As President Obama told the nation that combat had ended in Iraq on Tuesday night, a couple of veterans stood in the Wichita Central Library telling a few dozen people the war was not over, and speaking of the hidden wounds carried by its soldiers.
"They say the war is over, that's why 3,000 combat troops just deployed from Fort Hood to Iraq," Ethan McCord said Tuesday.
A Wichita Army veteran, McCord may be best known as the soldier carrying a dying child in his arms in the WikiLeaks.org video, "Collateral Murder." The video documents the 2007 killing of civilians and children in the streets of Baghdad.
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McCord came home to begin what he said he hopes will take him across the country, talking about the damage soldiers carry with them as they return from war, and the lack of help they receive.
With pins and rods in his back and neck, and brain injuries from bombs, McCord said he's found little relief. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
"When I was in the Army, their help was giving me as many antipsychotics as they could," McCord said.
"They weren't helping. I was having problems. I started taking the pills with whiskey, because that would calm me down."
Will Stewart-Starks of Lawrence recalled female soldiers who were raped by their own comrades, then sent back to serve with their attackers.
"You should not send them back to the combat zone in that state," Stewart-Starks told the gathering, organized by Wichita's Peace and Social Justice Center.
"That's not only abusive, that's immoral."
Stewart-Starks said to expect more veterans to speak out during this election season to demand help through their group, Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Getting veterans the help they need should be a nonpartisan issue, they said.
"Supporting troops, to me, is a lot more than just putting a ribbon on your vehicle, and saying 'I support the troops,' " McCord said. "Support the troops is making sure we get the troops home. And once they're home, making sure they get the help they need to reintegrate with society."