Iraq Veteran and anti-war advocate Maggie Martin gave a speech on war and life as a soldier and veteran to MTSU students in the Business and Aerospace Building on Tuesday evening as part of an event hosted by MT Solidarity.
Contrary to the typical theme of a Veterans Day speech, Martin was avidly opposing the war in Iraq through her own personal testimony, and the testimony of her fellow Iraq veterans.
Martin served in the army and was stationed in Kuwait and Iraq during her military service. Soon after she enlisted, Martin was a witness to racism and brutality to the Iraqi and Kuwaiti people, as well as subjected to sexism and sexual assault.
“The soldiers that I was with were laughing at [the Iraqi people] and liked to kind of degrade them due to a sense of superiority,” Martin said. “I was disgusted by the racism and that’s when I started to question my involvement.”
Martin said she learned a lot through her three deployments over a five year period and came to question the true reasons for her involvement in the war and why it was being fought in the first place.
“[The war] sucks. It’s awful. It doesn’t make any sense. The reasons they said we were coming are not the reasons we are there,” Martin said.
After leaving the army as a sergeant in 2006, Martin discovered the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, or IVAW. IVAW is an organization through which veterans, like Martin, can protest cruelty, occupation, and misconduct. Martin, in agreement with IVAW’s cause, has led and participated in demonstrations, marches, and unauthorized press conferences to raise awareness to lawmakers, politicians, and the general population.
Martin and IVAW have begun developing Operation Recovery, a program through which they plan to gain better healthcare for veterans, including those effected by PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and military sexual trauma.
“When we began discussing the main points of Operation Recover, I kind of had a breakthrough myself,” Martin explained. “I was listening to a close friend, Joyce Wagner, talk about her experience in the military.”
Martin went on to tell the audience that Wagner informed her that one in three women in the military experience sexual assault and only about thirteen percent of sexual assaults are reported in the military.
“Joyce knew that to be true because it happened to her and she didn’t report it. And here I am, I’d been in the IVAW for four years but I hadn’t admitted I was a survivor of sexual assault,” Martin said. “I felt ashamed and thought it meant something about me because of what I believed when I was in the military.”
After acknowledging Service Women’s Action Network, or SWAN, and their efforts to end sexual assault within the military, Martin expressed her belief that sexual assault cases need to be assessed outside of military service members. According to Martin, someone who is a lieutenant and oversees more than 30 members should not be responsible for deciding if one of those service members is guilty of committing a sexual assault, but should left up to a professional investigator.
“It’s really about challenging the dominate narrative: ‘war is necessary.’ If the upcoming generation or generations can start by educating themselves, I think we can put a stop to war and its consequences for everyone involved.”
For more information on the IVAW, visit http://www.IVAW.org
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