Don’t deploy the injured
KILLEEN, Texas--At the corner of Killeen Street and Tank Destroyer Boulevard, about 35 protesters stood in the blazing afternoon heat outside the east gate of Fort Hood, the world's largest military installation, to protest the deployment--or redeployment--of wounded soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR).
According to active-duty and former soldiers at Fort Hood, members of the 3rd ACR saw some of the worst fighting conditions of the U.S. war on Iraq. Many of these soldiers returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and other injuries that made them unfit to return to battle. The casualty rates for this regiment are astronomical.
Soldiers and others became aware that redeployment was imminent when soldiers from the regiment were sent to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., which is a preparatory step before being sent to Iraq. The redeployment is expected to occur later this month.
Dahr Jamail, who interviewed some of these soldiers before they returned from Fort Irwin to Fort Hood, reports that at least 50 of the soldiers from this regiment received medical diagnoses that would prohibit their receiving training, much less redeployment.
If a physician decides that a soldier's medical condition requires treatment and makes the soldier unable to perform his or her duties, that decision can be overturned by the soldier's commander on the basis that the soldier is "needed."
Of course, if there are 50 diagnosed soldiers, there are undoubtedly many more who have not yet received or have not sought treatment.
Frustrated by their failure with repeated attempts to be heard within the military chain of command, four wives of soldiers in the 3rd ACR approached Cindy Thomas of Under the Hood Café, the antiwar, pro-soldier coffeehouse in Killeen. Thomas works tirelessly to get soldiers the rights that they were promised.
After a series of actions to publicize the plight of these soldiers, three were returned to Fort Hood and will not be redeployed. The soldiers have been promised help for the conditions suffered from previous deployments. The fourth soldier elected to get out of the Army.
Thomas thinks the Army relented in these cases to prevent a mushrooming movement.
When the protest was publicized, the Army sent out word that any active-duty service members attending would be arrested. An attorney who works with Under the Hood quickly reminded the Army that this was against Department of Defense regulations, which allow out-of-uniform, off-duty soldiers the right to protest. Several active-duty soldiers and former soldiers attended without incident.
Protesters carried signs that read "U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan," while a banner flapping in the Texas wind stated "Col. Allen, 3 ACR: Do not deploy wounded soldiers."
Each protest outside of Fort Hood nets new soldier visits to Under the Hood Café, Thomas says.
While protesters were putting up the banner on a vacant spot next to a filling station, a young woman with a car full of kids pulled up to describe her husband's frustrating and futile attempts to get help for his PTSD. She was happy to know that people were organizing around the issue.
Meanwhile, plans for the deployment of these soldiers continue. Under the Hood has launched a "Harass the brass" campaign, urging everyone around the world to call the commanders of the 3rd ACR between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Central time) by August 25.
According to Thomas, these calls have made a difference in the past. "They need to know they won't get away with this," she said.