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A welcome home celebration/legal aid fundraiser is being held for Agustin Aguayo this Friday, July 27th, at 7:00PM. I'll give the event details, but first let me tell you a little bit about Agustin:

Agustin Aguayo served a one-year tour in 2004 as a medic for the United States Army in Tikrit, Iraq. En route to his place of deployment, he was told by his superiors in the Army that serving as a medic in Iraq would make him a better person, that he would be doing a good thing for his fellow man. But after his arrival in Tikrit, he quickly learned from the soldiers that had been stationed in Iraq for some time prior, that what he had been told in training was nothing like the Tikrit reality that he would have to face.

In Tikrit, "first, do no harm," the motto of the healing professions, does not apply. Aguayo was told from the more-seasoned soldiers that he must forget the Geneva Conventions -- his status as a medic did not exempt him from combat with weapons in Iraq. He was blatantly told to shoot at anything that moved, to ignore the firing protocol described in the Army literature, and to be sure to actually kill whomever he was shooting at because there were not enough readily available medical supplies or personnel to treat both wounded American soldiers and injured Iraqis.

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Prior to leaving for Tikrit in 2004, Aguayo filed for discharge as a Conscientious Objector (a CO) but his request was denied. In 2006 Aguayo's unit was again scheduled for another deployment to Iraq. After his repeated requests to be recognized as a CO were denied, Aguayo went absent without leave (AWOL).

The day after his unit was deployed, Aguayo turned himself in, prepared to face a court martial. Instead, he was told that he would be going to Iraq even if the Army had to shackle him and drag him to a plane. Aguayo chose to flee to Los Angeles, to his home, and eventually was court martialed and sentenced to eight months in a military prison in Germany as well as the loss of his military pay.

Aguayo was released from prison on April 18th, but has yet to be granted Army discharge as a CO. Right now, he has two felonies on his record -- one for missing movement (not getting on the plane to Iraq) and another for desertion.

He is now back home in Los Angeles and is fighting a legal battle to appeal the felonies and be granted his discharge as a CO, which means that he can't have just any old welcome home party. Aguayo's welcome home party has got to be a fundraiser, because paying lawyers to get back your freedom from the Army takes money, and I'm guessing that since a court martial has ceased Aguayo's military pay, that his legal defense fund needs some plumping.

So here are those event details that I promised:
Agustin Aguayo's Welcome Home Celebration and Legal Aid Fundraiser
This Friday, July 27th, at 7:00PM
3303 Wilshire Blvd., 2nd Floor, near Berendo St., just west of Vermont Ave and the Vermont/Wilshire Red Line Metro station.

Agustin Aguayo, Radio Station KPFK 90.7 FM, Helga Aguayo, Agustin's spouse, other veterans, and Fernando Suarez del Sol of the Guerrero Azteca Project will all be speaking there.
Admission to the event is a mere $10 donation. And come hungry because $2 fundraiser tamales will be for sale.

I first heard Agustin Aguayo on a KPFK 90.7 FM show called Middle East in Focus at 8:00 on July 25th. He is genuine and eloquent in his soft-spoken simplicity. You can listen to that very same broadcast here:

Photo by Rigmarole via Flickr.