Next week, General David Petraeus will travel to Capitol Hill and make his report to Congress on the war in Iraq. If, as expected, he announces a pause in the withdrawal in troops from Iraq, our Congress must say “no” for the sake of our military and of our servicemembers.
We can not pause the withdrawal of our troops because we are seeing, everyday, the absolute devastation our wars, with frequent, long, often extended deployments, are having on our men and women in uniform.
How can we constantly churn our troops like this? How can we consciously compound the wounds of war? We are sending men and women back for fourth and fifth tours of duty when the Department of Defense, by its own estimation, says that with each additional tour, troops are 60% more likely to develop severe post-combat mental health issues.
Today, here at Veterans for America as part of our Wounded Warrior Outreach Program, we are releasing two very important reports. In fact, we are delivering these reports to every Senator and House Member on Capitol Hill so that they can be better informed when General Petraeus testifies and when they weigh all elements of Iraq policy.
Our first new report – The Consequences of Churning” – takes an in-depth, state-by-state look at the toll multiple deployments are taking on frontline Army units.
These units are going through high-intensity combat, are not getting adequate dwell time between tours, and are also being devastated by the fifteen month tours.
Our second new report — “Weekend Warriors to Frontline Soldiers” — examines the toll of repeated deployments on our National Guard, again breaking it down state-by-state.
Here we see that of the nearly 200,000 National Guard members that have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and almost half are returning with post-combat mental problems.
The problems of our troops are real and immediate, and they are getting worse. The Soldiers who are seeing the most combat are also being sent back to Iraq and Afghanistan the greatest number of times.
As part of our Wounded Warrior Outreach Program, we traveled to Fort Drum in New York State and saw, first-hand, the devastation that is happening right now. Devastation that gets worse with every tour, every deployment.
We are releasing these reports, and we have a simple message: enough is enough. The greatest threat to our military is the continued deployment of our troops under unfair conditions; it’s as simple as that. As Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said, “The well is deep, but it is not infinite…People are tired.”
The withdrawals must continue, our troops must come home, and we must be ready to help them.
We have to continue to assess how much help the 1.6 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan need and what assistance they will need in the future. We know the need will be great; it is our duty to be ready to answer the call of those who answered the call for us.