Killeen Daily Herald
by Rose Thayer
January 2, 2012
By Geoff West
Temple Daily Telegraph
Friday, Jan 27, 2012
KILLEEN – For those seeking an open dialogue with military officials about stigmatizing, often shadowy collateral wounds of service – whether it’s post-traumatic stress or sexual abuse – Thursday’s televised question-and-answer with Fort Hood leadership wasn’t so much a victory as a step in the right direction, according to those watching the event.
Since May, members of Operation Recovery, a movement led by active and veteran soldiers in support of mental health rights, have waged an open campaign on III Corps and Fort Hood, flooding officials with emails, letters, phone calls and pamphlets requesting a sit-down with Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell, Jr., the post’s commanding general, concerning what they perceive as the military’s inadequate care of returning soldiers.
On Thursday, Fort Hood officials, including Campbell, hosted the military’s first-ever multimedia town hall, either answering questions posted on Facebook or taking calls during an hour-long live television and radio broadcast.
About a dozen people, including many from the Operation Recovery campaign, monitored the broadcast at Under the Hood Café in Killeen.
Kyle Wesolowski, an Operation Recovery member and veteran of the Iraq war, said Thursday’s town hall was a reaction to the organization’s persistent request for dialogue.
“I think it was good....though not exactly what we asked for,” Wesolowski said. “We had enough pressure to force them to act. And in that sense, it was a win.”
But the format allowed only so much room for soldiers to share their struggles, said Lori Hurlebaus, director of Under the Hood Café and Outreach Center.
For those with a story, Hurlebaus said, “You had to phrase your comment in a question.”
And some questions weren’t answered on air (although Fort Hood officials said they planned to post a response to every question posted on their Facebook page Thursday).
Issues affecting female soldiers – such as the under-reported rates of sexual assault, harassment and trauma – were “glossed over” Thursday, said Maggie Martin, an Operation Recovery organizer and U.S. Army veteran.
“They didn’t mention it all,” said Martin, who did not come forward about her own military sexual trauma until five years later, which recent studies suggest is common among the thousands quietly victimized annually. “Not bringing it to light continues that same pattern.”
Near the end of the broadcast, Campbell was asked if the post had plans to host future town halls, perhaps a live appearance in front of the ranks. Campbell said he didn’t oppose it.
“We’re always looking for ways to get feedback,” he said.