July 19, 2011
This evening the Austin AFL-CIO Council [Central Labor Council] was privileged to have members of the Fort Hood Operation Recovery team as guests and presenters. Visitors to the CLC meeting were Aaron Hughes, Scott Kimball, and Sergio Kochergin of Iraq Veterans Against the War; Lori Hurlebaus of the Civilian Soldier Alliance; Alice Embree of the Fort Hood Support Network (who is also a member of the Texas State Employees Union).
Aaron spoke of the need for solidarity among soldiers, veterans, and workers. Soldiers are workers–they are public employees; and our unions have many veterans as members. Many soldiers come from union families and go back to unions when discharged. But the unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 21% (12% more than the national average). The rate is even higher among African-American and female veterans–about 30%.
Many soldiers suffer from war trauma and nonetheless are redeployed. Suicide rates among active-duty troops are twice as high as that of the civilian population, and veterans with PTSD are 6 times more likely to attempt suicide. 20% to 50% of all service members deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One in 3 women in the military are sexually assaulted. 1 in 3 soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq say they can’t see a mental health professional when they need to, and nearly 20% of service members are taking some kind of psychiatric drug.
Aaron pointed out the huge expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This money is needed at home–and we owe veterans the benefits and health treatment they need.
Most of the CLC delegates signed the pledge of support for Operation Recovery that our visitors passed around. It states: “I pledge to support the Operation Recovery campaign to the best of my ability. In a war where soldiers are being injured faster than the military can treat them, I will work alongside veterans and service members to end the cycles of trauma and abuse.” The pledge sheet further explains: “Join Iraq Veterans Against the War and Civilian Soldier Alliance in our effort to stop the deployment of troops suffering from Military Sexual Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, and PTSD. By signing our pledge, you agree to do what you can to help defend the rights of soldiers to heal and to hold accountable those who are responsible for deploying traumatized troops. As the Operation Recovery campaign unfolds, we will be calling on you to help in a variety of ways.”
There was discussion from the CLC delegates, several of whom are veterans. A Teamster rep described their program to get members back into jobs when they get home from the military. A member of AFSCME indicated she has personal experience with veterans’ mental health problems and wants to get a group she works with in touch with Operation Recovery. There was also interest among the delegates in U.S. Labor Against the War–USLAW brochures were available as well as Operation Recovery literature.
For more TxLAW stories on Fort Hood Operation Recovery, see http://txlaboragainstwar.org/2011/07/08/killeen-ivaw-its-audacious-and-a-little-crazy-what-were-doing-at-ft-hood/, http://txlaboragainstwar.org/2011/05/27/killeen-ivaw-operation-recovery-action-at-ft-hood/, and http://txlaboragainstwar.org/2011/07/17/killeen-under-the-hood-update-july-2011/
For LOTS of information about Operation Recovery, to sign the pledge, and to donate, see http://www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery
Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/operationrecovery
For more on the Civilian-Soldier Alliance, go to http://www.civsol.org/
–Leslie Cunningham, July 21, 2011