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Nov-05-2008 21:54printcomments

Vigil Urges Legislature to Steer Oregon Guard Away From Deployment

Group asks Oregon's Governor to cancel a massive deployment set for 2009.
These are soldiers of the 41st Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon National Guard who are set to deploy to Iraq in mid-2009. Here they are shown in Afghanistan in early 2007. Photo by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - A woman who camped on the Oregon Capitol steps for several weeks in protest of the war in Iraq in 2002, has returned to Salem to help convince lawmakers to remove Oregon Guard soldiers from a planned trip to Iraq next year. Michele Darr will spend long, cold days and nights in the Oregon rain trying to convince the powers to be that Oregon soldiers should instead be home with their families.

Darr left her home, family and 4 children in Corvallis to "deploy" for the steps of the Oregon State Capitol building in Salem, Oregon, where she and others are on a hunger strike and 24-7 vigil/encampment set to continue through the holidays, winter months and into next year's legislative session.

Darr is doing this because she believes she and other can make a difference, and "bolster the possibility of the success of a proposed resolution to keep Oregon's National Guard home in Oregon, and to bring attention and awareness of the imminent deployment of 3500 National Guard troops next year."

Darr has composed an open letter from "Camp Homebound" to the Oregon Legislature and Governor Ted Kulongoski. It is included at the bottom of this article.

I have known Michele Darr since 2002 when she was on the capitol steps longer than most people would have stayed there. I would frequently visit her and check for updates on her campaign. I have also deployed with the Oregon Guard to both Afghanistan and Iraq to cover their operation. I see a parallel between the honorable actions of our Guard soldiers and the actions of Michele Darr. Perhaps Governor Ted Kulongoski will read the letter, maybe it will make a difference.

I know many civilian soldiers who are scheduled to deploy as part of the 41st Brigade Combat Team next year to Iraq. I do not know very many who are thrilled about it. These soldiers spent a year in Afghanistan over 2006/07 and they will now enter a war that is very different.

There is a good deal of discussion in the ranks that the mission will ultimately be diverted to Afghanistan. Most of the Oregon Guard soldiers I have talked to believe Afghanistan would be a better place for them to go if they must deploy. Only time will tell what their ultimate war theater destination will be, or if there will be one at all.

Darr believes they should be home with their families and available to fight fires and fill other roles of a state national guard unit. Here is her letter to Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski.


Open letter to our Friends of the Oregon Legislature,

My name is Michele Darr. I hail from Corvallis where I live with my family and 4 young children.

I have been following the progress of the campaign to pass a resolution keeping the Oregon National Guard home in Oregon next year rather than deploying to Iraq and Afganistan in the largest numbers since World War 2. On November 1st, 2008, I left my family, the comforts of my home and "deployed" for the steps of the Oregon State Capitol Building where I and others will spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the upcoming winter months holding a prayer vigil and water-only fast/hunger strike until the Oregon Legislature passes the resolution to keep our overburdened, beleaguered National Guard troops home in Oregon next year.

As mother and human being, I find myself called to personally implore you to support the passage of this resolution, as it is inconceivable to fathom forcing 3500 of our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends and neighbors to once again uproot their lives and go off to fight in a war that is not justified under the Constitution or the laws of the United States.

The terms of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq have expired, removing any vestiges of justification for the continued presence of the Oregon National Guard in Iraq and Afganistan.

Multiple combat deployments to Iraq are increasing serious mental health problems among soldiers, triggering drug and alcohol abuse and contributing to record suicide levels, The high price of deployment being extracted from our brave Oregon National Guard has resulted in grievous harm to them and to their families including death, injury, loss of time together, and financial hardship including job loss.

In the last 4 days that we've spent here, numerous Guardspeople have stopped by, shared stories of deployments and the impact on their families and psyches. Every single one of them expressed to me how much they appreciate the effort to keep them here at home, and pray that we succeed in time to halt next spring's disastrous deployment, in which they will again find themselves underequipped, overburdened, and sorely needed here at home to respond to disasters, fight fires, and conduct search and rescue.

We are at a crossroads, my friends. We cannot continue to allow our troops to absorb the soul shattering impact of these wars. The decision now rests with all of you. This upcoming holiday season, when you bask in the radiant warmth of love and goodwill, when you sit down to pray with your family and loved ones, please remember them. Remember their sacrifices, their grief, and pledge to relieve them of some of the heavy load they and their families have been burdened with for too long. Remember that it is all of our responsibility to demand that this exploitive abuse of our courageous men and women be stopped. Please, friends, pledge your support and resolve to work together in January towards liberating our Guard. They've gone far beyond the call of duty. It's time to bring them home. From the bottom of my heart,

Michele Darr and Camp Homebound

We will issue updates as to the status and progress of this group in their effort to convince the state legislature to make a 180 and save their soldiers for home missions.

