With little time remaining, it looks like nothing short of a miracle will help us reach our CD Kickstarter funding goal. It has been incredibly encouraging that people from all over the country pledged. The fact that all of you saw the value in the work I do with veterans and offered to help fund my new CD is amazing and humbling. I thank each of you sincerely.
I love the work I do with Warrior Songs. Not many people go to sleep each night knowing they have made a difference in the lives of others. Since 2011, we have helped countless veterans work towards healing from PTSD with the work we do. Some even say they wouldn’t be alive today had it not been for the tireless efforts of the Warrior Songs team. It’s an honor to be an integral part of this; and, this is the reason I have been unable to tour and raise money to fund a new CD. I hope that one day I will be able to record my new CD without having to take away from my time commitment to helping veterans.
While there is still time, I feel strongly that I have let everyone who might contribute know about the fundraising campaign. Many of you posted on Facebook and other social media in support of the campaign. This Kickstarter campaign represents the first time I’ve asked for support. Thank you for your willingness to contribute. It means the world to me and will be my sustaining force as I carry on with the work. I appeal to you personally to contribute to my Kickstarter Campaign. No amount is too small. If all goes according to plan, the new CD will be released in October 2013. If my work with veterans has touched you in anyway please consider donating to my Kickstarter Project. Your support is so incredibly important. Feel free to share this e-mail with others in your community, maybe we can do this thing together.
Humbly yours, Jason Moon, Founder/Executive Director Warrior Songs www.warriorsongs.org
FREE PUBLIC EVENT
Thursday, February 21, 2013, 3-5 p.m.
EXPLORING LAOS, THAILAND & VIETNAM: HISTORY & CULTURE
Panel & Refreshments
UWM Greene Hall, Downer and Hartford Avenues, MKE
Mission Accomplished: SpeakPeaceMKE at the War Remnants Museum, Vietnam & Nampong, Laos
Good News: In a full circle, the SpeakPeaceMKE 6×6 Community Exhibit will be gifted to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City and the village of Nampong in Laos in January 2013. Travels to SE Asia will be lead by UWM Professor Chia Y. Yang who presented the Speak Peace keynote during the exhibition. Your sentiments, aspirations, goodwill and compassion are the driving life force in this act of peacemaking. A report will be forthcoming.
As the Speak Peace MKE project draws to a close, please check back to this page for highlights and afterthoughts. Speak Peace MKE was part of a long winding road, part of a never ending journey. Each encounter along the way held meaning, some transformed into deep healing unknowns, and some fortified us for the longer haul.
The goals for Speak Peace MKE were simple yet complex. This project was part of a larger one to study the impact of both global peace and war, the importance of dialogue and humility, and to challenge us to actively work toward forgiveness, reconciliation, and sustainable growth in our communities.
Thanks to everyone who contributed their time, talents, expertise, energy, hard earned pennies, and valued feedback. The list is endless. And, proud to say, this was a 100% volunteer endeavor!
MKE WAR MEMORIAL CENTER – www.warmemorialcenter.org
SOLDIER’S HEART – http://www.soldiersheart.net/
WARRIOR SONGS & Jason Moon – www.warriorsongs.org
MKE DRYHOOTCH, INC. – http://dryhootch.org/
VETERANS FOR PEACE MKE Homeless Veteran Initiative – http://www.milwaukeevfp.org/
GUITARS FOR VETS, INC. – http://guitars4vets.org/
ONE DRUM – http://onedrum.net/
SKAI SUPER STAR KIDS – theater4kids.org
DANCEWORKS, INC. – www.danceworksmke.org
ART THERAPY ALLIANCE – http://www.facebook.com/ArtTherapyAlliance
Exhibit Review by Eddee Daniel – http://artswithoutborders-eddee.blogspot.com/2012/06/speakpeace-at-war-memorial-art-museum.html
TOWARD PEACE: The Politics of War and Memory among WI SE Asian Refugees
Keynote Address by CHIA YOUYEE VANG, Ph.D, UW-Milwaukee Department of History
Milwaukee War Memorial Center, June 18, 2012
I would like to thank Janet Carr for inviting me to be a part of the many activities while the Speak Peace exhibit is here in Milwaukee. It is also an honor to share this evening with Jason Moon. Although we come from different backgrounds, we share common interests in helping to make visible the wounds of war so that healing can take place.
