Vets Waging Green Peace

By Garett Reppenhagen

Since I returned from combat in Iraq, the concepts of war, justice, and human rights have weighed heavily on my consciousness. I’ve dedicated myself to the antiwar movement and debated tactics and strategies for the most effective way to end armed conflict. The more I delved, the more I saw societies around the world turn to violence to solve their differences.

The reality is, as long as we are unable to establish social and economic equality, humanity is doomed to engage in war. The more renewable energy and sustainable practices nations use, the less dependent on foreign resources they will be. These efforts will divert outside influence by large powers on smaller nations and reduce the necessity to use aggressive measures to maintain citizens’ luxuries among the most developed countries.

Reversing climate change, recycling waste, and applying better agricultural techniques will increase the quantity of goods in less-developed countries and decrease desperation caused by the lack of clean drinking water and food.

Veterans Green Jobs is forming training courses to teach veterans job skills that are in demand. Their resulting employment will provide the sense of meaning veterans had while in the Armed Forces and the camaraderie they shared while side by side with those who served. Through on-the-job training, veterans will earn an income, college credits, and national certification in the trade skills they acquire. Thus, Veterans Green Jobs provides a realistic alternative to military enlistment while building a green leadership base that can field an army of capable men and women invested in helping the United States through some of the greatest obstacles our country has seen.

As an Iraq veteran, I am coming to accept the possibility that I served in the Middle East for the United States’ need to control fossil fuel resources in the interest of national security. I am conflicted between feeling pride for having served my fellow countrymen, family, and neighbors and outrage at having been used to take lives as a sniper when war could have been prevented. I am not, however, naïve enough to think that without practical solutions our nations will find peace.

The peace movement stands on a moral high ground and denounces the use of force but often falls short because its goals seem utopian, and its rhetoric often indirectly demonizes our troops. In these difficult economic times, many service members don’t recognize stable opportunities outside of military service that can provide for them and their families. If they do manage to find jobs, they usually lack the feeling of service and importance that they had while serving their country.

The foundations on which the United States was built can still be realized, and the values with which our nation identifies still have potential. As we learn to become more independent and self-reliant, we do the world a service by reducing direct need for resources outside our borders and producing necessary technology to help other countries to do the same. It would be symbolic and realistic to place our veterans in roles that help lead to these solutions.

Garett Reppenhagen, Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division, served in Kosovo and Iraq. He has worked with Veterans for America, was chairman of the board of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and is currently the program director of Veterans Green Jobs.