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Ethan McCord speaks on Wikileaks Video at
Revolution Books in Los Angeles, June 9, 2011.
Photo credit/esewolfie

By Dan Bluemel

When speaking to high school students, military recruiters like to promote a romanticized version of war and the armed forces, but Army veteran Ethan McCord is trying to counter that. "I've been speaking to high schools for the past year, talking to students about the realities of war. That this is not 'Call of Duty.' This isn't some game," he said at a June 9 speaking engagement at Revolution Books in Los Angeles.

While serving in Iraq in 2007, Mc- Cord witnessed an Apache helicopter attack civilians. In April 2010, he began sharing his story after WikiLeaks released the classified cockpit video footage of the event, called "Collateral Murder." McCord, who was among the first soldiers at the sight, can be seen in the video saving two wounded children. McCord explained he doesn't necessarily try to assuage students from joining the military, but to help them get a balanced perspective.

"I don't live in a fantasy world. I know with the economy today, they are going to join the military," he said. "But if I can change the way they act and react in the military, and tell them not to lose their own humanity and not to lose their moral compass, then things like ['Collateral Murder'] won't happen." Aside from discussing the realities of war, McCord also talks about the realities of coming home. He said he tells students that the military hedges its bets on veterans never utilizing the GI Bill.

"They're hoping that you get killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then they don't have to pay that GI Bill," he said. "If you do survive, chances are your going to be so mentally screwed up, once you have a brain injury or PTSD, you can't go to school."

McCord also addressed the epidemic of suicides claiming the lives of veterans, which some say outnumber combat deaths. According to San Francisco's The Bay Citizen, the California Department of Public Health reported that "1,000 California veterans under 35 died between 2005 and 2008," which is "three times higher than the number of California service members who were killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts over the same period." "Is it because we are doing good things for God and country over there in Iraq? I don't think so," said Mc- Cord. "You can't kill somebody and go on about your business the rest of Veteran Talks to Students About War did this."

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Shirtwaist flags symbolizing each victim were
carefully laid down on the street following the
Centennial Commemoration of the Triangle
Shirtwaist Factory Fire, March 25, 2011.
Photo credit Joel Sosinsky

By Andi Sosin and Joel Sosinsky, The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition

The New York City tour guide stopped at a building on the corner of Greene Street and Washington Place. Three small brass plaques are fastened to the cornerstone, identifying the building as the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. However, the plaques are easy to miss, and many New Yorkers and city visitors walk right by the building without recognizing its historical significance. Our guide motioned to the group to look upward, pointing to the windows nine stories above the street. “This is where the shirtwaist makers jumped from during the fire.” The tourists, peering upwards at the windows, grasped the enormity of her statement. 146 Triangle workers, mostly young immigrant women, were locked in because the owners feared they would steal. Unable to escape, they perished in a horrendous conflagration that burned everything except the building’s walls and floors.

March 25, 2011 marked the centennial of the Triangle fire, which historians describe as the worst workplace tragedy to occur in New York City before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition (RTFC) brought together over two hundred participating organizations to commemorate the fire’s one hundredth anniversary, and successfully coordinated an array of performances, art installations, conferences and seminars, which culminated in a dramatic procession of symbolic shirtwaist flags carried into the official commemoration ceremonies.

The RTFC has now turned its full attention to the second part of its mission, to create a permanent public art memorial to the victims of the fire that will serve as tribute to all of the working women and men who have perished in industrial accidents. In doing so, the memorial will heighten awareness of the significant role that the fire played in enacting worker safety and protection legislation, as well as to educate visitors regarding worker protection needs worldwide.

A Triangle Fire Memorial will not simply be a monument to the victims of the fire and their families but will honor those labor activists and union organizers who worked courageously to change an unjust and discriminatory labor system. Frances Perkins, Labor Secretary to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression, remarked that, “the New Deal began on March 25, 1911.” The Triangle fire not only affected New York politics, but also ultimately national politics, illuminating the role of governmental legislation in safeguarding workers’ rights.

The process of creating this major public art memorial is a collaborative effort, composed of an artist selection committee and representatives from the arts, labor, academia, family members, the local community, New York City’s landmarks preservation agency, and New York University. Working with a public arts administrator, the RTFC and the artist selection committee will facilitate the memorial project through a significant number of environmental and local regulatory considerations, in addition to raising funds to install and maintain the memorial.

Today’s political climate finds worker protections threatened by business and neo-conservative and libertarian principles. The RTFC contends that creation of a unique and visionary public artwork, “a destination memorial,” will bring awareness of industrial accidents, and of worker’s rights and worker’s safety issues to New York City visitors from throughout the world. The Triangle fire can once again serve to remind citizens that government exists by and for all the people. Realization of a Triangle fire memorial will energize those who continue to advocate for social and economic justice for workers. For more information how you can help with this project contact the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition at


This article originated in the People's Tribune
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