The title of my talk is “Toward Peace: The Politics of War and Memory among WI SE Asian Refugees”. I have thought carefully about what I’d like to say and share today. I chose this title because I think there is still much work to be done to bring about peace since peace occurs in many forms and takes place on multiple levels, including individual, community, national and global. I’d like to start with some reflections about what we call the Vietnam War and what people in Asia call the American War.
Walking by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C., visitors can expect to feel overwhelmed by the more than 58,000 engraved names on the wall. Out of the 2.7 million who served in Vietnam, the names along with the vast array of things left at the base of the memorial remind spectators of the sacrifices that they made. The number of Vietnamese soldiers who died is estimated to be nearly a million and an estimated three to four million civilians paid a heavy price with their lives as a result of living in then war-torn Vietnam.
The million Cambodians lost in the Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s along with thousands of people in Laos who could not escape from the sustained American bombing on Lao territory over the course of the war disappeared without a trace. While those who paid the ultimate price are remembered through public memorializing efforts, over a period of time, memories of them fade away.
It seems that massive human toll from war have become the norm in modern warfare rather than the exception. The twentieth century saw nearly 200 million human beings murdered in the name of various ideologies. Displacement of still millions more forces them to live marginal lives across the globe. During the last half of the twentieth century, American military activities on foreign land have played a significant role in making migration to the United States possible for groups that had not previously immigrated to this part of the world. While devastation caused by U.S. wars on foreign soil is often unknown or forgotten by ordinary Americans who do not directly experience the ravages of war, this condition is challenged when remnants of such wars show up on American shores.
In the decades following the war, more than one million people from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam entered the U.S. as political refugees. The vast majority is Vietnamese, but in the state of Wisconsin, the majority is Hmong from Laos. While most Southeast Asian or Indochinese refugees from the Vietnam War have integrated into U.S. society, many from the immigrant generation who experienced war have struggled to make sense of their lives.
In retrospect, there is no doubt that Americans who organized their churches and communities to offer refuge in Wisconsin and other locations throughout the country for the thousands of refugees beginning in the mid 1970s did so out of great compassion for fellow human beings. There is also no doubt that these new Americans love this country and are invested in its future.
As a scholar, I have had the opportunity to interview many Southeast Asian veterans who fought on the side of Americans in the many covert operations that the U.S. carried out during the war. I have also visited many historical sites in the former Indochina colonies, including the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.
As you may remember, in addition to massive destruction from the ground war, the U.S. dropped nearly 7 million tons of bombs during the conflict and spread about 20 million liters of chemicals killing not only people but crops, plants, and animals. What were once lush jungles became barren hills and mountains. It is quite amazing that people survived.
The U.S. withdrew its forces following the Paris Peace Agreement in January 1973. While the war ended for the United States, those who aligned themselves with American forces continued to struggle with communist forces. Having spent an estimated $167 billion on the war and confronted a divided American society over the purpose, both in terms of economics and ethics compounded with Cold War politics, the U.S. imposed a trade embargo on Vietnam in 1975.
It was in this postwar moment that this museum was established. Although the core content of the exhibits remains constant, the museum’s changing name reflects the healing process between the United States and Vietnam in the post 1975 era.
At its inception in 1975, the museum was called, “The House for Displaying War Crimes of American Imperialism and the Puppet Government.” It became the “Museum of American War Crimes”, followed by “War Crimes Museum” until the early 1990s. In its efforts to liberalize the Vietnamese economy and to establish normalized trade relations with the United States, the name was changed to its current name, “War Remnants Museum”.
The children’s artwork collected by the museum is what has brought us together today. As I reviewed their artwork depicting the lasting impact of war and American responses to their realities, I am overwhelmed by the intense desire for understanding. Though they are images, the children’s voices are loud and clear. Physical, mental and psychological suffering persist, but what may be more important for us is to understand that amidst the suffering is a call for peace.
