This is Garrett Rappenhagen. Father, conservationist, Iraq veteran against the war. We meet Garrett at Standing Rock, protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in November of 2016.
My father joined the service during the Vietnam War. I dropped out of high school after my father died of Agent Orange related cancer, and ended up working small minimum wage jobs, bouncing around a lot until I decided myself to join the military, one month before September 11th.
It was an economic draft, for a term. I was getting in trouble with law enforcement and I realized that I didn't have a lot of opportunities for college. I thought that through serving in the military I’d get that opportunity. We don't need an actual draft because so many people are in poor and desperate situations. Many of us were undereducated and come from areas where we're struggling, where we need the benefits, we need the handouts.
The Iraq war hadn't started yet. I got deployed to Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission. And after that I went to a sniper school. And coming out of sniper school we got orders right away to go to Iraq. I was stationed in Baquba.
My primary role when I was stationed in Iraq was was being a sniper. I did over a hundred eighty sniper missions, mostly counter IED and counter mortar- trying to stop people from planting roadside bombs and launching mortars and rockets onto our base.
Looking at the conduct and consequences of that war, it just finally forced me to do something about it. I started resisting in little ways that I could. I started an anti-war blog with some friends called Fight To Survive. I started just, you know, kind of speaking out truth to power right away without even understanding what those were.
When people say that I should shut up and sit down and be a good American, I don't think that is being a good American. I think standing up and fighting for what you believe in, the values that you believe in, is the most critical thing.
Our addiction to fossil fuels in America and in all the West is is so predominant that we expend an insane amount of military assets to protect the drilling, the supply, and the trade and pathways for fossil fuels. And here we are again, in another brutal occupation that's not in Iraq or the Middle East but in our own country against our own citizens, people who've lived here generations before white people arrived, fighting against the same mechanisms, the same corporations, the same government agencies to try to stop this environmental colonialism.
There's a direct relation to my fight in Iraq for oil and these people’s fight here at Standing Rock against oil. This is something that's not just affecting natives that live here but this affects all of us. And it's going to reach everywhere in the world, and it's going to target poor communities in every country. We feel that we're duty bound to come here and stop it.
As a veteran that swore an oath to this country, to serve this country, to protect our communities from enemies foreign and domestic and to put my life on the line, and put that sacrifice and skin in the game to make this country better, it hurts. To see people who've made similar oaths in law enforcement and in the military refuse to put their own selves in danger for the betterment of this country, to use over militarized weapons against unarmed protesters and civilians, American citizens, without really any major risks themselves, just seems cruel and it goes against all the values that I learned in the military, it goes against all the values I thought that America stood for.
If we're not successful with this movement against this pipeline, this drilling, these folks are gonna be at the next one and we're going to take those messages and those lessons and we're going to rebuild them. In a new spot, in a more effective way, and we're going to eventually win. We can't not win.
Garrett Rappenhagen, 2016.