Thursday, July 5, 2007

This Unusual Alliance is for the Soldiers

Internet activism has forged an unlikely alliance between 15-year-old YouTube video producer Lizzi Palmer, the hard-rock band Drowning Pool and a group called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. They want to help educate young people about veterans' health care issues and encourage youth to actively participate in the political process.

“Whether you’re for the war or against it, everyone has an obligation to support the men and women serving our country,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of IAVA. “Our alliance with Drowning Pool and Lizzie provides a great platform for raising awareness among young people about the challenges veterans face. At least one in three Iraq veterans will cope with a serious mental health issue, like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s crucial that we put systems in place now to help them.”

The campaign, “This Is For the Soldiers,” is encouraging supporters to send a petition to U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, asking the California Democrat to take action on the Lane Evans Bill (H.R. 1354) pending in the House. This bipartisan legislation would require mandatory mental-health counseling for combat veterans and ensure a better transition for troops leaving the military.

A letter written by the band was read before the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors and will be followed by the band, Drowning Pool, testifying before Congress in early September. The “This Is For the Soldiers" campaign "gives young people a chance to make a real difference in the lives of our country’s newest generation of veterans,” said Rieckhoff.

To help promote the campaign, IAVA enlisted Lizzie Palmer to create a video using footage from Drowning Pool’s recent USO tours in Iraq, Kuwait and South Korea in 2005 and 2006. “We have had the opportunity to meet the troops overseas, come back to the States and get invited to different bases in difference cities. We have spent countless hours with soldiers who do what they do without question and you can’t help being touched by that,” said Drowning Pool lead singer Ryan McCombs to the IAVA. Palmer’s video for Drowning Pool's song called “Soldiers” was released on the 4th of July.

“This is for the Soldiers,” (muisc by Drowning Pool and video by Lizzy Palmer)

The campaign’s title, “This Is For the Soldiers,” comes from a line in “Soldiers,” which the band wrote based on their experiences in Iraq. Bassist Stevie Benton told the IAVA, “After returning from Baghdad, our priority was writing a song about our troops, for our troops. I hope they will accept the song as a show of our respect and thanks.” Drowning Pool also named an upcoming concert tour after the campaign and plans to donate 50 cents from each ticket sale to IAVA and 50 cents to the USO.

IAVA, founded by Iraq veteran Paul Rieckhoff, has been advocating since 2004 on behalf of returning service members. It is the first and largest group representing veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even Ohio teen Lizzie Palmer has taken action before. “Remember Me,” her previous music video honoring U.S. troops, has received more than 1 million hits on YouTube.

Lizzie Palmer: “Remember Me”

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