to her unit. We are planning to be at the jail at 7:45 AM-9 to see if we can catch a a glimpse of her as she leaves the jail to show her that we are here for her.
Lt. Colonel Switzer, Ft. Lewis Washington is who we need to be writing to asking for Spc. Suzanne Swift to have a medical discharge or an honorable discharge from the Amy due to her post traumatic stress disorder. After writing the letter we need to fax them to:
Senator Gordon Smith- Eugene, OR Office
211 East 7th Avenue, Room 202
Eugene, OR 97401
Senator Ron Wyden-Eugene, OR
151 West 7th Ave
Eugene, OR 97401
Congressman Peter DeFazio-Eugene Office
151 West 7th, Suite 400
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 465-6732
Senator Patty Murray in Washington- Tacoma Office
950 Pacific Avenue, Ste. 650
Tacoma, Washington 98402
Phone: (253) 572-3636
Fax: (253) 572-9892
If there is no fax number you can email them. let me know if you send a letter and if you get a response.
If you want to donate to Suzanne's legal or medical fund please contact me and I will get the addresses for you for our attorney Larry Hildis or Suzanne's psychologist, Zak Schwartz.
Thanks so much from Suzanne and her family. We appreciate your love and passion. This is so important for us to do not only for us to end the war, but to defend women who are in the military.
Sara Rich, M.S.W