Washington State Members to Launch Operation Recovery at Joint Base Lewis-McChord
published by Alex Bacon on 04/25/12 7:55pm
In a church basement in Tacoma, WA nearly two-dozen members of the Washington Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) gathered to launch a local Operation Recovery campaign at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Operation Recovery is IVAW’s national campaign to stand up for service members’ right to heal and to help bring an end to the war in Afghanistan. For over a year IVAW and Civilian Soldier Alliance (CSA) have been running this campaign in Fort Hood, TX, with IVAW and CSA chapters providing support from around the country. Now, for the first time in the history of IVAW’s field organizing program, a local chapter has launched a campaign with the goals of winning significant improvement in service members’ ability to heal from trauma and injury.
Implementation of the campaign in Washington State will move in three strategic phases: building, outreach, and confrontation.
This spring, members will focus on increasing our base of supporters using the Operation Recovery pledge. Members will be going door to door, tabling at community events, and giving presentations to community organizations promoting Operation Recovery. “I’m constantly amazed with the level of dedication and hard work of IVAW members. The launch of this campaign at Joint Base Lewis-McChord shows that our organizing model works”, said Andrew Wright, IVAW West Region Field Organizer. Members also plan to reach out to new and inactive members through informal gatherings, including barbecues and concerts. A series of Northwest stops on the Right to Heal speakers’ tour in May and the Justseeds ‘War is Trauma’ Portfolio series in June will help us engage our supporters and build internal leadership. Finally, local members are taking a much larger role in supporting Coffee Strong, the G.I. Coffeehouse outside the gate of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). All of this is in preparation for a summer launch of our Operation Recovery outreach drive at JBLM.
Following the national convention in July, members will return home for a groundbreaking six-week outreach drive at JBLM. Our focus will be on educating service members about their right to heal, connecting them to individual resources through Coffee Strong, and standing with them to make improvements on base. With almost 30,000 service members at JBLM (another 11,000 are in Afghanistan right now and will begin returning at the end of 2012) reaching a large number of service members is one key to success this summer. Dedicated outreach teams will be in the community five days a week during the outreach drive with a goal of talking to nearly 2,000 service members and inspiring hundreds of new service members to sign the Operation Recovery pledge. “We’ve been planning this for a while. I’m looking forward to finally engaging service members and their families on Joint Base Lewis-McChord to get them involved in our work. I want us to work together so service members don’t have to deal with a frustrating, inept mental health system like I did”, said Greg Miller, IVAW Washington leadership team member and a former infantrymen stationed at JBLM. A dedicated follow-up team will meet with service members for more in-depth conversations about the right to heal in their unit, the Appeal for Redress, and membership in IVAW.
In the Fall of 2012, having connected with thousands of service members over the summer, members will make demands for specific systemic changes that support our right to heal at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Complimenting on-base and off-base actions to hold decision makers accountable if they fail to implement our demands, members plan on holding a public hearing in October just one month before national elections. IVAW members will testify to a panel of influential community members who will make recommendations for improvement at JBLM after the hearing.
By the end of 2012, we hope to be in a position to enact concrete improvements in service members lives at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. By directly involving service members in improving their own circumstances we’re giving service members a sense of their own power. Simultaneously we’re building a powerful local organization that will be able to make increasingly more meaningful change in the future, as well as being a force to reckon with on all issues affecting the service member and veteran community in Washington State.
Alex Bacon is on the leadership team of IVAW Washington.