Since this post-Armed Farces' Day issue of About Face is going to many people unfamiliar with The United States Servicemen's Fund (USSF), we thought we might take the opportunity to introduce ourselves.
The United States Servicemen's Fund (USSF) has grown because the GI movement has grown- and as a response to the determination of GI's themselves.
In 1968, the first GI coffeehouse and the first 'underground'' GI newspaper began. In two years there were over a dozen such coffeehouses and some fifty papers organized by servicemen and women demanding rights for GI's and an end to the Vietnam war. These projects, and the active duty servicemen and women who risked (and continue to risk) the stockade, orders to Vietnam, courts-martial, and many other forms of harassment to work in them and to distribute GI newspapers, needed an organization to help support their work. That organization was USSF.
USSF is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization entirely supported by voluntary contributions. It receives no financial aid, nor any other assistance from the U.S. government. Quite the contrary. The Internal Revenue Service has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to take away USSF's tax exemption. Senator Eastland's Internal Security Committee has tried to subpoena its files. The Pentagon has prevented USSF-sponsored entertainers, like the FTA Show, from playing on bases, despite the strong desire of she GI's themselves to see such shows; and it has attempted to have coffeehouses supported by USSF placed off limits.
In spite of such federal harassment, the Servicemen's Fund has continued to provide monthly stipends to GI newspapers, coffeehouses, counseling centers, bookstores, and other projects designed to support servicemen and women struggling to retain personal independence and to develop collective strength.
USSF also helps provide civilian legal counsel to GI's persecuted by the military's system of "Justice.'' Military Law Panels in 'a number of locations have been established and partly financed by the efforts of USSF. And in a number of places, USSF helps support attorneys whose practices have been entirely absorbed by the needs of GI's.
Just as the first GI coffeehouse, named the UFO, was partly an answer to the outmoded, run down and often pro-war services available to GIs, so USSF has helped provide speakers and entertainers responsive to the mood and culture of today's young people in the military, USS F has sponsored appearances by Pete Seeger, Country Joe McDonald, Barbara Dane, and Mable HiIlary, among others; by theatre groups like the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the FTA show; and by speakers like Dr. Howard Levy, former Lt, Susan SchnalI, George Smith, Fred Branfman, and others.
In many respects, the day to day, week by week support work done by USSF is unspectacular. It is lots easier to explain to people why activities like the Ad Hoc Military Build-up Committee, direct actions like those of the men on the Nitre, events like those of Armed Farces Day need to be financially supported. But in fact none of these would have occurred without the GI movement. And that movement needs to be sustained not just on May 20, but on June 20, July 20, August 20, when the memories of the big events decline but the urgency of the GI resistance continues and builds.
We therefore hope that those of you receiving About Face for the first time will choose to become regular contributors to USSF, to receive the monthly newsletter About Face and, where it's possible, to begin relating directly to the projects and papers (listed elsewhere in this issue) which constitute the backbone of the GI movement.
About Face! The U.S. Servicemen's Fund Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 4