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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Afghanistan & Iraq Vets Call for End to Deployment of Traumatized Troops

October 6, 2010 posted by Robert L. Hanafin


Veterans Today has already published several articles about the likelihood that military commanders in dire need of warriors in combat are sending wounded warriors back into combat and multiple deployments who are not fit.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) in conjunction with other progressive leaning Veterans and Military family groups has been planning Operation Recovery and now IVAW is ready to publicly release details of their campaign.

Robert L. Hanafin, Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired, GS-14, U.S. Civil Service-Retired, Veterans Issues Editor, Veterans Today News Network.
Veterans Today Readers,
On Thursday, October 7, the 9th anniversary of the Afghanistan invasion, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will announce their first-ever strategic campaign, Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops.
IVAW recognizes that we, as a nation, must stop the deployment of all troops in order to end the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, IVAW sees the deployment of troops diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and Military Sexual Trauma as particularly cruel, inhumane, and dangerous.
Furthermore, we know that without the repeated use of traumatized soldiers on the battlefield, the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan could not continue.  This is how we will end these wars, by winning Our Troops – Right to Heal. There is not better way to SUPPORT OUR WOUNDED WARRIORS.
IVAW is reaching out to you, our loyal supporters, and potential supporters, before we make the campaign announcement public.
In building up to the announcement IVAW needs us to help inform others about this issue and get people to pledge their support for the campaign. Sign the Pledge of Support today.
SIGNING THE PLEDGE OF SUPPORT IS A PETITION, IT DOES NOT SOLICIT DONATIONS, HOWEVER IF YOU CAN AFFORD A FEW BUCKS TO HELP SUSTAIN THIS HUMANE EFFORT BY ALL MEANS!
  • Help IVAW tell the story of the announcement of Operation Recovery by spreading the word about this campaign to your friends, co-workers, and family;
  • Write letters-to-the-editor of your local paper about the issues affecting troops who suffer from military trauma;
  • Help identify those responsible for deploying traumatized troops in your local area;

We need you to help make this happen. Make a pledge of support now.

Thank you for your support,
The IVAW Campaign Team

Ethan McCord’s Story: Help inform your community

Ethan McCord seen in the WikiLeak Collateral Murder video

US Army specialist Ethan McCord was one of the first on the scene when a group of suspected insurgents was blown up on a Baghdad street in 2007, hit by 30-mm bursts from an Apache Helicopter. “The top of one guy’s head was completely off,” he recalls. “Another guy was ripped open from groin to neck. A third had lost a leg… Their insides were out and exposed. I’d never seen anything like this before.” Then McCord heard a child crying from a black minivan caught in the barrage. Inside, he found a frightened and wounded girl, perhaps 4. Next to her was a boy of 7 or so, soaked in blood. Their father, McCord says, “was slumped over on his side, like he was trying to protect the children, but he was just destroyed. McCord couldn’t look away from the kids. “I started seeing images of my own two children back home in Kansas.”
Mark Thompson, Invisible Wounds: Mental Health and the MilitaryTIME Magazine 2010.
After this tragic incident Ethan sought out help and was denied. Mr. Thompson continues, That night, he told his staff sergeant he needed help. “Get the sand out of your vagina,” McCord says his sergeant responded. “He told me I was being a homo and needed to suck it up.” This was a violation of Ethan’s Right to Heal: a right that he and other IVAW members are fighting for. October 7th Ethan will be bring his testimony to DC along with other Veterans and GIs to announce Operation Recovery: A Campaign to Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops.

