300,000 U.S. troops have now served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands, including many in IVAW, are being sent back to war despite their trauma from previous deployments, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST). The reality is, military commanders are pushing service members far past human limits in order to continue the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Service members are not being screened systematically for mental trauma. In combat, there’s a shortage of behavioral health personnel, and soldiers are given psychotropic medications instead of comprehensive therapy. Commanders often will override the opinions of medical personnel if those opinions interfere with a soldier’s duties. In the case of MST where sexual assault is committed by a fellow service member, commanders often ignore claims in order to protect the perpetrator. Within the military—whose culture is built upon denial of weakness— mental health problems are severely stigmatized. Commanders systematically deny PTSD, MST, and TBI, promoting shame and ignorance. Troops and veterans generally are uneducated about the symptoms of war trauma, are discouraged from seeking help, and find both the military and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) under-resourced to address the overwhelming need. The silence and denial of war trauma is taking its toll on veterans, service members, and their families, who are a vast dis-empowered community under the military’s bureaucratic oppression. In an institution built on conformity, following orders, competitiveness, and rigid hierarchy, many GIs do not know their rights. IVAW’s Operation Recovery campaign is organizing the military community to stand up in defense of their Right to Heal.

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