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Deja Vu

My father served in Vietnam. Through him, I met men who were exposed to defoliants, and were fighting against cancers and other problems. I have many friends who served in the First Gulf War.  A lot of them had odd illnesses that were lumped under the rubric “Gulf War Disease”.

Veterans from both of those conflicts had to work for years, sometimes decades, to have their maladies recognized as being real, much less service related.  Administrations from both parties, along with a military establishment more worried about bad publicity and dwindling budgets than rewarding those who served, stonewalled them.  I’ve watched strong, proud men cry out in pain and frustration as they try to deal with the issues caused by living and working in a contaminated environment.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that a new generation of fighters is getting the same treatment:

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

Servicemembers, from EOD technicians to just the poor, unlucky men and women who stumbled across the infernal things, are dealing with the aftermath of exposure to chemical weapons.  This isn’t residue, nor is it a trace amount.  This is people, as part of their job, accidentally picking up a leaking artillery shell and getting bathed in the stuff.  At least two were hit with sarin, and are still dealing with the damage that caused.

A lot is being said about how this either justifies the 2003 invasion of Iraq because the weapons were there or how it proves it was unjustified because the weapons were years old.

I don’t care about that.

What I care about is that right now, as we sit here, there are at least dozens of men and women out there who have had the fact that they were even exposed to chemical weapons branded a state secret.  It appears that most of them did not receive the care they needed when they were hurt, and now they are fighting to get the care that they still need.

This has to stop.  I do not want another generation of veterans to go without because it’s inconvenient or embarrassing.  The Department of Defense and the VA need to do an exhaustive search for people who were injured by these poisons and make sure that they are OK.  If they’re not, they need to get all the support that the most powerful nation in the world can give.

We sent them there.  They did their job.  It’s time we paid up.

2 Comments

  1. I am a volunteer driver for the DAV and I couldn’t agree more!

    Like

  2. Just found out this week I need to get a new Retired DoD ID. My expiration date is INDEF, but that doesn’t apply anymore. New cards have an expiration date of the day I become eligible for Medicare.
    So…that lifetime of medical care I gave up 20 years of my life for?
    Yeah, not so much.

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