Military Families support Lt Watada at Tacoma press conference
[Update] The Nation has comprehensive and substanative article, June 12, 2006, addressing Lt Watada's decision, position and legalities; Lieutenant Watada's War Against the War [end update]
Reporting on press conference of Lt Ehren Watada, Tacoma, WA, June 7, 2006. Yes, that is me in the photo, to the right of Lt Watada when he was first introduced at the 6 PM media conference. I'm in the white Military Families Speak Out - (WA state chapter) t-shirt. Supporters give him welcome applause.
I was there at the noon press conference, Lt Watada was prohibited by his Fort Lewis chain of command from attending the scheduled noon press conference. In his absence his statement was given in the prepared video taped DVD. Announcement made that Lt Watada would be available at 6 PM to answer questions if media/press wanted to return at that time. Media/press did return, and I was there for both the noon and the 6PM press conferences.
My report and perceptions with links to actual video of Lt Watada answering questions from the media which you can hear for yourself and form your own perceptual opinions. He is very poised and even in expressing his thoughts and I was very impressed with this young 28 yr old Officer.
Noon press conference, June 7, 2006. When I arrived there was already considerable media with the satellite vans parked around the building, along with cameras, camera people and microphones. I was pleased as it signalled to me that media viewed this as an important story. Inside the lights, cameras and mics were set up and the plasma tv was in place.
Supporters were outside and inside, and there were four of us from Military Families Speak Out in our t-shirts to show visible support of military families for Lt Watada decision to make public his intention to refuse deployment orders to Iraq. We took our place alongside the veterans of Veterans for Peace who were there to show support.
It was announced Lt Watada would not be able to attend so we knew the prepared DVD statement would be used. There were to be 4 presenters prior to introducing Lt Watada. We went ahead with the presenters anyway followed by the DVD of Lt Watada's prepared statement.
-- Majorie Cohn, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the Natioinal Lawyers Guild
-- Joe Colgan, WA veteran and father of Lt Benjamin Colgan, killed in Iraq in 2003. See dvd Gunner Palace in which Lt Benjamin's unit was being filmed when Lt Benjamin Colgan was killed.
-- Judy Linehan, Military Families Speak Out, mother of son, returning Iraq veteran who had deployed to Iraq with Stryker Brigade. (We elected Judy to speak for all four of us and it was emotional for her since her own son has connection to Fort Lewis and Stryker brigade)
-- Lt Ehren Watada's prepared DVD statement.
video of noon press conference
video of Lt Ehren Watada's prepared DVD statement
Announcement was then made that Lt Watada would be available at 6PM to take questions from the media if media wanted to return. I decided to return for the 6 PM conference. Interestingly, Jenny and I had arranged to meet and drive one car (save gas $$) and she had previous committments so could not stay in Tacoma till 6PM. Same for Judy and Stacy. Jenny drove us back to our neck of the woods out here in Grays Harbor and Pacific County, and I got back into my own vehicle and immediately drove back to Tacoma. These are about 2 hour drives from where we live in these outlying counties. So not a few hours spent in driving on Wednesday.
I arrived back in Tacoma at 6PM straight up, and bustled through the cameras and mics to get up front with the supporters. Veterans for Peace was already there, and made room for me with them and that is how I wound up right next to the podium.
When Lt Watada was introduced, the warm and welcome applause was heart-warming and that is the only photo I've seen that has me smiling. There are several other photos of Lt Watada and I show up in the photos since I was standing right next to him, but I'm not smiling in any of the other photos. Well, it was a somber occasion.
As I listened to the young Lt Watada field the hardball and softball questions from the media, I was much impressed with his poise. He behaved with the kind of humility, dignity and respect I would expect from an Officer. Obviously he has had time to reflect, prepare for this moment since he has been contemplating his decision since Jan 06, and it is evident a lot of thought went into his decision, his prepared statement and he answered the media questions put to him from his own convictions.
Rather than report and repeat the media accounts you likely have already read, refer to the video link for the 6 PM media conference and hear him for yourself in entirety. He answered questions for 1/2 hour or longer and it is all in the video link. He answered a question from a little boy, not more than say 7 yrs old who asked the Lt 'why do you think this war is bad'. Lt Watada answered him patiently and did not talk down to him. I was impressed.
It was Lt Watada's 28th birthday the same day of the press conference, June 7, and some of you may know how I feel about the importance of young people participating actively in this process of democracy and our nation's future. I was personally moved as I stood there thinking 'he's so young, and he's having the courage to do this' -- it was moving.
Lt Watada had two lawyers standing behind him, and when they thought enough media questions had been asked and answered, they wrapped it up and announced enough questions. They then started to escort Lt Watada out of the room, and I said to one of the lawyers 'wait, I very much want to shake his hand'. The attorney smiled and was willing, but by then Lt Watada was already out the door. The attorney shrugged, smiled and moved on.
Ahh, but wait, there on the podium was Lt Watada's cell phone he had set down and I just knew he would need his cell phone. So I grabbed it, and made my way to the door and to the back room where they had taken him for debriefing. I explained to the people monitoring in the hallway that I needed to give him his phone. They let me pass, and of course, my t-shirt rather is recognizeable, so I guess I was considered safe.
I went into the room, where Lt Watada and the two attorneys were in conversation. I thanked Ehren, shook his hand, explained I was a military family. He asked if we had -- well he didn't have to finish the question -- I knew. Yes, I told him - 2 returning Iraq veterans in our family. I gave him his phone and shook his hand agan and said 'thank you Sir, for what you are doing'. Then I left the room.
It was over, and many of us milled about for a short while outside. There were some either impromptu or planned private interviews by media with Lt Watada afterwards so we did not get to see him again that evening.
That wraps up my account. Questions, please ask, as I may have overlooked writing some detail. Please do view the video of Lt Watada's 6 PM media conference and listen to him answer media questions, as I think it will give you a more personal perspective of him.
My understanding is that Lt Watada will be presenting over the weekend, and at this time the best information I have so far is;
On Sunday, June 11 at 1 p.m. at the Traditions Fair Trade, corner of 5th and Water, Olympia, WA, Lieutenant Ehren Watada will speak on his reasons for Refusing to obey the order to deploy to Iraq