As a former refugee child who left Laos at the age of eight escaping through the jungles with my family and living in a refugee camp before settling in the St. Paul, Minnesota in 1980, I too have experiences that as a child, I did not understand. I have Hmong American friends that I attended school with in St. Paul who witnessed their parents killed in front of them. Some saw members of their family drown on the Mekong River as they escaped from Laos. Others have immediate family members who could not escape. Given their experiences, I felt fortunate and knew that my life was not as tragic as theirs.
Though I was too young to understand, I have learned from my elders that two male cousins were killed in action. I never saw anyone killed. All nine members of my family made it to Thai refugee camps and now live in Minnesota, Wisconsin and California.
While my experiences during the war are clearly not as painful as those depicted in the Vietnamese children artwork and those of my Hmong American friends, I do remember the bombing of our village in 1979 that motivated my elders to once again find a way out of Laos. They had attempted to leave in 1975, but the news of a massacre ahead forced them to return to their village. They tried to rebuild their lives.
Because sporadic bombing of villages in the mid to late 1970s was carried out against those thought to be resistant to the new regime, we were taught to flee to the nearby jungle anytime the sound of an airplane was heard. Despite the occasional planes that circled near our village, we experienced some peaceful existence until 1979. Although no one was killed during the bombing of our village, the elders felt that we could no longer remain. Preparations were made for the entire village to leave the country. Like thousands of others who fled from Laos, we travelled during the night and remained quiet in various locations during the day.
Leaving the jungles of Laos and settling in the urban American jungle, children like me faced bigger issues, ranging from lack of English language skills to poverty to subtle and overt racism. Thus, we tried to forget those struggles and focused on overcoming the new obstacles. It would be years later while in college that I began to write about my family’s experiences.
The summer after my sophomore year (1992), I was asked by the editor of the Minnesota Women’s Press to write a piece for the newspaper. A year later, I wrote a longer piece in Hmong language titled, “Peb Lub Neej: Nrum Yig Vaaj hab Paaj Thoj Tsev Tuab Neeg” (“Our Lives: Youyee Vang’s and Pang Thao’s Family”). Youyee Vang and Pang Thao are my parents. I’d like to share a poem I wrote at age 22 as part of the longer piece. I am inspired to share this piece after reviewing the Vietnamese children’s artwork and American responses. The poem is about going forward at any cost describing the hunger and fear throughout my family’s escape. I have not translated it into English so I invite you to listen to it in Hmong language:
Ua le caag los yuav tsum moog (1993) “Going Forward at Any Cost”
Txuj kev ntshai, kev tshaib, kev nqhe, los paub zoo.
Tsau ntuj qua nti los pluav moog.
Naag lub, tshaav ntuj, tsau fuab, cua ntsawj los tsis su.
Nkeeg, nquag, mob, tsis mob los yuav tsum moog saib pua txug.
Tsis xaav poob qaab.
Tsis xaav kuam maag tua.
Tsis xaav kuam luas nteg.
Tsis xaav moog ua luas qhev.
Dlej hlub dlej yaus los yuav tsum hlaas.
Tsoob sab, tsoob qeg los yuav tsum dlaum.
Muaj dlaab muaj tsuv los yuav tsum tsiv kuam dlhaus.
Tsis muaj noj, los noj maab noj nplooj, noj nroj noj tsuag.
Caj hab tuag los moog kuam txug.
This and many other writings I’ve completed while traveling throughout Europe and Asia are locked up in my safe. They are mostly about trying to grapple with finding peace amidst the chaos of life. I am not ready to share them yet because I am still trying to make sense of the war and its legacy, both in Southeast Asia and among the dispersed refugee communities across the globe. As a scholar, I have decided to spend my time documenting the stories of my elders who cannot write their own stories. Through oral history interviews and archival research, I have examined the politics surrounding their efforts to gain recognition for the sacrifices they made on behalf of U.S. sponsored activities during the war. Today memorials, though varied in size, stand in Arlington National Cemetery, Fresno, California and Sheboygan, Wisconsin to pay tribute to them.
Being a part of the Speak Peace exhibit has encouraged me to share my personal poem. I hope that the images and stories will also inspire you to share your stories. Thank you very much.
