Scott Olsen

My name is Scott Olsen, and I was born in Wisconsin on July 9, 1987. I grew up in Onalaska, Wisconsin near the Mississippi River, and enjoyed playing hockey, making music on occasion, and learning about computers. During high school, I started working at Lindy's Subs and Salads. They are wonderful people who make delicious sandwiches, stop by if you find yourself in Onalaska or La Crosse.

In 2005, a month after I graduated high school and two days after my eighteenth birthday, I found myself standing on the famous yellow footprints at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. After boot camp, I was "trained" as a data network technician at the Marine Corps Communications and Electronics School at Twentynine Palms. I didn't learn much during that class that I didn't already know. When I graduated MOS school, I got orders to Third Battalion, Fourth Marines, an infantry battalion in Twentynine Palms. I was the only one in my class lucky enough to get stationed in 29 stumps, and I knew right away that I would be going to Iraq soon.

My time at 3/4 seemed to be what I expected the Marine Corps would be like: loud NCO's, long humps with a heavy pack, weapons training, hard PT, long work days. Also cleaning. One of my main jobs stateside as a computer network technician was embarking on wild goose hunts for computer serial numbers, which I was sure I had probably gathered no more than two weeks ago. In August 2006, we were ready to deploy to Al Qa'im Iraq.

I began to question our mission and role while I was in Al Qa'im. Through conversations with other Marines, and with some Iraqis, through witnessing some of our actions and inactions, through putting my life on the line and seeing my brothers lose their lives that they had put on the line - for what? Where are these liberated Iraqis? Where is their democracy and right to self-determination? What have we done? And what are we still doing here? In fact, we stayed there longer than expected, being extended for a couple months to stay for Bush's surge.

My second time over was less dangerous, but just as weird in my mind. We were in the process of turning the country over to the Iraqis, Marine units were leaving, which meant we were spread thin. This deployment started for me with about a month in the city of Hit, then most of the battalion, including myself went north to Haditha. The office I was to work out of was on the top floor inside Haditha Dam. Our Kilo Company actually did have a mission this time - it was to support the opening of the K3 Oil Refinery outside of Haqlaniyah.

After I got out of the Marine Corps in 2009, I thought I could simply get on with my life and be unaffected by my experiences in the Marine Corps. I moved to Moline Illinois and worked as a systems administrator for a company called Country Stone, which turned out to be run by crooks. While I was working there in 2010, I went to a couple of events in Chicago hosted by their local IVAW chapter. It felt good to know that I wasn't the only Iraq vet who felt betrayed, ripped off, or used. I was also interested when fourteen Wisconsin senators left the state in protest of Scott Walker's so-called Budget Repair Bill. I could not sit idly by with a huge collective action taking place in my home state, knowing my sister, a public school teacher, could be negatively impacted by such measures in the bill. I went to Madison for three weekends in a row, sleeping under a bust of "Fighting" Bob La Follette, and returning home for my job during the week.

A few short months after the Wisconsin protests, I got a job offer with a software company in San Francisco, bringing me to the ideal location for IT workers. Hearing about Occupy Wall Street excited me; I saw it as a continuation of the type of collective action that I had witnessed and participated in Madison. Occupy San Francisco's first meetup, September 17, 2011, was just a mile or so from where I was working, so I checked it out when I had the chance. IVAW was doing outreach at Fleet Week, so many of us started sleeping with Occupy SF in front of the Federal Reserve building. I kept sleeping there after Fleet Week. I was energized by the atmosphere, it was what I thought our country needed, and it was preferable to walk a mile to work in the morning, as opposed to driving for 40+ minutes.

On October 25, 2011, OPD raided and cleared Oscar Grant Plaza where Occupy Oakland had set up. After I left work that day, I heard about this and their call for support. I went there, joined the demonstration, standing alongside another veteran in uniform. We wanted to show that Occupy's goals were patriotic, and their freedom to speak and assemble are the freedoms we thought we were protecting while in the military. I wasn't there for long before the police started using weapons against us. I was shot in the head by an Oakland Police officer with a drag-stabilized bean bag round (40g of lead pellets inside a sock fired out of a shotgun). When I was on the ground, demonstrators rushed to my aid and requested medical assistance from the police. Instead of medical assistance, we got a flashbang thrown at us by Officer Robert Roche. I was eventually extracted and brought to Highland Hospital.

My injuries were extensive: 2-inch skull fracture in several pieces, brain hemmoraging, broken bones in my neck and face, traumatic brain injury, aphasia (inability to speak). I was put into a coma to stop a siezure that happened to me while I was in a CT scan machine. I underwent neurosugery to sanitize my brain material and reconstruct my skull. I was in the hospital for two and a half weeks, relearning how to talk, and recovering from effects not far from those of a stroke. In December 2012, I filed a lawsuit against the City of Oakland, the Oakland Police Department, Robert Roche, and 50 Does.

I've recovered much from my injuries, but not completely. I still have noticable trouble speaking, and deal with the effects of TBI. I do not let this stop me from doing what is important, fighting for justice, and creating a healthy community. I have been invited to be a panelist at the Conference on World Affairs, as a keynote speaker at an Armistice Day dinner in Seattle. In addition to many other actions I have participated in, I threw some of my military medals at the NoNATO protests in Chicago, did a sit-in in support of Bradley Manning at Obama's campaign office in Oakland, and shut down Oakland's port, twice.

I now live in Oakland, spending a lot of time organizing with IVAW, stopping our current wars and preventing future ones. My friend Keith and I have launched the Veterans Tech Collective, with the goal of training unskilled or houseless veterans in IT work so that they can earn a living if they so choose.