For Immediate Release
Afghanistan & Iraq Vets Call for End to Deployment of Traumatized Troops
Veterans launch historic campaign on 9-year anniversary of Afghanistan War
WASHINGTON - On October 7th, the 9-year anniversary of the Afghanistan War, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) will launch a national veteran-led campaign to end the military's widespread practice of deploying wounded troops into war zones. Operation Recovery: Stop the Deployment of Traumatized Troops will focus on ending the practice of deploying service members suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
Veterans from both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, including many with personal experience being deployed while wounded, will participate in the campaign launch Thursday. Starting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (9:15am across from 7123 Georgia Ave.) veterans will hold a ceremony for all those wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to be followed by a six-mile march to Capitol Hill. (1:30pm at Russell Senate Office Building, Constitution Ave NE, and Delaware Ave. NE) Veterans will testify about their experiences with redeployment and announce the launch of Operation Recovery. A letter will be read aloud before being delivered to military and government officials demanding an end to the practice of deploying traumatized service members. In the upcoming weeks, IVAW plans to publicly identify and target responsible officials.
"As a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was redeployed into combat while still recovering from an IED explosion," said Zach Choate, an Army veteran who was wounded in Iraq in October of 2006. "It is absolutely unacceptable for the government to keep redeploying wounded and traumatized troops and we will make sure that this egregious practice stops." Choate will be traveling from Georgia to participate in the campaign launch.
The war in Afghanistan is the longest ongoing war in U.S. history, and as it enters its ninth year, the military is exhausted from fighting two ongoing occupations. Many of those being deployed to Afghanistan in President Obama's latest surge have already seen combat multiple times. Sgt. Lance Vogeler was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 1st on his 12th combat tour of the War on Terror. Multiple deployments increase cases of PTSD, which makes veterans six times more likely to commit suicide. (i)
Last year, 239 soldiers killed themselves, and 1,713 soldiers survived suicide attempts,146 soldiers died from high-risk activities, including 74 drug overdoses. (ii) A third of returning troops report mental health problems, and 18.5 percent of all returning service members are battling either PTSD or depression, according to a study by the Rand Corporation. Recently, four decorated combat vets committed suicide in a single week at Ft. Hood, prompting Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to state the issue of soldier suicides is his top priority. (iii) IVAW asserts that those who are deploying troops with mental health issues are responsible for such alarming statistics.
"I was denied treatment for the mental and physical wounds I sustained in battle, like so many others," says Ethan McCord, a veteran whose unit was shown in the "Collateral Murder" video distributed by Wikileaks. "This campaign is critical for soldiers because we are asserting our right to heal. Now, the government has a choice - will it recognize our right to heal, or continue to deny it?"
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Iraq Veterans Against the War intends to fight this battle until policy changes and veterans receive proper care. Operation Recovery supports service members pursuing their right to heal from trauma caused by military service. As the Afghanistan War stretches on and its objectives remain questionable to many, IVAW reflects a growing opposition to the war from within the ranks.
"The Afghanistan War is an abject failure, except to the corporations that profit from it. The trillions spent on these occupations could better be used to lift Americans out of a recession. These policies reflect bipartisan disregard for civilians and service members alike," says Maggie Martin, Iraq War Vet. "The best thing to do is bring the troops home now and start a process of healing our country."
(i) TIME article featuring IVAW member Ethan McCord: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2008886,00.html
(ii) Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention: http://usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/e1/HPRRSP/HP-RR-SPReport2010_v00.pdf
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Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) advocacy group of veterans and active-duty U.S. military personnel who have served since September 11, 2001. IVAW’s Right to Heal Initiative is focused on holding the U.S. government accountable for human right violations of the health of Iraqis, Afghans and U.S. veterans. IVAW currently has over 2,500 members in fifty states, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Afghanistan.