Help us inform others about this issue

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are continuing through the use of exhausted troops who have been on multiple tours of duty and suffer deeply from the trauma of war.  It is cruel and inhumane to deploy soldiers who are medically unfit for combat. In a 2008 TIME article America’s Medicated Army, Mark Thompson writes, Data contained in the Army’s fifth Mental Health Advisory Team report indicated that, according to an anonymous survey of US troops taken last fall, 12% of combat troops in Iraq and 17% of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. By winning our Right to Heal we will be withdrawing this 12 to 17 percent from the fighting force, crippling the military’s ability to continue the occupations.
Veterans Today Editorial Comment: Minus THE DRAFT of course. If the Pentagon cannot rely on continued exploitation of the Guard and Reserves to sustain that 12 to 17 percent, it could potentially force the Generals and Admirals left from the Bush administration to pressure the Obama administration and Congress to initiate Selective Service to make up for those 12 to 17 percent of Wounded Warriors. Once American citizens are asked to make a no shit commitment in blood and tears to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, once WE THE PEOPLE are asked to put skin in the game, the game is OVER!
Join the IVAW campaign now by making a Pledge of Support.

Help spread the word

If you have already made a pledge, please spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues who may want to join you in pledging to support this campaign. Spread the word about the campaign.
Iraq Veterans Against the War is a 501(c)(3) charity,
and welcomes your tax deductible contributions
Related Stories added by Veterans Today:
When Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek took over the Warrior Transition Units over two years ago, he said that up to half of the soldiers enrolled in Wounded Warrior Transition Units in 2008 “don’t have injuries serious enough to be there.”
According to interviews and data provided to the AP, the number of patients admitted to the 36 Warrior Transition Units and nine other community-based units jumped from about 5,000 in June 2007, when they began, to a peak of nearly 12,500 in June 2008.
General Cheek an Artillery Officer by MOS, NOT a Medical Doctor, was brought in during the Bush administration to review and tighten up screening of war fighters to cut down the percentage of troops who didn’t need to be in WTUs.
Just 12 percent of the soldiers in the units had battlefield injuries while thousands of others had minor problems that did not require the complex new network of case managers, nurses and doctors, according to Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, the director of the Army’s warrior care office.
The overcrowding was a “self-inflicted wound,” said Cheek, who also is an assistant surgeon general (despite not being an MD). “We’re dedicating this kind of oversight and management where, truthfully, only half of those soldiers really needed this.”
We understand General Cheek has moved on in his career and no longer with the WTUs.
The Army set up 35 warrior transition units in 2007 in the wake of a controversy about the quality of care for wounded soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. At the time, Army officials and others voiced concern that the exodus of skilled personnel and the rising workload at the facility were putting patients at risk. Warrior transition units were designed to provide managed care for soldiers as they recovered from their injuries and awaited processing to determine whether they would stay in the Army or be discharged. Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that he had concerns about the panoply of prescription painkillers prescribed to wounded soldiers and the possibility of overmedication. Schoomaker and Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, assistant surgeon general for warrior care and transition, did not answer reporters’ questions about addiction to prescribed or illegal drugs. But Schoomaker acknowledged he had concerns about recreational use of prescription drugs.
Created in the wake of the scandal in 2007 over serious shortcomings at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Warrior Transition Units were intended to be sheltering way stations where injured soldiers could recuperate and return to duty or gently process out of the Army. There are currently about 7,200 soldiers at 32 transition units across the Army, with about 465 soldiers at Fort Carson’s unit.
But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson’s unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse.
Soldiers interviewed by The Times described waiting for months to be medically processed out of the Army. Others told of being treated with prescription drugs in lieu of therapy, and described drug addiction in the unit, including heroin abuse. Some said noncommissioned officers dealt with troubled soldiers too harshly.
Army officials have since defended the Warrior Transition program, pointing out that more than 80 percent of soldiers who pass through the units have reported being satisfied with their care. That number is even higher at Fort Carson, Army officials noted, and some soldiers at Monday’s news conference spoke positively about their experience there.
Veterans Today Editorial Comment:
Given this backdrop of controversy since the Walter Reed fiasco, WE at Veterans Today that Our Troops Right to Heal continues to be violated in lieu of the pressure by field commanders for bodies, especially with combat experience. We further believe that enough troops have fallen through the cracks at warrior transition units to warrant Operation Recovery. When the Army places a career Artillery Officer into a Surgeon General’s billet (job) that may be only the tip of the iceberg. (wink)

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