Veterans and active-duty U.S. service members are joining together to launch the "Our Lives, Our Rights" campaign.
"Our Lives, Our Rights" aims to provide U.S. service members with information about their legal rights, in particular their right to refuse deployment. It is premised on the belief that thousands of U.S. service members already qualify as Conscientious Objectors, or qualify to be exempt from deployment for mental health reasons, but are unaware of or afraid to exercise those rights.
"Our Lives, Our Rights" will organize U.S. service members, veterans, military families and supporters to reach out to active-duty troops with the information they need to avert deployment or military service, and provide support to those exercising those rights. The campaign will also make public U.S. troops who choose to take a stand, and produce educational literature on why U.S. troops should not deploy to Afghanistan.
Additionally, the campaign will seek to give legal help and a voice to service members being mistreated by their chain of command, who are AWOL, who claim to have experienced sexual harassment or anti-LGBT bigotry, who are battling the mental health system or medical discharge process, or who want to expose war crimes.
"After two deployments to Iraq, I saw the reality of the war, and had the moral epiphany that I could no longer take part in them,” said campaign co-founder Fort Lewis Army Infantry Staff Sergeant Kevin Baker. “When I received orders for my third combat deployment, I simply said 'no.' I was honorably discharged with full benefits."
Twelve JBLM soldiers have died in combat this year alone, with three in a one week span this June. The base recorded its highest number of suicides ever last year, with 12. Three more have been reported this year.
"The Afghanistan war and the suicide epidemic are historic crises facing U.S. service members. The generals and politicians have proven incapable and unwilling to take any meaningful action to save our lives. This shows that we must take action ourselves," said Baker.