Kansas Exposed to Service-Member Trauma
Kansas Exposed to Service-Member Trauma
By William Stewart-Starks / ivaw.org

Operation Exposure Kansas

Will Stewart-Starks, an Iraq Veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) gives an audience of Lawrence art enthusiasts and local activists a summary of his organizations recent campaign to address military deployments of wounded soldiers.

Art show introduces Lawrence community to Operation Recovery Campaign

February 12, 2011, Lawrence, KS -- Iraq Veterans delivered a hopeful message to a crowd of art patrons at the Lawrence Percolator Friday night as part of an outreach effort to bring awareness to the deployment of traumatized troops.  The show was a call to action, developed by a collaboration between the Just Seeds Cooperative, a Chicago based art group and Iraq Veterans Against the War.  It informs a Veteran led campaign called Operation Recovery, which intends to stop the deployment of troops suffering from a list of signature wounds of the current war on terror, including military sexual trauma (MST), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  It is the conviction of these Vets that soldiers have the right to heal and that right is being consistently denied at this time.


The Percolator just ended a show this month that featured  work from the Just Seeds Cooperative in celebration of  peoples history.  Dave Lowenstein, a Lawrence artist and a member of the board for  the space said, "that it was a coincidence that both of these  things came together", as the work continued the narrative of  art that inspired action.  It gives a modern context to the work of  activists that came before.

The images tell the story of men and women who have been affected by trauma only to be ordered to serve in combat zones.  Many highlight soldiers who have chosen to resist and opt for punishments for their decision in order to prevent themselves from compounding their untreated conditions. Specialist Suzanne Switf, who was sexually assaulted by her command is one such person that can be found amongst the prints.  The piece recounts her statements after deciding that she would not deploy with her unit.

" I said, "I can’t do it. I can’t go." I looked at my mom and I told her, I was like, "I can’t go." And she said, "Seriously?" And I was like, "I just can’t do it." I just felt—my heart was pounding, and I felt like I was just frozen. I think I kind of stuttered when I said, "I can’t do it." It was hard to get words out." --Spc. Suzanne Swift 

Operation Exposure Lawrence Percolator









Aaron Hughes talks about service members right to heal

Aaron Hughes, a field organizer for IVAW, who brought the series to Kansas from Chicago, talked about his own experience as a truck driver in Iraq who saw the humanitarian work that he was expecting to accomplish unfulfilled for the duration of his time in theatre. "The same kids that I saw on the streets when I arrived were still there when I left". He recalled his commanding officer crying as they were leaving at the end of his deployment, wondering "all this time, what they had done." To a captivated audience he discussed the importance of the Operation Recovery campaign and the art of Operation Exposure in bringing these stories to a broader audience.  Hughes, expects the work to continue to travel across the country and be used to engage more people as it has been shown in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Killeen, TX.  The series already has a scheduled stop in Minnesota later this month.

Many patrons were encouraged by the ambitious efforts of both the art and the veterans campaign to bring the cost to soldiers health to the forefront of public debate.  Courtney Ducharme, a student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence said, "It was inspiring!"  She suggested that people "Sign the petition and get involved in upcoming events around the subject." She noted an upcoming fundraiser for the campaign happening in Topeka in two weeks where more collaborative work between Vets and artists would be happening. The event concluded with attendees signing a petition to support the campaign and conversations about ways the local community could get involved in town and at the base at Ft. Riley.                                                                                                                                         Operation_Exposure_Kansas_411.JPG










Brian Wolfe a local member of IVAW said some words about his own experience with the military and how they typically deal with troops with trauma such as PTSD.  Wolfe cited that often the solution of Veteran Affairs(VA) administrators is to give patients pills in response to requests for help.  Wolfe said, "When the first drug did not work to resolve my problem they [the VA] did not hesitate to give me a second one."  He went on to say that he was prescribed four different medications before finally seeking alternative care, "I decided, that's not the answer to take some drugs".  He is now getting therapy from a psychologist which he says is, "helping him far greater, but from an Army point of view it is more expensive to pay a psychologist to talk to you than it is to hand you a bottle of pills."