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
You can send Tim an email at this address:

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Shara Joy November 12, 2008 2:39 pm (Pacific time)

How very refreshing this comment line is. Looking @ Salem's other home town paper's comments on this story, left me feeling that Salem is a heartless homeland of knuckle-dragin ditto-head vulgers. Then i see this set of comments and am sooo relieved. However, neither group spoke to anything relevant to the Prayer Vigil and Fast, now at 12 days without food. STOP LOSS Folks. PTSD , Troop Suicide, Broken Families . . . These are some of the issues which have folks on the Capitol Steps performing the duties of a Citizen. It is our understanding that the vast majority of ONG have already done there time in country, many of them with multiple deployments, NONE of them with the necessary time off between deployments. Our primary objective is to support the Governor to perform his duty.

Henry Ruark November 12, 2008 8:09 am (Pacific time)

To all: Do not lose sight of historic fact that Iraq War was choice by Bush as preemptive attack, sold to all by marketing false documentation,on plan prepared by neocon cabal as Project for A New American Century. That plan was produced to promote, protect, extend and strengthen hegemony, in itself a moral challenge for all to consider, too. Without that action those now wracked by moral choice would be free of such consequence, more than 4000 of our best blood would be unshed, and we would not be bankrupt by the heavy continuing costs of war-now and vets-care later. Perpetrators remain uncharged and free of punishing action demanded to cut off recurrence of similar situation, with our Constitutional pattern for precisely that action still untouched by ostensibly representative assembly, the Congress. If we allow this get-away/free precedent, what will it ever take to put into place the pr action our Founders presciently provided precisely for such situations ?? !! How can we ever expect to return to Constitutional continuance and remediation for current conditions, if we refuse plain guidance from the very document we MUST honor and respect ?

Henry Ruark November 11, 2008 6:43 pm (Pacific time)

V.H.: Thank you for reference to UCMJ. The initials refer to Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Congressional outline/summary of how military justice must be conducted to be lawful. A Google-search will supply all interested with details, including the Code itself. For full understandings of the moral and legal issues here, suggest you seek out that full summary. Again, honest, open democratic dialog provides sharing and learning for all --in this case including me, who had forgotten these initials until suggested here by VH. "Heavy-duty morality" surely involved, so any guidance is sure to be helpful for all.

solrey November 11, 2008 6:05 pm (Pacific time)

Although I support ending both wars and all forms of aggression, I do not support Michelle's starvation vigil for a multitude of reasons of which I will articulate but a few for the sake of brevity. The vigil is destined to continue until the Oregon state legislature passes a proposed resolution to keep the guard at home yet the legislature is not currently in session and the next legislative session will not begin until the second monday of January, 2009 which is approximately two months from now. What is the point of holding a starvation vigil and abandoning four children to promote a bill for a legislature that is not even in session? Other states have submitted ballot initiatives, seeking popular support for requesting their Governor's to declare a state of emergency to keep their Guard troops home which is apparently the only legal recourse a state can take as the Guard has been federalized due to legislation passed by congress. As far as I can tell the proposed legislation inspiring Michelle's vigil appears to be a legal quagmire which could easily be unresolved long after the Oregon guard is scheduled to deploy which is why other states have brought forth ballot initiatives. Was there no forethought or research conducted among the folks supporting the proposed legislation in Oregon? With a mere four thousand signatures among a population of nearly four million (1/10th of 1%), doesn't even come close to popular support. Perhaps spending the time to gain popular support among the populace would make more of a statement than the time spent in a self flagellating starvation vigil. In regards to Iraq, a proposed Status of Forces Agreement has not been passed by the Iraqi parliament and is currently being negotiated with all indications that the Iraqi's desire American troops to depart their country post haste. Regardless of what the current or new administration desires, they are still beholden to the will of the Iraqi parliament and their decisions on the status of American troops in their country as the UN mandate ends on 12-31-08. Why not wait until this all plays out, spend time to garner popular support among the Oregon populace and begin a vigil with a crowd of concerned citizens once legislation has been submitted? This starvation vigil seems to be the least productive means of influencing the elected representatives of Oregon.

Vernon Huffman November 11, 2008 11:44 am (Pacific time)

I often hear the argument that this war is wrong, but soldiers have to go. In fact, the UCMJ requires soldiers to refuse illegal orders. This war is not just wrong, it is a violation of several treaties against aggressive war. My parents generation hung Germans for the same crimes our leaders are committing. It is the duty of every citizen to resist in the most effective way we can imagine. I salute Michele for her continuing efforts. Did you know Michele was in Kuwait when Sadaam invaded? Ask her.

