by Helen Jaccard andGerry
Condon Kaiserslautern, Germany, March 25,
U.S. soldiers in Germany now have a GI
coffeehouse. The Clearing Barrel Bar and Café opened Saturday, March 24,
in Kaiserslautern, Germany, home to Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl
Regional Medical Center, among a constellation of U.S. bases, with
50,000 U.S. military and civilian personnel living in the area. The grand opening was a big success,
with over 60 people in attendance. Well-wishers enjoyed good food and
drink, and marveled at the large beautifully remodeled space, with
couches, tables, chairs, a bar and barstools, his and hers bathrooms,
and a full kitchen.
Beautifully printed posters from the “War Is Trauma” art exhibit were
displayed on spacious white walls. “War Is Trauma,”a collaboration
between Just Seeds, an art collective from Brooklyn, New York, and Iraq
Veterans Against the War (IVAW), is about “Operation Recovery”, a
campaign to stop the deployment of traumatized troops and to focus
public attention towards Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain
Injury and Military Sexual Trauma.
and activists convened from far and near, including Germans and U.S.
citizens living in Germany. Nathan Peld, an IVAW member, arrived after a
long train ride from Vienna, Austria, where he is working with the
United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Young German women and men mixed easily with Vietnam-era friends.
Political discussions were lively and interesting. Live music was
provided by two young men, one German and one American, who sang and
played guitars and were joined by guests in a sing-along.
Chris Capps-Schubert, an Iraq veteran and war resister, and his German
wife Meike, an organizer-extraordinaire and member of Military Families
Speak Out, have been working very hard for the past two years to make
their dream of opening a GI coffeehouse in Germany a reality. Their
efforts have been supported by the Military Counseling Network,
Connection-EV, the Center on Conscience and War, the German Mennonite
Peace Committee, members of IVAW and Veterans For Peace, and many other
German and American friends and activists.
Meike and Chris are both counselors with the Military Counseling
Network, the European branch of the GI Rights Hotline. Chris has been a
member of IVAW for several years and went on a speaking tour around
Germany to gain support for The Clearing Barrel project. Chris and Meike
and other counselors will be available to help soldiers who are seeking
to be discharged from the military, facing other difficulties with the
military, or seeking help dealing with military trauma.
Meike said, “Having this space available allows us to bring together in
one place what we do personally, socially, culturally, and politically.
I am very grateful for all of the help and support that we have received
from the peace community and we hope that they will continue to support
Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon representing Veterans For Peace spoke of
the importance of supporting alleged Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley
Manning, and GI resisters like André Shepherd, an Iraq veteran who
refused to redeploy to Iraq and is seeking political asylum in Germany.
Dave Blalock, a Vietnam-era GI organizer who lives in Heidelberg,
Germany, said “This is the beginning of resistance.”
GI coffeehouses were a mainstay of GI resistance in the Vietnam era,
providing safe, alternative spaces for soldiers to socialize, learn
about their rights in the military, receive counseling, engage one
another in political discussions, and organize themselves to resist
illegal wars and occupations. The coffeehouse movement grew throughout
the 60's and 70's. Today’s veterans have revived the coffeehouse
tradition in order to build community and resistance. There are two
successful GI coffeehouses in the U.S., Coffee Strong just outside the
gates of Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington State, and Under the Hood
at Fort Hood, Texas.
You can find out more about
The Clearing Barrel on their Facebook page, GI Café Germany, and on
www.GICafeGermany.com. Donations are still very
much needed, so it’s not too late to contribute to this important new
resource for our GIs in Germany