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Lifting a White House Ban

Gregg Keesling, RecycleForce and Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

Gregg and Amy met at SVN's 2009 Fall Conference, which featured Gregg as an Innovation Award Winner. At the conference, Gregg shared the story of his son Chancellor's suicide, which occurred during his second tour as an Army Spc. in Iraq. Gregg and his wife were still waiting to receive a condolence letter honoring his son's service. According to US policy, presidential condolence letters were not sent to families of soldiers who committed suicide. Gregg was passionate about changing this on behalf of his son, the many service members who had yet to be honored, and their families.

Gregg says, “It was the warmth and welcoming nature of everyone at SVN that gave me the confidence to tell everyone how my son died and that I wanted President Obama to change the policy. Before I could blink, Amy was there and the story broke.”

Amy initiated Democracy Now’s coverage of Gregg and his struggle for policy change. From October 2009 - August 2010, Democracy Now ran three shows on the issue. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNN quickly followed.

As a result of their efforts to change this longstanding policy, on July 6, 2011, the White House lifted its ban on military suicide condolences. In Gregg’s words, “SVN allowed me the chance to tell Chance’s story and now the President has changed a policy!”

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