Antonio Palacios from Veterans for Peace speaks at Poor People Campaign event

1 June 2018, Los Angeles

Hello. I am Antonio Palacios. Iím a member of Veterans for Peace and I am proud to stand with the Poor Peopleís Campaign.

It was still my first year in the military, in 2002; I was working in the personnel department onboard the USS Trenton. We were on deployment in the Indian Ocean; part of the war in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom. President Bush was already working to deemphasize Afghanistan to target Iraq.

In the office that I worked, a television played the Armed Forces Network, or AFN. You can think of it like most 24hr cable news networks, but this one is produced by the military and also played old sitcoms where the commercials are military propaganda. One day, sometime between the news and Seinfeld, AFN played a macabre music video montage of recent bombings in Afghanistan. Some of the clips were daytime shots, others infrared or night-vision. The action was set to music from the Barber of Seville. (sung) La lala la lala LA La! The punctuations in the music were timed with an explosion on video. They were fast clips of buildings or cars or shacks hit by rockets. I couldnít help but think of the people in those buildings and how those shacks were peopleís homes. One clip after the next. In one, I saw people. Two men in their last moments of life fleeing the targeted building.

That night I wrote an email home to my family horrified by what I had seen. I wondered if those men were also 21 years old like me. I wondered what they could have possibly done. I wondered how they got there.

I knew how I found myself there. I swore in to the Navy 5 weeks before 9/11. I joined because I was a good student and needed money to finish college. In spite of being gay and living in the seventh year of Donít Ask Donít Tell, I knew from constant advertising that the military would cover my degree. I only had to hide who I was for four years.

Working in personnel, I got to learn about how a lot of us got there. The engineering petty officer who enlisted to get his sick mother health insurance. My supervisor, who joined because a judge said it was the military or prison. A junior sailor born in Nigeria joined hoping for a chance to stay in the US. Another sailor from a struggling Wisconsin town just needed a job. The war economy is immoral. It robs our communities of basic needs. And then uses that need as economic coercion to enlist our bodies in imperial violence. In the wealthiest country to ever exist, no person should have to pledge allegiance to the military industrial complex just to receive something as basic as healthcare for their family or a college education.

So many of us were there because so much of what appears to be broken in our system works to drive poor people into it.

There I was a brown person from a lower middle class family, part of an organization that would kill other poor brown people.

And then set it to music.

Iíll never forget it. And thatís why I have joined the Poor Peopleís Campaign and am calling for an end to US military aggression currently targeting Iran and North Korea and providing a blank check to Israel and Saudi Arabia. And to demand reallocation of resources from the military budget to education, healthcare, and green jobs.

Thank you!