My name is Senior Airman, e-4 Heather Linebaugh. I joined the United States Air Force on January 6th 2009, under the impression I was going to be an Imagery Analyst. I was told by my recruiter I had a "badass job option" because I tested well on the ASVAB".
From then until 2012 I served as a Geo-spatial Intelligence Analyst for the drone program at Beale Air Force Base, California, where I witnessed daily the horrors that were released to the world by Bradley Manning. I experienced the lack of humanity of the Occupation first hand. I witnessed the disregard for human life, the dehumanizing of the culture of Afghans and Iraqi's, the moral confusion of a war where the poor fight the poor and their leaders give orders for bombings and killings with little-to-no justification. With no say in the matter, the enlisted are forced to carry out these orders, lest they be punished.
I have nightmares to this day of women I have seen killed, children I have seen lost in vain, fathers who will never return to their families, and soldiers who will never say goodbye to their families. These lives have been lost, these souls destroyed for a war that has been fought in vain and a war that's purpose has been kept shrouded in mystery. The United States government, your government, my government have tried to keep this out of our faces, out of our lives, and out of our hands.
Bradley Manning was the voice for these people, killed with no names, gunned down in a war they take no part of and that they share no blame for. Bradley Manning was my voice when I was forced to stay silent due to ambiguous threats of treason, dereliction of duty, and jail if I spoke out in any way against the violence and needless killing that took place every day. I would think many days about how Bradley Manning was called a traitor and an evil human being, but he is not. Bradley Manning is a hero, for revealing to a sleeping nation and to an entire world that had been kept in the dark by their governments to many of the horrors of war and its true cost. He caused an awakening, and provided a well-needed fuel for the anger of a people who discovered they had been lied to at the cost of thousands of lives.
Every single civilian lost in the war, every single soldier lost in this war, every single human being still participating in this world war, is Bradley Manning. He is not forgotten, no matter what our Government tries to do to silence him, and we will not forget his strength and his bravery to reveal the truth. This is a truth that so many United States troops wish they could tell.
From a fellow Intelligence troop, Bradley Manning is a hero - he will never be a traitor - and I am honored to stand in solidarity with him today and for as long as this fight continues.