WARRIOR SONGS & Jason Moon www.warriorsongs.org
JASON MOON is a Milwaukee-based folk/rock musician and songwriter, an Army veteran, and an advocate for veterans issues. He was a soldier for a decade, has been writing songs for two, and holds a Religious Studies graduate degree. After returning from Iraq in 2004, Jason began his struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), almost losing his life to the disease in 2008. His latest album, Trying to Find My Way Home, portrays his struggle to reclaim himself after returning from war, and often gets through to veterans who suffer from PTSD when other methods have failed. He travels the country to inform both civilians and veterans of PTSD and to raise money for Veterans’ charities. After receiving such an enormous response in the veterans community and beyond to his music, Jason created the non-profit, Warrior Songs.
Warrior Songs Inc. is committed to facilitating healing through songwriting and music amongst United States Military personnel, veterans and those working with veterans. The mission of Warrior Songs is to provide a forum for the veteran’s voice to be heard through music. Established songwriters and musicians collaborate with veterans to turn their poetry, prose and journals into songs, which become platforms for self-expression and healing. Warrior Songs also brings music to veterans in various stages of recovery, and seeks to educate the public and veterans communities about veterans issues (PTSD, MST, and other war traumas).
MKE DRYHOOTCH, INC. http://dryhootch.org/
Dryhootch Mission: Dryhootch provides veterans and their families with a stable, substance-free environment to gather, grow, and enhance their post-service life experience. We accomplish our mission in two ways: 1) By providing a social space where veterans, their families and friends, and the general public can connect and share stories in a safe, drug/alcohol-free environment; and, 2) By providing a Peer Mentor Program where veterans and their families can receive one-on-one mentoring or group mentoring from other veterans and their families.
ONE DRUM http://onedrum.net/
One Drum is an eclectic world music ensemble which performs songs, stories & dances rooted in the cultures of Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, the Middle East & the Americas. With an extensive collection of aboriginal, ancient, modern and one-of-a-kind percussive, string & wind instruments, One Drum weaves a tapestry that illustrates the common cultural origins of music. Making use of oral traditions of call-and-response, sing-along, creative movement, dance & hands-on-learning, One Drum expresses a universal spirit that knows no boundaries.
Based out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Rockford, Illinois, One Drum performs extensively in the Midwestern United States and with significant journeys beyond, collectively and as solo presenters. Comprised of a core group, the band often mingles talents with an extended family of One Drum performers.
VETERANS FOR PEACE MKE Homeless Veteran Initiative http://www.milwaukeevfp.org/
Mission: To help end homelessness among current and future Milwaukee area veterans by enabling them to secure their rights and benefits, and to obtain access to housing, education, counseling, health care and employment opportunities.
GUITARS FOR VETS, INC. http://guitars4vets.org/
http://www.wuwm.com/programs/uwm_today/uwm_today.php?articleid=356 WUWM interview on Guitars4Vets partnership with UWM Peck School of the Arts Music Department, open to all qualified military service veterans.
Guitars for Vets, Inc. (G4V) is a non-profit organization that enhances the lives of military veterans by providing them with guitars and music instruction. Through self-expression and the healing power of music, it is our intent to restore the feelings of joy and purpose that can be lost after suffering trauma. Chapters have been established in over 25 cities in 15 states across the country.
Vision: Our primary focus is using the healing power of music to help our veterans. Whether we agree or disagree with the decision to go to war, one thing is for certain: there are men and women who bravely fight for and honorably represent our country. As a consequence of war, many of our soldiers come home with physical and emotional injuries. They need our help. All veterans are referred to us by a VA medical team in order to integrate the Guitars for Vets program into their treatment regimen.
SKAI SUPER STAR KIDS theater4kids.org
The Super Star Kids is an unique opportunity for aspiring young & talented singers, dancers, actors & artist to learn, produce and perform. Through invitation or auditions, kids from various backgrounds and talent ability, go through intense yet fun performance routines design for the COME PLAY kids show tour, upcoming cable series, CD production projects and a variety of other performance opportunities. Super Star Kids also focuses on character building and includes community volunteer projects.
IMAGINE by John Lennon
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one