Despite the recent “end” of the Iraq war, those of us at Under the Hood Cafe & Outreach Center know that the impact of ten years of war continues on the home front and is far from over. We are still
engaged in a ground war in Afghanistan despite the slow draw down of forces, and recently over 4,000 Ft. Hood soldiers shifted from Iraq to Kuwait. Deployments are not over.
By January, more than 8,000 soldiers will return to Ft. Hood. They are returning to a base with services already overwhelmed, and they will face many obstacles in accessing trauma care and overcoming the stigma that still surrounds trauma.
An active duty service member commits suicide every 36 hours. 18 veterans commit suicide every day. Every day at Under the Hood we continue to work to break the isolation that service members and
military family members experience by offering a space to relax, gather and speak freely about the wars and military life with their peers and to work together for change.
Under the Hood Cafe and Outreach Center is run almost entirely on the unpaid labor of our volunteers which consist primarily of veterans, active duty soldiers and military family members. We have only one paid staff person.
“I want my feelings to get out and be heard. And that is what Under the Hood is doing for me. We are getting stuff done, and we have got the potential to do so much more… Im feeling like I am accomplishing what I have been wanting to do ever since I came back from Iraq. I saw all kinds of nonsense in Iraq. I want to speak out. I guess you could call it the focal point, the head, this is
where all the energy is focused and we are accomplishing things. I feel like I am just reaching so many more people.”
- Curtis Sirmans
, Ft Hood soldier and Under the Hood volunteer
Here are some highlights of what Under the
Hood Cafe and Outreach Center has accomplished in the last six
***We have had a 200% increase in visitors to the Under the Hood since July of this year.
***We renovated Under the Hood, painting the interior and building a coffee bar, a
designated childcare space, an art-making room and a stage area for hosting community events.
***We partnered with Iraq Veterans Against the War’s Operation Recovery, a campaign to defend service members and veterans right to heal and to stop the practice of deploying traumatized troops
experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). In May we helped launch an outreach drive and have talked with over 350 active duty soldiers about their experience with these issues.
***On Veterans Day, we partnered with the Ft. Hood chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War to
participate in the Killeen Veterans’ Day parade
to raise awareness of the issues that Ft. Hood
soldiers face in accessing trauma care. We distributed over 400 leaflets to parade attendees about
Operation Recovery and Under the Hood and received very favorable media coverage
by a local television station. We are helping to shape the conversation about these issues by highlighting the direct experience of those who are most impacted and by demanding the changes that they identify as needed at Ft. Hood.
***We held monthly woman’s nights and will increase our women’s programming in the new year to address the unique needs of women service and family members.
***We host weekly community organizing meetings.
***We expanded our referral capacity to an extended network of mental health providers.
***We developed a volunteer program and now have over 15 regular volunteers on the ground.
***We developed an arts based program to open a healing space, creating dialogue in the community that extends beyond the confines of words. Yo(ur) Art Show
, Combat Paper Project
and Warrior Writers Ft. Hood Community Arts Forum have been transformational experiences for us here.
***We offer in-house individual GI rights counseling in partnership with the San Diego Military Counseling Project, a member group of the GI Rights Hotline.
***We host weekly “Ribs and Rights”, a free BBQ and peer training on service members’ rights. In the spirit of peer support and empowerment, veterans, active duty soldiers and family members research and teach each other about service members’ rights and how to navigate through issues they face at Ft. Hood. An average of 10 participants come weekly but we know that the impact of these trainings
reaches far more people as participants are armed with knowledge that they can share with fellow soldiers back on base.
“The issues that Under the Hood addresses dont go away, regardless of the end of the Iraq war. I think in the next couple of months…couple of years, there is going to be a lot of soldiers in this area that will find themselves pretty confused, pretty lost with what’s going on and maybe this place can help with that.
Under the Hood allows people of all different backgrounds, whether they are prior service, active duty, family member, or just a community member, it allows them an outlet to express themselves or plug into something that they might not be able to find in other parts of thiscommunity.”
–Chris May, Ft. Hood soldier and Under the Hood volunteer
Thank you to all who made it possible for us to expand our programs to continue meet the needs of the community in the Ft. Hood area.
We depend primarily on individual donors to fund our work. In order to continue to be able to provide these vital programs we urge you to become a sustaining donor
to Under the Hood Cafe and Outreach Center today.
Under the Hood staff and volunteers,
Lori, Kyle, Chris, Curtis, Amy, Sean, Alice, Heidi, Fran, Jim, Cindy and Naomi
The Fort Hood Support Network (FHSN) operates Under the Hood Cafe and Outreach Center, FHSN is a Texas non-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.