An Iraq war veteran reflects on the Sept. 15 march

An Iraq war veteran reflects on the Sept. 15 march
‘The first time I put on that uniform I hoped I would wear it with honor. On Sept. 15, I finally did.’

By Michael Prysner

The writer is an Iraq war veteran.

Mike Prysner arrested
The writer was arrested at the Capitol on Sept. 15 along with 195 others.
Photo: Stanley Rogouski

On the morning of Sept. 15, I held in my hands a uniform that was issued to me nearly five years ago.

I remembered the first time I held it, wondering if I would ever wear it home, wondering if it would be stained by blood or shredded by bullets. It looks much different now than the first time I put it on—it is faded from 12 months of desert sand and sun. The elbows and knees are worn from lying in the street. The boots are tattered from kicking down doors and walking over cities of rubble. As I put it on for the first time since I returned from Iraq, I finally felt as if I was putting it on for a purpose.

For so many years, that uniform has not stood for justice and freedom. It is the uniform that the Iraqi people saw stomp through their towns. It is the uniform that drove humvees and manned machine guns. It is the uniform that dragged people from their homes and interrogated them in prison camps. But on the streets of Washington, D.C., the uniform took on new meaning.

It was no longer worn with the intention of fighting for the government, but fighting against it. For me, and for my brothers and sisters in Iraq Veterans Against the War, the uniform that once symbolized fear and destruction would now be worn in the spirit of justice and resistance.

Capitol police 250
Photo: Bill Hackwell
Capitol police [Lin]
Photo: Sharat G. Lin

In March of 2003, our government ordered us to put on that uniform, march into a foreign land and take it from those who lived there. On Sept. 15, we put on that same uniform to march to the Capitol and face those who sent us to war.

A significant factor in ending the war in Vietnam was the ability of protesters and GIs to strike fear in the heart of the government. Countless citizens and soldiers threw their bodies into the gears of the war machine, and made the ruling class realize that instead of fighting their war, we would fight them.

This war will end when the government begins to fear the masses—when the army they sent to spread imperialism becomes the army that marches to their offices and charges through the police barricades.

The first time I put on that uniform, I hoped I would wear it with honor. On Sept. 15, I finally did. I could finally do something right while wearing it. The nearly 200 people arrested on that day—many of whom were Iraq war veterans—showed the government that we will do more than just march.

We will defy them at every turn; we will not fade away, but only grow in numbers and intensity. The longer this war rages on, the more we will resist and the more we will sacrifice.

Wearing that uniform at the steps of the Capitol, I knew that the most important action that I could do was to advance towards the barricade, and help light the spark that will empower people to stop this government.

For the first time, that uniform was worn fighting a just war. When I emerged from jail that night, I saw hundreds of cheering supporters outside. Then, I knew that sooner or later we will win this war against imperialism. And I have never felt prouder wearing that uniform.

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