Over the past year, the Board of Directors has worked hard trying to keep Military Families Speak Out running as an all-volunteer organization while facing a number of serious obstacles. After much consideration and in consultation with past and current leaders and allies, we have no choice but to close down the organization. This was a very difficult and emotional decision for all of us, as MFSO has represented a source of strength, support, and comfort to so many families whose loved ones are currently deployed or who carry scars from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Politically, MFSO thrived as an important part of a vibrant anti-war movement during the height of the Iraq War. The organization grew to include opposing the war in Afghanistan, but as the anti-war movement struggled to maintain resources and momentum after the election of Barack Obama, so too did MFSO. With a dedicated staff and active leadership from members, MFSO continued to lobby Congress, share our stories with the media, hold vigils, participate in protests, and build a community of support for military families and Gold Star families who opposed these wars.
With the financial crisis came both a shrinking pool of foundation grant money as well as shifting focus to funding those organizing around jobs, economic inequality, and other issues. In fall of 2011, the war in Iraq officially ended and there were promises to end the war in Afghanistan on a strict timetable. By the summer of 2012, MFSO was no longer receiving enough grant money or individual donations to sustain a staff. There were between 3 and 5 local chapters still operating, and member participation was at an all-time low. The Board decided to lay off all staff and run the organization as volunteers while we evaluated what the future of MFSO could look like now that the war in Afghanistan is winding down.
We heard feedback from a lot of MFSO members. Some thought that the organization, with its focus on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, had run its course. Others wanted to shift the focus of the organization to work on reducing the military budget and redirecting those resources to invest in our communities, opposing other wars, or issues of veteran care and healing. Some wanted to continue to tell our stories in the media and in our communities. In the end, the Board came to the conclusion that although these other issues are vitally important, there are other organizations already doing good work on these matters, and we have neither the resources nor a unified vision to move forward for re-imagining and re-building MFSO.
By the end of 2013, Military Families Speak Out will dissolve as a legal entity. The end of Military Families Speak Out as a legal entity, however, does not mean the end of our relationships to each other, and MFSO chapters are welcome to meet and determine how they want to proceed.
We intend to spend the rest of the year reflecting on our collective work as an organization and preserving the legacy of that work in our MFSO Oral History & Archive Project. We will also be working to ensure that those members who wish to stay in touch will be able to do so, as well as to help connect MFSO members with ally organizations where we can continue to speak out and be active on the issues we care about.
Some Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the MFSO Oral History & Archive Project?
The MFSO Oral History & Archiving Project will record and preserve the story of MFSO: the experiences of the families, allies, and staff that were a part of it and the lessons learned in the only organization in U.S. history in which military families spoke out against a war.
From July through September of 2013, we will collect stories, writings, pictures, and videos from as many current and former MFSO members as possible. We will interview members on their experience with and reflections on MFSO. We will collect physical memorabilia to store at the Swarthmore Peace Collection, an academic archive that chronicles movements for peace and justice. If you are interested in contributing or being interviewed, please contact MFSOArchives@gmail.com or click here for more information.
Are you still selling MFSO merchandise?
YES! We still have a lot of MFSO t-shirts, sweatshirts, buttons, bumper stickers, and more! We are offering these at an extremely discounted price for the next few months, or until they’re all gone. This is your last chance to get MFSO merchandise! Click here to visit our online store.
If you are interested in ordering in bulk (more than 5 of any single item), please e-mail Samantha@mfso.org to make arrangements. All proceeds from the sale of MFSO merchandise will go towards supporting the Oral History & Archive Project, as well as legal and administrative costs associated with dissolving the organization.
What about the MFSO Facebook page, listservs, etc?
The Gold Star Families Speak Out listserv is operated independently by GSFSO members and will continue for as long as they choose.
The MFSO Chapter listserv has long been the place for chapter leaders and active members to share information. This listserv will remain active but will not be moderated. Any MFSO members who would like to stay connected are welcome to join. If you would like to join this listserv, click here.
The MFSO website will transition to the MFSO Oral History & Archive website, displaying the oral histories, blogs, and other material documenting the history of MFSO. All member blogs and organizational statements will be preserved, but there will no longer be the opportunity to take action or donate.
What organizations can we connect to, and how can we contact them?
We will send out a partial list of organizations and contacts. Also, we would really appreciate getting suggestions from you. Please send names of organizations and their contact information to Samantha@mfso.org.