Monday, April 28, 2014
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Tami, Hart, Susana, Alejandro and I were glad to have a SOY table today at Crockett HS. Our stenciled t-shirts went quickly to students who did all four things: named the 5 basic First Amendment freedoms, tried a Peace Pull-up, did the Penny Poll and tried the Peace Wheel of Fortune. Today being Tax Day made the Penny Poll even more pertinent. The "Education" category got the most penny votes by far, followed by "Health Care" and "Environment." Once again, it is clear that if elected officials listened to the voices of students, we would have much different government priorities, with higher education and health care affordable for all.
We were glad to see peace posters designed by the XY Zone, a group for young men sponsored by Communities in Schools, and other student art in a "Peace it Together" display.
|We really liked these posters by the XY Zone|
Thursday, April 3, 2014
This excellent statement was released today by Iraq Veterans Against the War in response to the tragic shootings at Ft. Hood yesterday:
Last night, President Obama stated that he is "heartbroken" about the shooting on Fort Hood Army base in Killeen Texas. We, too, are heartbroken, because this shooting could have been prevented.
The United States military is an institution that teaches us to devalue the lives of others and to devalue ourselves. When combat stress and other injuries are added to that environment, the result is volatile.
Fort Hood's base commander, General Mark Milley, would like us to believe that this incident is about one unique individual and his inability to shoulder the stress of combat. Based on our own experiences and 4 years of extensive research and analysis, we are well aware that there is nothing particularly unique about Ivan Lopez's story. A full report on this research will be released next month on Memorial Day.
When we first went to Killeen in 2010, we met with many soldiers who were suffering from Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from combat and from sexual trauma. Instead of being treated, their commanders overturned their doctors' orders and sent them back to war. In some cases, those who reported these injuries were punished or given bad discharges, which create a permanent barrier to care. It is no wonder that this phenomenon manifests as rage and violence. We cannot allow this to continue - U.S. service members must be provided the right to heal from the invisible wounds of war.
Lopez was already being treated for common symptoms of PTSD - anxiety, depression, and insomnia - and was being evaluated for PTSD. Even after his death, the leadership at Fort Hood is going out of their way to deny any relationship between Ivan Lopez's mental health and his actions. The army claims that PTSD is difficult to diagnose. It would be much more accurate to say that it's difficult for veterans and service members to get a diagnosis from a military or VA doctor.
The U.S. government and the Department of Defense are doing everything they can to avoid paying - whether in dollars or labor - for the invisible injuries they have caused to those they use to fight on their behalf. The number of US service members who suffer from PTSD due to (often concurrent) deployments ranges from 20% - 50% depending on the source. A lifetime of care for that many veterans is incredibly expensive. Affirming high numbers of incidences of PTSD requires acknowledging that trauma is a common and normal response to war, not a unique and individualized affliction that results from personal weakness and failure.
We collected testimony from 31 soldiers during our time at Fort Hood and are confident that these experiences are quite common. One of these soldiers, Rebekah Lampman, testified about attempting to get mental health support and justice after being sexually assaulted near the end of her 7 years at Fort Hood. She stated, "I went and did everything I possibly could to advocate for myself. And I was getting the run-around, people were telling me that they were working on it, and the paperwork was delayed. They just gave me excuses. And in the meantime, they kept reprimanding me for my emotions and my actions and for everything."
As long as soldiers continue to be punished for seeking care, tragedies will continue to occur.
We must demand the right to heal.
We must demand the right to heal.
Joyce, Matt, Maggie, and Julia
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
From yesterday's NY Times opinion page:
The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Contributor
The Things She Carried
By CARA HOFFMAN
THE injury wasn’t new, and neither was the insult. Rebecca, a combat veteran of two tours of duty, had been waiting at the V.A. hospital for close to an hour when the office manager asked if she was there to pick up her husband.
No, she said, fighting back her exasperation. She was there because of a spinal injury she sustained while fighting in Afghanistan.
Women have served in the American military in some capacity for 400 years. They’ve deployed alongside men as soldiers in three wars, and since the 1990s, a significant number of them are training, fighting and returning from combat.
But stories about female veterans are nearly absent from our culture. It’s not that their stories are poorly told. It’s that their stories are simply not told in our literature, film and popular culture.
Women have the same issues as men upon return, from traumatic physical injuries to post-traumatic stress disorder. One young combat veteran told me a harrowing story of crushing a little boy beneath the wheels of her speeding Humvee. I am sure she hears the sound of that vehicle hitting his small body every day of her life.
In addition, as many as a third of all women serving in the military are raped by fellow soldiers during their tours of duty, compounding whatever traumas they may have experienced in combat.
And yet Rebecca’s experience at the V.A. hospital is common. I’ve talked with many women veterans, and like all soldiers, they’ve recounted the firefights, moral confusion and compassion for those whose lives are torn apart by war.
Each had a different experience, and each bore her pains differently. But there was this simple, common thread: their stories of being unrecognized at home, which always carried with it a separate kind of frustration and incredulity.
Male soldiers’ experiences make up the foundation of art and literature: From “The Odyssey” to “The Things They Carried,” the heroic or tragic protagonist’s face is familiar, timeless and, without exception, male. The story of men in combat is taught globally, examined broadly, celebrated and vilified in fiction, exploited by either side of the aisle in politics.
For women it’s a different story, one in which they are more often cast as victims, wives, nurses; anything but soldiers who see battle. In the rare war narratives where women do appear, the focus is generally on military sexual assault, a terrible epidemic of violence that needs to be revealed and ended, but not something that represents the full experience of women in the military.
Homecoming isn’t easy for anyone, but traditional domestic expectations can make it particularly challenging for women.
Feelings of wanting to be alone, of alienation, are more difficult, as women are expected to be patient nurturers who care for spouses and children. Parenting under the best circumstances can test a person’s patience, but parenting after life under fire is more than most of us could take. Studies show women experience elevated anxiety about caring for their families upon homecoming, including an increased fear that they may hurt their own children.
Lack of recognition is also a problem. I’ve stood next to my uniform-wearing brother, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan, in a grocery store while three separate strangers approached to thank him for his service. Women veterans are rarely stopped by people who want to shake their hands. Even wearing fatigues and boots and carrying duffel bags standing in a bus station or at the airport, somehow they go unrecognized as returning warriors.
The sense of emptiness that can follow unacknowledged accomplishments and unacknowledged trauma makes women soldiers feel invisible and adds yet one more insult to injury. Depression, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and suicide do not just affect male soldiers, though theirs are the stories we see. Women who have served in the military are three times more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts.
I can’t help but think women soldiers would be afforded the respect they deserve if their experiences were reflected in literature, film and art, if people could see their struggles, their resilience, their grief represented.
They would be made visible if we could read stories that would allow us to understand that women kill in combat and lose friends and long to see their children and partners at home. They would be given appropriate human compassion if we could feel their experiences viscerally as we do when reading novels like “All Quiet on the Western Front,” or seeing films like “The Hurt Locker.”
Society may come to understand war differently if people could see it through the eyes of women who’ve experienced both giving birth and taking life. People might learn something new about aggression and violence if we read not just about those fighting the enemy but about those who must also fight off assault from the soldiers they serve beside or report to.
Female veterans’ stories clearly have the power to change and enrich our understanding of war. But their unsung epics might also have the power to change our culture, our art, our nation and our lives.Cara Hoffman is the author of the novel “Be Safe I Love You,” about a female veteran.