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Discrimination Against Iraq Veteran in Long Island (part I)

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing you as a Veteran, concerned that First Amendment Rights are not being protected in the United States. My name is Kristofer Goldsmith, and I am from Long Island New York. I spent the year of 2005 with the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad. While overseas I received the Army Commendation Medal, and was recommended for the Bronze Star Medal. I was quickly promoted to the rank of Sergeant after just over two years in service, and graduated from Fort Stewart’s Non-commissioned Officer School with honors in May of 2006 at the age of twenty.

After coming home from Iraq I began suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression, but for over a year managed my symptoms on my own, and continued to have a successful career. After being stop-lossed for a second deployment, my PTSD was aggravated beyond my control. I was removed from the Army under honorable conditions after a suicide attempt last summer. I am now rated by the VA as 50% disabled due to PTSD, chronic depression and other problems generated from my time in service.

I now continue my service to this great nation as a member of a group called “Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).” As a member of this non-profit organization I have traveled the country seeking to help the veterans of my generation find a welcoming community and get the benefits they were promised upon enlisting. I have testified before Congress, and worked the hill advocating for an end to the Stop-Loss policy and reminding Politicians of the cost of the Iraq war back at home. I have been fighting to make sure that recent Veterans return from overseas to an America prepared to care for it’s wounded.

You may have heard of the 10 Veterans arrested outside the third Presidential Debate on October 15th 2008 at Hofstra University. I was the first of the ten to be handcuffed and charged with “Disorderly Conduct” for attempting to demand of the Presidential Nominees, John McCain and Barrack Obama, that they begin to address the issues most important to Veterans in this country. 1000 Veterans receiving care from the VA attempt suicide each month in this country. An average of 18 Veterans successfully kill themselves each month in America. The VA system has over half a million claims waiting to be processed in it’s back-log. One third of the homeless people in this country are Veterans, meaning an estimated 200,000+ Veterans will be sleeping on the street tonight. These are the issues that I fight to push into mainstream America’s living rooms.

While most of my work with Iraq Veterans Against the War has been directed regionally or nationally, recently I’ve attempted to reach the high population of Veterans around my home, here on Long Island. The Annual Bellmore Family Street Festival is an event which has occurred just three blocks from my home each year since before I was born. I remember waiting each year as a child for my favorite part of the fair, the military recruiters and Veterans Groups who would set up their tents around Bellmore’s Veterans Memorial Park at the corner of Broadway and Bedford Avenue. This year, home and out of the Army, I approached the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce requesting to set up a table at the Street Festival. At first, as a someone who was late in registry, I was granted space “44” in front of “Madison Smoothies” at the far northern end of Bedford Avenue, close to Oak Street. I was told that regardless of the fact that I am a Veteran of Iraq, if I were to table for Iraq Veterans Against the War, I would be segregated from the other Veterans Groups as to not offend them. The Executive Director/Festival Coordinator, Joni Caputo, explained to me that she was doing me a favor by letting me table at all due to my late registry, so I accepted the terms of the segregation from those at the Veterans Memorial.

The original dates for the Bellmore Street Fair were Saturday, September 27th and Sunday, September 28th. However, due to rain, I was notified by the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce that the fair would be pushed back a few weeks, to Saturday, October 25th, and Sunday, October 26th. At this time I was told by the Bellmore Chamber of Commerce that my space would still be available for the rescheduling, and I confirmed with them I was still planning on tabling.

On Thursday, October 23rd I received a call from the Bellmore Chamber notifying me that my space was now unavailable, and that I would not be allowed to table at the Street Fair. At this time I requested to share a tabling space with another organization, but was denied due to total lack of physical space on the street. Going further, I asked Executive Director Joni Caputo if I found someone willing to share their rented physical space, if I could then be allowed to table there. Her reply was something to the effect of “look, you can’t table anywhere, because the Chamber decides who gets to use what space and where. No matter what, you cannot table at the fair.”

(part II follows…)

One Response

  1. Thank you for posting this blatant disregard for our local Iraq war vet , Kris Goldsmith, by his own hometown and their annual street festival. These very festivals feature local politicians and military recruiters. It was in environments like this that Kris would see the glory of a career in the military. How ironic and vile that his own hometown would turn on the troops they claim to support…as evidenced by their support of national and local GOP candidates for office.
    I call upon the community of Bellmore and the peace community who do support the Iraq Veterans Against the War to shame the chamber by calling, writing and protesting at the office at 406 Bedford Ave Bellmore.

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