Ariel McKinnon November 10, 2008 5:06 pm (Pacific time)

Vic, To answer your questions...If I were a firefighter, no I would not walk away, because it would be my job. Just like going to war when you are called up is a soldiers job. Yes, I am saying that even though the war in Iraq is wrong, my husband is a good soldier for going because it it his job. Soldiers know when the enlist that at any time they can be called up to go to war, whether they agree with the reasons for the war or not. They must honor their commitment because that is what they agreed to do. What choice do they have? If they do not honor their commitment, they go to prison. If you have been in the military, you know that you do what you are told or there could be severe consequences. And really, who would listen if they said "enough"! ?? The government has their own plans...I personally do not support the war in Iraq, but I DO support our soldiers and I am proud of each and every one that has served this country regardless of their beliefs. I feel that anyone who does not support our soldiers, should not have the rights and freedoms that our soldier give us, all too often with their lives.

Vic November 9, 2008 7:00 pm (Pacific time)

Ariel...Did not mean to offend you..I really was asking questions.I wasnt being judgemental. I dont know how that translates into thinking I know everything. The Nuremburg statement was just that...a factual statement.. an extreme example though, I admit. You still havent answered any of my questions..I guess it is easier to hurl insults.?? Im sure your husband is as great a guy as you say he is..surely there is a point where he and any other good person would say "Enough!!" Would that make him a "bad" soldier? I think not !

Ariel McKinnon November 9, 2008 2:44 pm (Pacific time)

My husband did not sign up to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. He signed up 3 months before 9/11, not knowing what was to come. He did not want to fight in any war, but he was called up to go to Afghanistan and is being called up again to go to Iraq, and once again he will do his duty and his family and friends will be proud of him.

Jessica November 9, 2008 1:28 pm (Pacific time)

I have spoken to many guardsmen and women who did not sign up to go fight in Iraq. They signed up to stay in Oregon and help their family and friends when they are in need. Their voices are not being heard.

Ariel McKinnon November 9, 2008 11:55 am (Pacific time)

Anyone who knows my husband knows that he is a man of many morals and great personal responsibility. For someone to question them and compare him to the Nazi's at Nuremburg just proves the ignorance and stupidity of the people who have probably never served in the military, and have nothing better to do than sit at their computers and pass judgment on everyone's views and opinions, thinking that they know everything. Nice try.

Vic November 7, 2008 1:19 pm (Pacific time)

Ariel...what if you were a firefighter and you came upon several homes that were on fire. Would you just let em burn because you couldnt put them all out at once, or would you start with one and work your way through them? And you are saying that even though your husband knows this war is based on lies and is illegal, he is a "good soldier" for following orders? That defense did not work at Nueremburg. You say our troops must honor their proven liars and thieves? Does morality and personal responsibility end at the induction center? Freakin incredible !!

Vic November 7, 2008 8:41 am (Pacific time)

Thanks "tree sniper", you turn out to be a nice guy...I probably will join and help out with this, and I'm sure your offer of hot Ovaltine will be appreciated,  I was under the impression the National Guard troops could only be federalized in the event of a national emergency. Did I miss something? Are we still concerned about the WMDs or the anthrax-laden drones from Iraq?

Ariel McKinnon November 6, 2008 4:17 pm (Pacific time)

To M.L. Lopez: I completely agree with you about being against fighting an illegal war. I believe we should never have gone to Iraq to begin with, but our government made that choice and our troops must honor their commitment. That in no way means that I believe we should be ok with it. I never said that what Ms. Darr is doing should not be respected. I believe that what she is doing is commendable, I just believe that the cause should be aimed more toward ending the war in Iraq, not just saving one group of soldiers from deployment.

M.L. Lopez November 6, 2008 3:10 pm (Pacific time)

I too have a loved one who will be on this deployment and I clearly understand and respect both points of view. The problem with standing fast and honoring the enlistment is that we are fighting an illegal war in Iraq, or will be by the time this happens. Afghanistan I don't feel so bad about and neither does he, but the bottom line is that I don't want to attend a funeral of somebody I love who dies in a war that we should not be engaged in. I don't think what Ms. Darr is doing is an easy thing, I respect her for it.

Tree Sniper November 6, 2008 1:52 pm (Pacific time)

Maybe if Vic joins in the vigil the governor will have to take notice, but then again the troops have been federalized. Maybe Vic can bring his friends to join in. I'll drop off some Ovaltine and maybe some of those little marshmellows. Let me go check the pantry...

Ariel McKinnon November 6, 2008 12:15 pm (Pacific time)

My husband was part of the deployment to Afghanistan in 06/07, and will be part of the upcoming deployment to Iraq. We have 3 young children and want more than anything to have him home with us, but I do not fully agree with what Michele Darr is doing. We all want this war to end. We all want our men and women to be able to stay home with their families, but how is it fair to fight for our Oregon soldiers to stay home, then watch other families have their soldiers taken away from them to replace ours?? My husband is not thrilled about the upcoming deployment. He would rather be home, and we would rather have him home, but like he says, this is his job. This is what he agreed to when he signed by the X. He will do what he is told to do, and he will do a damn good job. I want this war to end, but I will NOT protest or beg for my husband to be able to stay home so that someone elses husband, father, son, brother, mother, sister, daughter, or wife can take his place. If one unit gets to stay home, may they all get to stay home.

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