The blame Rumsfeld deserves
At a recent book signing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld finally had to face some questions about the wars he helped lead during the Bush years., an antiwar veteran and executive director of the GI coffeehouse Coffee Strong, and Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, the widow of an Army Ranger who took his own life, confronted Rumsfeld as he signed copies of his new memoir.
Joppa-Hagemann says her husband committed suicide to avoid another tour in Afghanistan after Army Rangers pressured him to drop his plans to leave the military. After encountering Rumsfeld, she told McClatchy newspapers, "All I could do was just really be happy at that moment that I got to tell Donald to his face that he was a liar, and to put a face to a soldier that because of him is no longer alive."
Here, Gonzalez details the pair's meeting with Rumsfeld.
ON AUGUST 26, I, Jorge Gonzalez, an antiwar veteran, along with military spouse Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, went onto Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) to meet with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld, most infamous for his part in leading the United States into the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was at JBLM to promote his New York Times-bestselling book Known and Unknown: A Memoir.
Ashley and I waited along with other patrons for approximately one-and-a-half hours to meet with Rumsfeld. After shaking the hand of the former Secretary of Defense, I removed my button down top to reveal an Iraq Veterans Against the War T-shirt, and requested that Rumsfeld dedicate the book to Coffee Strong, with the message, "To Coffee Strong: Fight the war, after the war."
I then explained to the confused Rumsfeld that Coffee Strong is "a veteran-operated coffeehouse, and vital resource to the JBLM community that provides links to services for active-duty personnel, veterans and military family members."
Mrs. Joppa-Hagemann introduced herself by handing a copy of her husband's funeral program to Rumsfeld, telling him that her husband had joined the military because he believed the lies told by Rumsfeld during his tenure with the Bush administration. She then recounted her husband's painful story of eight deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and eventual suicide, for which she blamed the military and Rumsfeld himself.
Rumsfeld's only response was to callously quip, "Oh yeah, I heard about that."
Mrs. Joppa-Hagemann continued to lay the blame directly at the feet of Rumsfeld and the military for not providing enough care for soldiers and veterans traumatized by multiple deployments to combat zones.
Within moments of our encounter, Ashley and myself were dragged from the Post Exchange by force by a group of five to six security agents and military police officers, and told not to return. Once we were outside of the Post Exchange, we continued our arguments with the rest of the people waiting in line to see Rumsfeld.
Having not had a chance to see what message had been left in my book, I opened my copy of Known and Unknown to find "With my Donald Rumsfeld" scribbled among the opening pages. Even in retirement, Rumsfeld has left those most affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the military's ongoing PTSD crisis, wondering about the mysterious "unknown unknowns" of which he once spoke.
First published at Coffee Strong.