Tag Archives: Teresa Panepinto

In Memory of Teresa Panepinto

This entry is part of On Watch 28.2 Summer 2017

By Jane Kaplan, Steve Morse and Kathleen Gilberd

We remember Teresa as a passionate advocate for social justice, generous with her expertise and friendship, and a sweet, but uncompromising, fighter for justice.  

Teresa grew up in Altamont, New York, with her social worker parents and two brothers. She graduated from Willamette University in Oregon. After college she joined Peace Brigades International (PBI) to support the human rights of workers, indigenous activists, and others. With PBI, she worked in Colombia putting her life very literally on the line to provide non-violent accompaniment for Colombian activists during a period when that country had one of the highest rates of targeted killings in the world.  She described that experience as teaching her to be a better advocate.

From 2000 to 2004 Teresa worked in Oakland as the GI Rights Program Coordinator for the now-closed Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO). The events of September 11, 2001, brought an influx of people seeking to do GI rights counseling. She trained numerous volunteers in the Bay Area and around the country in non-directive military counseling, assisting servicemembers with discharges, grievances, and dissent. Her work served to set up counseling groups in a number of cities, some of which continue today. Teresa mentored and built personal connections with all these counselors, providing support and assistance as they handled complex military law cases. Counselors who trained with her speak of her as a strong advocate and a dedicated teacher, who brought life to dry legal issues and worked with real compassion for her clients. She delved deeply into the details of military regulations and law; for example, she provided extensive legal assistance to Camilo Mejia, the first post-9/11 US soldier to publicly resist after having been in combat.

Teresa was key in building GI counseling as a movement, that developed in parallel with the growing anti-war movement following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and in parallel with the growing number of soldiers seeking legal help, many of whom were traumatized by war, opposing the war and/or going AWOL as they faced multiple deployments. Teresa’s work helped lead the way to the formation of the national GI Rights Network, (www.girightshotline.org) which continues to provide counseling to many servicemembers.