In honor of Veterans Day, Huffington Post Impact and Causecast present Salute To Service, a week-long series honoring the remarkable men and women of America's armed forces. Each day, a war veteran will share a personal essay about victories and struggles during war and in its aftermath, as well as nonprofit projects to support at home.
My name is Maggie Martin. I'm a 28-year-old Iraq War Veteran and I know how lucky I am. I grew up in a small town in Michigan where I lived until I joined the Army in March of 2001. I was a Sergeant in the Signal Corps where I served over five years deploying to Kuwait in 2002, then Iraq in 2003 and again in 2005.
Three deployments in five years left my life in utter shambles. In 2006 I returned from Iraq and prepared to be released from the military. I was facing a painful divorce, impending unemployment, and the burden of selling my home, which I could no longer afford. I couldn't deal with what I was going through, I felt like I was on a different planet, in a different life.
Everyone I knew was going through a hard time, everyone came back from war different, and we were all worse off than when we had left. I used false motivation that I learned in the Army, to just drive on.
In some ways it worked; so what if I couldn't even talk to my husband or best friend, or my mom about what I was feeling, so what if I lost my temper, screaming and throwing things, so what if I was so flooded with anger that I was bursting at the seams. You suck it up cause that's what you're trained to do. Never let them see you sweat. Only them is everyone and sweat is the struggle we all go through when we come home from war.
We collectively deny our own experiences for the sake of maintaining military bearing and are always burdened with the ideal of "selfless service". Soldiers are so committed to hiding our shared suffering that we even resort to hazing those who seek help for their physical and mental wounds. Record numbers of traumatized soldiers are harassed, taunted or silenced all the way to suicide. We are so terrified that our own pain might be exposed that we attack those who tell the truth by calling them cowards.
We need to wake up. Oh, and I feel some of that rage rising up when I think about this meaningless phrase "support the troops" -- a phrase which usually comes from the folks who support the war that is killing the troops. Those same folks don't want to support the troops when the troops speak the truth.
Can we just drop the flags, slogans, and the banners? Are we going to help a generation of young men and women make it out of war and back to life or are we going to just say we support them while pushing their stories, their problems and their pain into the darkest corners of their minds where we don't have to acknowledge it?
I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War because I felt that I had sacrificed much for a lie and I'm angry now about the abuse of soldiers who have given up their lives and sanity because our country asked them to.
Our military leaders act as though they are shocked and concerned with the veteran suicide rates, yet every day they deploy soldiers who have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma. I won't ignore what is happening and I won't bottle up this anger. I want to stretch my indignation about the treatment of traumatized soldiers as far as my voice can take it.
So please, America, on this Veterans day, don't just remember veterans. Do something to help them. Sign our pledge and help us stop the deployment of traumatized troops.
Help veterans heal and find ways to support them near your hometown by visiting Salute To Service.