IVAW Member Making a Difference: Richard Stroder
As a member-driven organization IVAW relies on our members to be a force for change and forward motion. IVAW members lead veterans and service members in standing up to oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and we stand up for the rights of those who serve as well as people of occupied countries.
With so much riding on the shoulders of our members: to create a vision for the future, to reach out to potential members and allies, and to make real concrete changes in the lives of those most effected by war; it is important (and over due) to recognize those members who are making things happen. Thanks to Stephen Funk for recommending that we do something to highlight the work of our members and to Richard Stroder who agreed to be interviewed for this piece.
Richard Stroder is a Marine Corps vet who resides in Auburn, Alabama. I met Richard for the first time at our Regional Retreat back in May of 2012. Since then he has continued to step up and take initiative to advance the work of IVAW and to build a community of veterans in the Southeast.
Back in May when we held our regional retreat we made a commitment to hold smaller regional and statewide gatherings in the fall. As fall got closer things began to look more difficult, folks were busy, other retreats were being scheduled, like the women's and the Afghanistan vets gathering, and our national convention was pushed back to the fall. When Richard contacted me about pulling together a fall retreat in the Southeast I was skeptical. I thought for sure he would decide not to move forward once I told him 1. There is no money for a fall gathering, 2. other groups in the region aren't holding fall retreats, 3. I can only offer limited help and I won't be able to attend the retreat. I even gave Richard an easy out, "look man I don't know if you will be able to get people together, if you don't have capacity to pull this off it's ok". Little did I know that Richard had the drive and determination to bring our members together even though the odds were against him.
Over a period of months Rich lead the effort with limited support to find and outreach members in the region, to work with Vietnam Veterans Against the War supporters to handle food, lodging, and other logistics, and to build an agenda that could get members on the same page and help us plan together for the future.
As a fairly new member and someone who had not been involved prior to last year Richard has really demonstrated the kind of hard work, initiative, and taking ownership of IVAW that will be needed in order to bring our organization into the future. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank Richard and acknowledge his work. Thank you brother, we are lucky to have you in this struggle.
Below is an interview with Richard giving some insight into why he has become so active in IVAW and what it is like for him to do this work.
How did you find out about IVAW? Why did you join?
I joined IVAW on June 8th, 2009. I actually just ran across the website one day, read through it, was like "yeah, I agree with these guys," and signed up. I joined because who better to speak the truth about war than returning veterans?
What has been your most powerful or important experience with IVAW?
My most important IVAW experience was the southeast regional retreat at future farm. That was my first time meeting other IVAW members and seeing how the decision making process worked. I was most impressed with the fact that a new member, such as myself, had every bit as much of a voice as any seasoned IVAW veteran.
It was at the retreat that I was invited to ride with Jason Hurd and Rushelle Frazier to the NATO Protest in Chicago, something I had read about online, but never envisioned myself being a part of. Taking part in the medal ceremony in Chicago was by far the most powerful experience I've had since being an IVAW member. I'll never forget the people I marched alongside that day, or the thousands of people we lead through the streets of Chicago, and the legions of police.
You just played an instrumental role in holding a fall gathering for folks in the SE. What was that like? / What was most challenging? What was the most rewarding part of taking on that leadership role?
It was a learning experience to say the least. There were a lot of phone calls made, a lot of voicemails left, a lot of wrong numbers. Logistically, Willie was a pro. He hosted and took care of most of the heavy lifting. All I really did was get people there, and help set the agenda for workshops and the regional meeting. Going through the whole process was really beneficial, because now I know the things that work and don't work, and how to improve for next time.
What has caused you to get involved to the extent that you have?
I really believe the work we do in IVAW makes a difference in the lives of service members and veterans. I've seen it first hand, helping someone file for CO status, fight the VA system, or just being around for one another and letting someone know they're not the only ones who feel the way they do about their military experience and the oppressiveness of the system. IVAW makes a tangible difference in people's lives, we have something to offer that most places don't - empathy - that's what I see as IVAW's biggest strength, and that's something worth being a part of.
What would you like to see from IVAW in the future? What do you personally feel like you want to accomplish?
The future of IVAW is something I want to be involved with shaping. We're at a point, where the people of America are being told the war in Iraq is over and that Afghanistan is about to be over, yet, drone strikes are increasing in Yemen and Pakistan, we just sent Marines into Libya, and Naval ships to the Libyan coast. Militarism isn't going anywhere, and the work IVAW is doing is more important than ever.
Over the next several years, we're going to have more and more Veterans returning from the longest ground war in American history, we need to be ready for an influx of membership, because more and more people are waking up.
Something I'd specifically like to see happen in IVAW is more member outreach, we have too many members who are just isolated, geographically, I'd like to see a way we can get them involved in the IVAW community and see what it is really all about. Additionally, I'm excited about the prospect of training Veteran Service Officers; because that's another way we can help our members and also a way of doing outreach and getting our message out there.