Reservists families say: Bring our loved ones home!

Elizabeth Fausto’s brother, Jose – an army reservist now serving in Iraq – recently learned that his deployment has been extended a second time, for a period of 120 days. Jose Guadalupe Fausto, a sergeant, has already served for 17 months. His family and others in California’s Salinas Valley, where many soldiers are reservists and most are Mexican-American, are devastated at the latest delay in their loved-ones’ homecoming.

Jose Fausto “joined the reserves because he wanted to help, to do something positive,” his sister told the World. “But he and the others in his unit don’t see anything positive happening now.

“Whenever we watch the news and there’s a new incident,” she said, “we look for the names of the deceased. At first we are relieved our soldiers are safe. And then our grief breaks out for the families who have lost their loved ones.”

So she and her mother, Luz Fausto, are starting to work with other families to build support to bring their family members home as quickly as possible. They are already in touch with families in and near the city of Salinas, and others from other locations in the valley.

Last week, with the encouragement of the Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, family members met with the area’s congressman, Sam Farr, a Democrat and staunch opponent of the war who fully supports their efforts. The families plan a community forum with Rep. Farr early next month.

Following the meeting, Farr said in a statement that in the year since President Bush declared victory in Iraq, hundreds of troops have died and the security situation there has deteriorated. “Unfortunately, every day it becomes more and more clear that there is no comprehensive plan for Iraq,” Farr said. “My meeting today with the families of reservists who have had their tour of duty extended again and again only highlights how mismanaged the entire Iraq affair has been. The sacrifices and hardships of these families will not go unnoticed.”

The Monterey Bay CLC became involved when it was contacted by one of the military families with members in the Teamsters union, said Paul Johnston, the CLC’s executive director. “I think this is really a grass-roots movement growing in the Salinas Valley – the antiwar movement exists in small communities, too,” Johnson said. He said the CLC, which has passed several resolutions against the war, sees providing support for union families of military personnel as one way to take action on the issue.

In a related story, the San Francisco Chronicle on May 9 featured the plight of Army reservists in the 341st Military Police Company, from San Jose, whose homecoming from Iraq has also been postponed a second time.

“If the military can pull the plug on their departure five days before they’re supposed to come home, I don’t know what to tell my kids,” Lori Fishburn, wife of Capt. Jay Fishburn who heads the 341st in Iraq, told the Chronicle. “My 10-year-old son said, ‘They got us all ready and then they didn’t let it happen. It was one big fat lie.’”

About a quarter of the troops in Iraq are from the National Guard or Army Reserve. Over 7,800 Guards and reservists from California are currently in Iraq.

The author can be reached at mbechtel@pww.org.