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Home News Organizing Updates Valerie Fillenwarth
Valerie Fillenwarth PDF Print E-mail

Ed and I have been married for 42 years. We have seven children, five of whom are married, and their spouses we love as our own. We have seventeen grandchildren.

I am a member of Witness for Peace and was part of the 2003 delegation to Mexico to study the effects of NAFTA on the Mexican people, Pax Christi USA, the 1000 Grandmothers Group, and St. Lawrence Parish. Every week I volunteer at Miracle Place, a neighborhood outreach house, where I help the kids with their homework and provide healthy snacks after school. I've been participating in the SOAW vigils since 1998.

I want our grandchildren to know that we can love our country enough to speak out and act when something is so wrong. They can already see that such speaking and acting is done at our personal risk.

Trying to comprehend Jesus' great love for the poor and living it out as well as we can involves similar risk. So, our next lesson is to accept the consequences of our speaking and acting with grace and happy hearts, because - successful or not - we're not just standing by!

On Monday, January 29 - 2007, Valerie Fillenwarth was sentenced to 3 months and 10 days in federal prison, she reported to Danbury Correctional Center on April 17, 2007. She was released on July 24, 2007

Valerie's Statement:

Your Honor, Judge Faircloth, it's been said that dissent is the highest form of patriotism. I want our grandchildren to know that we can love our country enough to speak out when something is so wrong. Thank you for this opportunity to do so.

I?m here with the support of my husband of 42 years, Ed, and our family. We have seven children. Five are married and their spouses are as dear to us as our own kids. We have 17 wonderful grandchildren.

I've been participating in the annual vigils here since 1998. Hearing the names of the victims who were children has always made me cry.

In the village of El Mozote alone, 382 children were killed. Three hundred eighty-two children! Ten of the twelve soldiers who shot them were trained here at the SOA. The shell casings from their M 16's found at the site were made in Lake City, Missouri. Who was punished for this? Who even apologized? What reparation was ever made?

A year ago, our grandson Ben died in a car accident. He was 17. Our family will never be the same again. Your Honor, Ed and I cannot do what grandparents are supposed to do. There's nothing we can do to fix it. But - no one was trained to cause such sadness. Ben?s death was an accident.

The thousands of deaths in Latin America caused by the training at the SOA/WHINSEC* are NO accident, and those families will also never be the same. It is for those families that I went through that fence.

Again, we cannot heal their pain. But, we can STOP this! We can change our country's policy that supports corporate greed and relies on the military personnel of Latin America to enable that greed.

At least 494 graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC are labeled "notorious" *because of the atrocities they have committed against people in their own countries. Most of the soldiers here now are from Colombia, the country terrorized with the worst human rights abuses in our hemisphere.

We are told the school is different since the name was changed in 2001. Also in effect since 2001, the Leahy Law forbids US funds to be used to train anyone from a foreign country who has "committed gross violations of human rights". The Secretary of Defense and the State Department must verify the good character of each potential student. But, the Secretary of Defense also runs WHINSEC!

In 1992, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights named for prosecution El Salvador's Colonel Del Cid Diaz for commanding a unit that beat up and shot 16 members of an indigenous community and threw their bodies in the river. Del Cid Diaz was a student at the SOA in 1991 and 1998, and he was back at WHINSEC in 2003. This is a clear violation of the Leahy Law.

We are told that WHINSEC is has no secrets; it?s an open book. Our taxes pay for this training. We should know who is being trained. But last year, WHINSEC refused to disclose the names and countries of its students - in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

I want our country?s policy to be based on respect for every person in Latin America. Let's admit that we can learn as much from them as they can learn from us.

Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical, "On the Progress of Peoples", "It is a question of building a world where every person, no matter what his race, religion, or nationality, can live a fully human life. At stake is the survival of so many innocent children and, for so many families overcome by misery, the access to conditions fit for human beings."

Your Honor, over the door of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. are the words, "Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

I'm trying to not be a bystander. I hope our grandchildren won't be bystanders. And so, I join my voice to all those crying out for justice.

Thank you.

*School of the Americas / Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation
*Amnesty International

Trial statement of Valerie Fillenwarth, SOA 16, January 29, 2007


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