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Vets: Stop redeploying injured troops

At a Memorial Day ceremony Monday, anti-war veterans will call for an end to redeployment of troops suffering from war-related trauma.

Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and Veterans for Peace will gather at the Vietnam War Memorial by the river at Wacker and Wabash at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 30.

It’s one of many events across the country supporting IVAW’s Operation Recovery, an organizing campaign at Fort Hood in Texas which is pressing the base commander to stop the large-scale redeployment of troops with Military Sexual Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Fort Hood is a major site for deployment of troops overseas, and WBEZ reports that 22 soldiers committed suicide there last year.

With redeployment rates at historic highs, veterans say about 20 percent of the military are suffering from some form of trauma.  Up to 60 percent of female reservists and National Guard report sexual harrassment on overseas deployments, Chicago IVAW activist Aaron Hughes told Radio Arte last December.

“The Department of Defense has regulations against deploying soldiers who are dealing with trauma,” he said. “But no one is holding them accountable to their own regulations.”

One issue is a lack of testing.  “They are not testing for TBI after every concussion” as they should be, Hughes said.

Soldiers who seek help are often simply medicated and redeployed, Navy veteran David Van Dam told Radio Arte.  He cited a Military Times report that psychiatric drug use by the military has increased dramatically since the current wars began.

According to the report, at least 17 percent of active duty personnel are prescribed antidepressants, and the use of antipsychotic medication is up 200 percent since 2001.  Many troops are prescribed “cocktails” of multiple medications, and “off-label” use is common, with drugs developed for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder commonly used to treat PTSD symptoms.

The same drugs are prescribed for veterans with 100 percent disability due to PTSD, Van Dam pointed out.

The drugs have a range of side effects; some can impair motor skills and reduce reaction times; commonly-used antidepressants are known to increase the risk of suicide and aggression.

“These soldiers are over there carrying weapons, putting themselves at risk along with their fellow service members, and the Afghan and Iraqi people,” he said.

Multiple deployments increase the risk of PTSD, and redeployment of soldiers with trauma heightens the risk of serious disability, advocates say.

It’s another reason to “end the occupations,” Hughes said last year.  “The military depends on redeploying these traumatized soldiers in order to keep the wars going.”

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Category: health, peace, veterans


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