"Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership." - Colin Powell
"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death." - Sun Tzu
"America's fighting men and women sacrifice much to ensure that our great nation stays free. We owe a debt of gratitude to the soldiers that have paid the ultimate price for this cause, as well as for those who are blessed enough to return from the battlefield unscathed." - Allen Boyd
"I would like everyone to know that this piece was written Leslie S. Robinson back in 2012. It was then, and still a great piece of work. Though I have I have note heard from him in while, I still consider Leslie to be a very good friend of mine. His dedication to cause of my fellow veterans was both an inspiration and an honor to behold." - Kent Allen Halliburton
A demonstration was held on May 24, 2012, outside the Fort Hood main gate in Killeen, Texas. It honored soldiers who have committed suicide due to trauma inflicted in combat, and asked General Campbell, then Commanding General of III Corps at Fort Hood, to enforce policies which would improve service members’ access to behavioral healthcare. A group of veterans and civilian supporters identifying as Operation Recovery passed out flyers for a memorial day BBQ along with copies of command policies MEDCEN01 and SURG1 to vehicles entering and exiting the gate.
MEDCEN01 and SURG1 were enacted on Fort Hood to give soldiers the access their appropriate treatment plans. The weight of the Uniform Code of Military Justice was supposed to cover them, so that, despite, the disruption in operational readiness, they would be allowed to seek care without fear of retaliation from their unit. Unfortunately, they are not always enforced at the company or battalion level, for the sake of expediency, and further, due to a culture of silence around these issues.
“This action is to shine a light on the fact that those two policies are in place but are not being enforced, and the general needs to take steps to ensure that the policies he put down on the books aren’t just merely words but that those words carry meaning,” said Jason Matherne, a member of Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW) and the Resident Organizer at Under The Hood, a GI outreach center and café in Killeen. This is the facility through which the Operation Recovery campaign is conducted. Matherne deployed to Qatar in 2008 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Neglect of soldier care has led to a host of appalling consequences over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. General Chiarelli, who compiled a report on the effects of the wars on military personnel entitled Generating Health and Discipline In The Force, told the New York Times in January that 164 active duty service members took their lives in 2011. This sets a record high and can be credited to multiple deployments and a general lack of treatment for conditions like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma.
In spite of these costs, education about MEDCEN01 and SURG1 has not been a priority on Fort Hood. Operation Recovery is determined to change that. Not only are they working to get these policies into the hands of active duty service members, but they are also pressuring General Campbell to hold a post-wide Safety Stand-down in lieu of these policies.
Post-wide enforcement and knowledge of MEDCEN01 and SURG1 could conceivably force a change in the culture at Fort Hood, giving service members a basic dignity which has already been denied to too many military personnel. The culture in the Army, and the military as a whole, has been that seeking mental healthcare for oneself is a sign of weakness.
Overall, the message seemed to resonate with the passing motorists. Matherne told me, “There was a little bit of negativity, as there always will be. There was some indifference, but there were a lot of thank you's from soldiers when we gave them flyers. There was a lot of horn-honking, and there was some genuine interest in it. So, yeah, it was really positive.”
Under The Hood is carrying on the legacy of the war resistance coffee houses of the Vietnam era, like The Oleo Strut, whose doors were open in Killeen from 1968 to 1972. The café is run by members of IVAW, active duty service members, and the Civilian-Soldier Alliance (a group of civilian activists working closely with IVAW). As well as being a hub of war resistance culture, and action, Under The Hood is a place which champions the rights of service members and their families.
To find our for more about MEDCEN01 and SURG1 by logging onto visit, https://forthoodtestimonies.com/tag/medcen-01/
To find out more about Under The Hood and how effective it was, check out https://forthoodtestimonies.com/about/under-the-hood-cafe-and-outreach-center-killeen-tx/
If you are an active duty soldier and need counseling, medical or legal referral, or just want to know what your rights as a service member are, call the GI Rights Hotline at 877-447-4487.