FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 11, 2019
Rev. Jackson to Reunite with Rescued American Soldiers Held Captive in Bloody Balkans
In commemoration of the 20th anniversary of his successful mission of mercy to rescue a trio of young American prisoners of war held captive by Yugoslavian forces, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. will reunite with two of the three former soldiers during the weekly Rainbow PUSH Coalition international broadcast and community forum
Saturday, July 13, 2019
10 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Rainbow PUSH Coalition National Headquarters
930 E. 50th Street
“It was one of the great moments of my life and career, accepting the challenge to go to the Balkans to seek the release of these three young men,” Rev. Jackson said.
As NATO bombs rained down around him in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, where the Americans were held in the bloody spring of 1999, Rev. Jackson negotiated the release of the captured soldiers - Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone and Specialist Steven Gonzales.
On Saturday, Rev. Jackson will hold a joyous 20-year reunion with Stone and Ramirez. Due to his work schedule, Gonzales will not be able to attend the celebration of freedom.
All three men, joined by their children and wives, appeared in a video sent to Rev. Jackson, and broadcast during the recently completed Rainbow PUSH Coalition Annual International Convention, thanking him.
In the last 36 years, Rev. Jackson has rescued hundreds of Americans and foreign nationals held captive in Syria, Cuba, Iraq and The Gambia, West Africa.
But perhaps his most dangerous mission of citizen diplomacy occurred 20 years ago in the war-torn Balkans. U.S. officials urged Rev. Jackson and his ecumenical delegation, which included Rev. James Meeks, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell of the National Council of Churches and then Illinois Congressmen Rod Blagojevich, not to make the perilous trip.
The White House warned them that the military campaign against the forces of Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic would not be put on hold. The bombs would continue to fall.
“Peace is worth the risk,” Rev. Jackson told a news conference in Washington before boarding a plane for the Balkans and the bombs.
After days of tough negotiations with the Yugoslavian president and the almost constant wail of air raid sirens, Rev. Jackson won freedom for the young Americans.
The soldiers first visited the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters shortly after returning home to the United States 20 years ago. Rev. Jackson took them to Wrigley Field for a Cubs game.
This Saturday, he will take them back to the Friendly Confines for another game.
“My fellow former POWs are thriving in their lives,” Stone wrote to Rev. Jackson in the spring, a few weeks before his graduation from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. “…Reverend, we are all blessed to have the lives we have today thanks in large part to you and the delegation you led. We will forever be inspired by your courage and commitment to achieve the impossible. What you did for us pales in comparison to the countless lives you have affected for the better.”
Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization that was formed in December 1996 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. through merging of two organizations he founded Operation PUSH People United to Serve Humanity (estab. 1971) and the Rainbow Coalition (estab. 1984). With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, the organization works to make the American Dream a reality for all citizens while advocating for peace and justice around the world. RPC is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Its mission is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields while promoting peace and justice around the world.