Vets Radio Show—and Organizing in Northwest Indiana
By Kim Scipes
Published originally in The Veteran, paper of Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Vol. 42, No. 1, Spring 2012: 11
Iraq combat veteran and IVAW member, Vince Emanuele, hosts a weekly two-hour radio show he calls “Veterans Unplugged.” This show, and the people around it, are central to veterans organizing in Northwest Indiana.
Emanuele, who did a tour with the Marines in 2003-04 in Anbar Province, near the border with Syria, turned against the war when he saw the violence he and his fellow Marines were committing against the people of Iraq.
After getting out in 2005, Emanuele joined IVAW. He participated in Operation First Casualty in New York City in 2006, and later testified about his experiences and what he saw in Iraq at the Winter Soldier Hearings at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, MD in March 2008. He participated in protests at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. He participated in and spoke at the protests in Madison and Indianapolis in February-March 2011. Emanuele is also one of the protagonists in Olivier Morel’s prize-winning film about returning Iraq vets, “On the Bridge.”
In 2007, Emanuele began his college career at Purdue University North Central (PNC) in Westville, IN. PNC is located in the far north of the state, about 10 miles south of Lake Michigan on US Hwy 421. It’s a small campus of about 4,500 students, but Emanuele has been inspired by his experiences there.
After speaking on a radio show about veterans’ issues, Emanuele and follow Iraq vets Jason Lewis and Mark Strudas were asked to do a week radio show on WIMS-AM 1420 in Michigan City. Initially, all were involved, but Strudas decided to focus on his work with the PNC Veterans Club, while Lewis left and subsequently deployed to Kuwait while working for the USO.
On the radio show, Emanuele focuses on veterans’ news and affairs, but joins it with an incisive look at current events. However, the highlight of each show is an extended interview with internationally-renown movement intellectuals and activists from around the world. So far, he’s interviewed people like Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Frances Fox Piven, Derrick Jensen, Ward Churchill (a Vietnam vet), David Swanson, Leare Keith, Paul Street, Michael Hardt, John Bellamy Foster, Christian Parenti, Ross Caputi (Iraq vet) and Jose Vasquez (Iraq vet).
The interviews are each quite interesting, and of high quality. Unlike most interviewer who continually try to demonstrate how smart THEY are, Emanuele asks intelligent questions and then allows interviewees sufficient time to answer them and discuss their work: each interview extends from 45 to 75 minutes. Interestingly, he also invites each interviewee to discuss how she/he got to their understanding, which often reveals something about their personal lives.
In addition to broadcasting live over AM airwaves on Sunday evenings between 5-7 pm (Central) time, “Veterans Unplugged” in live-streamed over the internet (www.wimsradio.com) at that time, so anyone in the world can listen—and the show has developed a following in Brazil and Japan! And, if that doesn’t work, the interviews are archived at www.veteransunplugged.com, so one can go and listen to previously broadcast shows at any time.
Emanuele also is active with the PNC Veterans’ Club, coordinated by the aforementioned Mark Strudas. The Veterans Club ties to support vets in their transition back into school and civilian life. One of their most important successes has been to get veterans first priority in registering for courses at the university. They have developed extensive ties into the local community—especially in Chesterton, IN, where both Emanuele and Strudas hail from—and over the last two years, have sponsored a PNC Veterans fundraiser which has been well attended, as folks listen to live music donated by local bands, play games, chow down and raise money for the Club programs.
Where these two sets of activities have merged is in their organizing “An Evening with Derrick Jensen” on March 24, 2012, which was sponsored by the Vets’ Club. Jensen, who has published 22 books, is widely known as a philosopher and thinker of the Deep Green Ecology movement—but he was also raped by his father, and suffers from PTSD. It has been his experiences that have caused him to look at the degradation of the environment—he says over 200 species perish each day—and resistance efforts to stop this planetary mass murder.
In a wide-ranging and provocative presentation, Jensen talked for over two hours to almost 70 people, which is pretty amazing in a town of 11,000 people, although a couple of participants had traveled from as far away as Columbus, Ohio to hear him. Ranging from his own experiences to planetary ecocide, Jensen gave his audience much to think about and consider.
Isn’t this a bit much for a vets’ club? Vince doesn’t see it that way: “Look, man, we got sucked into the military by lies; we didn’t know any better. I’m wanting to get people to think about what’s going on. How better to get them to think than to expose them to world-class thinkers and activists?”
Kim Scipes is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Purdue University North Central and Faculty Advisor for the Vets’ Club. He is a Vietnam Era vet, serving in the USMC from 1969-73, ultimately attaining the rank of Sergeant.