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Iraq vets speak out near Fort Drum

By Eric Ruder | March 23, 2007 | Page 4

FOUR MEMBERS of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) spoke in Watertown, N.Y.--the home to Fort Drum, one of the largest military bases in the U.S.

Fort Drum has nearly as many soldiers stationed there--15,000--as Watertown has residents--26,000. The brigades at Fort Drum are some of the most heavily deployed in the U.S. military. Some soldiers are facing their fifth deployment this summer--having already returned twice each from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Almost four years to the day after the U.S. invasion of Iraq began, a small but engaged audience of 30 listened at Jefferson Community College as IVAW member Adrienne Kinne described her firsthand observations of the inadequate health care the military offers soldiers and veterans.

"It makes me so mad when I hear veteran after veteran telling me they have difficulty getting their services," said Adrienne, whose work brings her in contact with many veterans.

"I saw one soldier who was stationed overseas. He now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because he saw our government do things to people that nobody should ever have to see our government do...He has nightmares every night, he can't sleep, because he saw people being tortured at one of our secret, nonexistent prisons."

Matt Howard also witnessed the horrors unleashed on Iraq's population by the U.S. military. He deployed to Iraq twice, the first time during the initial invasion when his squad swept northward through Iraq toward Baghdad.

"The complete lack of respect for Iraqis, for humanity and for human life solidified our policy in Iraq," said Matt. "The tanks would go through, 'secure' a city, shoot everything that moved...men, women, children, donkeys, and then I got to go through and see the aftermath."

After Drew Cameron and Matt Hrutkay described their experiences, veterans and family members of service members shared their own stories, frustrations and thoughts.

Later that night, at the Different Drummer Café, a GI coffeehouse set up by Citizen Soldier's Tod Ensign, the conversation continued.

For many in attendance, the gathering brought a welcome sense of relief, helping to overcome the feeling of isolation by providing a place to discuss these issues.

The enlisted men and women at Fort Drum have paid a heavy price for the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq--a price that increasing numbers believe is not worth it, especially since the U.S. government isn't keeping up its end of the bargain when it comes to providing the health care so many battle-scarred soldiers need.

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