Veterans to Army: Quit deploying mentally ill GIs

May 30, 2011

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(Brandon Quester/Wyoming National Guard)
The Wyoming Army National Guard’s Sgt. Kenneth Hicks trains at Fort Hood.

Memorial Day is a time to honor fallen military members, but some Chicago-area veterans will try to draw attention to soldiers on active duty.

A Monday morning ceremony downtown will focus on Fort Hood, a huge Army base in Texas. It’s been reported that 22 soldiers committed suicide there last year and another 5 this year.

Former Navy machinist’s mate David Van Dam, 23, said the military is sending too many GIs into combat despite serious mental injuries, including post-traumatic stress syndrome, traumatic brain injury and military-sexual trauma.

“They could be diagnosed by a medical professional and still be sent to a war zone multiple times,” said Van Dam, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, which is demanding a tripling of mental health professionals at Fort Hood.

A statement from the base says Fort Hood already provides aggressive behavioral-health treatment. The statement says the staffing for those services has increased more than 35 percent over the last two years.

The ceremony’s sponsors include IVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace.