The View from the Ground: Iraq Veterans on the War and Returning Home
America has been at war since 2001 and suffered more than 2,500 U.S. casualties, tens of thousands of soldiers have been wounded and hundreds of thousands have sought out help for mental health concerns; however, statistics and news reports rarely tell the story of what troops face when they return home. Thousands of vets still struggle through red tape, are denied their VA benefits and wait months for appointments while defense contractors reap huge profits. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America members Zack Bazzi, Perry Jefferies, Abbie Pickett and Paul Rieckhoff discuss their experiences in Iraq, their return home and what netizens can do to help veterans. Video coverage by Link TV.
With its position in the public eye, the IAVA group hopes the blogosphere can be a leader in correcting the imbalance.
This is an opportunity for honest, productive conversation about the state of our military, the plight of our troops and veterans, and the future of our national security. -Paul Rieckhoff
Sgt. Zack Bazzi
Sgt. Zack Bazzi is an Iraq Veteran and filmmaker. Sgt. Bazzi was one of several soldier/cameramen who filmed their tour of duty in Iraq with the New Hampshire National Guard. He appears in the film The War Tapes (2006).
Perry Jefferies, IAVA Veteran Outreach Director, served as a First Sergeant with the Armyâ€™s 4th Infantry Division in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. After deploying to Iraq and traveling with the cavalry through the Sunni Triangle, his unit moved to the Iran â€“ Iraq border and set up Camp Caldwell, future home of the New Iraqi Army. Often frustrated by the absence of priority on planning and basic soldier needs, he has spoken out about the lack of basic necessities such as food, water, and repair parts.
Jefferies has served in infantry, armor and cavalry units and was an instructor at the Armor School at Fort Knox. He retired in 2004 and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.
Abbie Pickett, from Darlington, WI, served as a combat support Specialist in Operation Iraqi Freedom from May 2003 to April 2004. Her unit built check points, helipads, and runways throughout Iraq. She joined the Army at 17, while still in high school. Pickett says she considered military service a part of her â€œcivic duty,â€ and she remains a member of the Wisconsin National Guard.
Lt. Paul Reickhoff
Paul Rieckhoff is the executive director and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1998 and served a tour of duty in Iraq lasting from April 2003 to February 2004. During that time, Rieckhoff was a 1st Lieutenant, and served as an Infantry Platoon Leader in the 3rd Infantry and 1st Armored Divisions. Paulâ€™s Platoon conducted over 1,000 dismounted and mounted combat patrols, and was centered in the Adamiyah section of central Baghdad.
Prior to going to Iraq, Rieckhoff worked as a high school football coach and an Investment Banking Analyst on Wall Street.