Black Veterans Coalition calls for a Juneteenth truce in Haiti

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FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailBy: National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations (article may be reposted) For Immediate Release – Date: June 5, 2024

Shown above (right to left): Charles Blatcher, III, chairman National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations, Bocchit Edmond, former Ambassador of Haiti, Howard Jackson, vice chair and Michael Theard, Coalition Chief of Staff. Credit: Vintage 2021. 

 

The Black Veteran’s Coalition has held a long-term interest in what is happening in Haiti for humanitarian reasons as well as concerns for its citizens who have served in the United States military. We consistently express our concerns via correspondence with Haitian diplomats and the Veterans Administration (VA). Veterans residing in-country with honorable discharges from the US military are entitled to VA medical benefits. However, access to those services is frequently challenging and now interrupted due to the current country unrest. While we agree the environment is not conducive to having US medical personnel stationed in-country, we believe it is imperative that alternative means be explored to provide earned services. As a result, we are calling on the Veterans Administration to consider providing medical services through the neighboring Dominican Republic.

It was brought to our attention by an NGO that there is a need for food, and basic everyday items such as shoes and socks. The coalition was prepared to call on the US Black Veterans population to initiate a drive to collect and donate needed items. The effort was halted because there was no means available to get the items in-country or a group to manage distribution.

The country needs outside help to build and stabilize its economy which was devastated by a major earthquake in 2010 and subsequent natural disasters. Haiti is the only independent Black nation in the Western Hemisphere, with that distinction it is also the poorest. It is reasonable to think the lack of governmental support from the Western world is punishment for their Declaration of Independence from France in 1803. As the world focuses attention on the plight of our Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza, as well as the antisemitism being expressed against Jewish and Arab communities, it is shameful that people are starving nearer the American coast, one of the most prosperous nations in the world. The citizens of Haiti are being put in a situation to subordinate their independence for financial support. As an alternative it is a suggestion, they focus more on promoting the beauty of its Caribbean location, its deepwater port access and available labor source. Located seven hundred miles off the mainland of the US, the island could be a weekend get-away from Florida. The island has the potential of being the Las Vegas of the Caribbean, attracting tourism, investments and providing its citizens with vast employment opportunities. Its deepwater port access and labor force located off the coast of the largest consumer market in the world is another plus factor. Haiti possesses the capability of being a manufacturing hub, cutting both delivery time and cost for importing products to the United States. Those attributes are appealing to industrial nations currently shipping merchandise from greater distances around the globe. Haiti’s greatest impediment is the violence and unrest that makes government and individual financial investments in the country too risky.

There is no glory, honor, or prestige in being the head of a failed state. We are asking our brothers and sisters in Haiti to stop the violence against themselves and embrace the outside help they desperately need. The country of Haiti has tremendous potential, but it will only be realized when all parties put the country before self. Haiti reminds me in many ways of the Philippine Islands. In 1992 they made the decision not to renew the leases on the US Military Bases. The US military made a sizable contribution to the nation’s economy. Corazon Aquino made the decision it was more important to restore the dignitary of her people. Many questioned her decision at home and in the United States. The transition was not easy, she was ending a century old relationship with the US Military, a relationship that began with the Buffalo Soldiers in 1898, They were the first American Troops permanently garrisoned in the country. There were huge economic consequences to her decision. In the spirit of true leadership, she made the hard decision proving to the benefit of the nation. Today, the military base where I served Sangley Point, in Cavite is a technology park. There is no lack of pride among our Filipino brothers and sisters. Haiti is at the same crossroad although not by choice but by circumstance. This is an opportunity for the citizens of Haiti to create the nation that they want to live and raise their families. There are forty million Black Americans, the closest being seven hundred miles from the Haitian coast who would also like to have pride in the only Black Nation in the western hemisphere.

Juneteenth is Black America’s Independence Day. We invited our Haitian brothers and sister to embrace the day in the spirit of working for the better good of the country. Let it begin with our call for a Juneteenth Truce providing the citizens with a respite replacing the violence with dialogue to move the country beyond a failed nation status. In the meantime, we will continue advocating for honorably discharged Haitian veterans. For now, we call upon the Veterans Administration to find ways to deliver the healthcare benefits our Haitian US veterans in-country earned.

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