 Kansas Game Day, Operation Recovery, Wheat PasteGame Day Wheat Paste, Lawrence Kansas 










Will Stewart-Starks is optimistic about the future of  winning  service-members right to heal.  He calls Operation Exposure, "a  creative tactic to  present  the issue" and that it is part of the organizations outreach  drive to turn more on to the campaign. An artist  himself,  he describes the series as "poignant in its use of  screen printing design traditionally used to express peoples-issue advocacy. It really inspired people to get involved in the work, at the grassroots level and build  momentum."  

Although traditionally art exhibits tend to  stay in the confines of an indoor space, it is only natural  that Operation Exposure finds its way to the streets. As the show travels it leaves its mark. This image by Matt  Howard, of  a  soldier's silhouette accompanied by a  poem about PTSD  remains behind to continue to expose audiences to the  growing need for adequate Veteran mental health as conflict rages on.  Another piece hauntingly proclaims, "War is trauma." Similarly, Operation Recovery will persist in its pursuit to prevent further damage to be done to these Veterans' wounded brothers and sisters.  

For more information about this campaign visit www.ivaw.org/operation-recovery


4.6 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 35,220 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 13,501 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
For Those Who Don't Want to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils
Peter White · 12,735 views today · Ranked-choice voting is catching on, and Maine might become the first state to help citizens vote for candidates they actually want.
HyperNormalisation (2016)
161 min · 12,144 views today · We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 8,194 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Anarchists - What We Stand For
unknown · 7,855 views today · Anarchism : The word “anarchy” comes from Greek and means “no rulers”. As a political philosophy, anarchism is based on the idea that organization does not require rulers—that...
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 5,571 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Our Obsession With 'Good Immigrants' Breeds Intolerance
2 min · 4,824 views today · Society sets the bar so high to become a 'good immigrant', argues writer Nikesh Shukla, that normal immigrants are demonised. He says non-Brits in the public eye have a simple...
Introversion Is Not a Personality Fail
Cat Elz · 2,402 views today · A few years ago, I got into an argument with my now mother-in-law over my supposedly “backwards” ways. My transgression? I did not attend a party of my now husband’s (then...
The Important Difference Between Love and Being Loved
2 min · 2,225 views today · We talk of love as if it were just one thing: in fact, it’s two very different moves, Loving and Being Loved. You start to grow up when you stop focusing on the latter and get...
The Untold History of Palestine & Israel
22 min · 2,202 views today · Previewing Abby Martin’s on-the-ground investigation in Palestine, The Empire Files looks at the long history of Zionist colonization, expansion and expulsion of Palestine’s...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,926 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Bird Watching on Lesvos Island - A Poetic Call to Stand With Refugees
3 min · 1,801 views today · Born in Darfur, Sudan and raised in Philadelphia, Emi Mahmoud is the 2015 World Poetry Slam Champion and the Women of the World co-Champion of 2016. From a young age Emi...
My Cuba - An Intimate Look at the Pleasures and Struggles of 6 Different People's Cuba
150 min · 1,599 views today · Cuba - diverse, vibrant and complex - is undergoing immense change. But what does it mean to be Cuban in this time of change? Six people. Six films. From the comedy and ballet...
Planet Earth II Could Be Best Nature Doc Ever Made
3 min · 1,581 views today · 10 years ago Planet Earth changed our view of the world. Now we take you closer than ever before. This is life in all its wonder. This is Planet Earth II. A decade ago, the...
Alliance of 600,000 British Doctors Calls for 'Imperative' Coal Phase-Out
Nadia Prupis · 1,178 views today · Doing so would constitute 'double win for tackling the twin health threats of air pollution and climate change,' report states
World's Low-Cost Economy Built on the Backs of 46 Million Modern Day Slaves
Deirdre Fulton · 1,010 views today · 'Business leaders who refuse to look into the realities of their own supply chains are misguided and irresponsible.'
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 973 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Are You Lost in the World Like Me?
3 min · 949 views today · Animated film by Steve Cutts for 'Are You Lost In The World Like Me?', taken from These Systems Are Failing- the debut album from Moby & The Void Pacific Choir. 
Consent, Explained for Donald Trump and His Apologists
7 min · 870 views today · Vox's Emily Crockett explains why Donald Trump's comments aren't just "lewd," they're predatory. Further viewing, consent explained with tea. 
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Kansas Exposed to Service-Member Trauma