Dear Readers: Due to my working on a Book Project, I have been unable to post New Interviews since 2011. Please visit my site, Operation Purple Heart for the new cases in the NAMES PROJECT. Thank you ---RBS
17 August 2013
Dear Readers: Due to my working on a Book Project, I have been unable to post New Interviews since 2011. Please visit my site, Operation Purple Heart for the new cases in the NAMES PROJECT. Thank you ---RBS
23 January 2011
Sister Soldier: A Chronicle of Life After Iraq
In October 2010 I was contacted by a reporter for War News Radio out of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania (an award-winning production that fills the gaps in the media's coverage of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan). The student assigned a piece about depleted Uranium [DU] in Iraq and it's effect on Iraqi's and American troops, queried me as well as other specialists for an interview. Except, after three months it still hasn’t aired. Why, the reporter informed, ‘the production of the DU piece has been delayed. Reason being, is the difficulty of finding sources that want to talk about the issue….’
So much for American free speech…. Even though we’re two years away from The Bush Administration---The Patriot Act backlash and censorship erected by the former president post 9/11, continues to intercept freedom of speech reporting. In essence, the discredit of appearing unpatriotic has lacerated the psyche of the top U.S. publications of today. While the U.K. and International Press openly reports on; the U.S. military’s usage of DU in the War in Iraq, cancer amongst Iraqi civilians and military from other nations, (from inhalation and ingestion of DU dust)---our own press fearfully sidesteps.
The International Press’ daring of the U.S. military or DoD’s retribution, has allowed them to responsibly question the carcinogens of DU, and acknowledge the radiation (particulate matter)/cancer studies that have persistently surfaced since 2003. Meanwhile, the DoD buries their head in the yellow sand---as more and more U.S. soldiers are diagnosed with rare, aggressive cancers post-Iraq. The mainstream media’s incessant underreporting of the dire issue---cripples their pursuit of truth. (cancer statistics remain classified and is evident in the December 2010 Army Times article cited at the bottom).
Army Specialist Austin Monk [pictured throughout] never imagined he wouldn’t be able to complete his 12-month tour in Iraq. The Dallas, Texas native joined the Army in October 2007 at the age of 18. “My sentiments about the Army early on and now, are a sense of pride and honor in what I do and how I live on a daily basis. I love how children look up to me as a role model, especially my nephew, Damien,” the 21 year-old said December 2010 from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. “I love the Army and pray that I will someday return to full Active Duty.”
In 2007, his affection for the Dallas Cowboys, video games, and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese followed him to Ft. Leonard, Missouri for three months of Basic Training. That December, while on holiday leave Spc. Monk took a Greyhound Bus to NYC. He noticed a gorgeous brunette with high cheekbones standing in line at Philadelphia station. They snuck glances at one another unaware they would be on the same bus. “He looked so cute in his uniform. I hoped we were traveling to the same place,” recalled Laura Rose who was heading to the city to visit friends.
When Spc. Monk took his seat he observed the hazel-eyed beauty step on. “I actually moved my bags,” he remembered. She sat down next to him and struck up a conversation by asking if he wanted to use her blanket. “It was already hot on the bus and she offered me this flimsy blanket. You know the ones they give you at the airport if you apply for a credit card. I looked at her like she was crazy, and we began talking.”
“It was as if we’d known each other forever---like this “one” would change our life,” Laura reminisced. “And when we approached the city we exchanged numbers, except he claimed he didn’t know his and I thought how lame, he’s trying to pull a fast one. So I gave him mine and we went our separate ways.”
In January 2008 after completing basic training, Spc. Monk spent another two months in advanced training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. After three months telephoning one another Laura went to see him graduate March 2008. “It was only the second time I’d ever seen him. And that weekend we said “I love you” to each other and he proposed.” Shortly after, Spc. Monk received orders for his first Call of Duty to Korea for a one-year tour.
Eight months later, November 2008, Spc. Monk used his two-week leave to visit his 21 year-old fiancé in Philadelphia. “It was wonderful,” she exclaimed. “We spent time together and grew more as a couple.” [the couple above]
He returned to Korea, then four months later when his deployment ended the Army Spc. came home to Ft. Bragg with the 3/319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. And within four days the young couple wed March 2009.
“After we were married, I moved to Ft. Bragg while he was at JRTC in Louisiana,” his wife informed. “Those four months together before he re-deployed were rough, we didn’t know how to be married and often fought.”
The 20 year-old Army Field Artillery Surveyor was healthy and vibrant. “My husband hadn’t been sick once in the time I’ve known him. He was physically active and in great shape,” she stated.
By late summer, Spc. Monk received new orders to re-deploy August 2009 from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. to Al Asad, Iraq. He trained for two weeks at Camp Taqaddum learning to drive ambush vehicles before settling into camp Al Asad Air Base (both camps are listed burn pit sites with S.C. law firm, Motley Rice, who are defending a class action suit of over 500 cancer stricken soldiers).
“There was a burn pit at Al Asad, but as far as I know, I had minimal exposure,” the unaware soldier mentioned. Then about a month into the deployment he complained of headaches and all over body pain. “Every time I spoke to him he was either too tired or working, so we just chalked it up to stress,” his wife Laura Monk explained.
On October 24, 2009, Spc. Monk posted a myspace message: “Had a 104.5 temperature and other stuff hurt. Come to find out, I’m not that sick, may have just caught a bug. I’m taking medication to keep my temp down and have a check up with the doctor tomorrow. I’m fine so there is no reason for you to worry. I love you lots and miss you bunches.”
“Once he developed aches and pains throughout his body they didn’t stop. The headaches turned into migraines that couldn’t be controlled. He had fevers, chills and sweats,” Laura recounted.
His Lactate Dehydrogenase [LDH] enzymes were elevated can signal a tissue break down in the body; a result of cancer, liver disease, or other infections. “He was treated with Tylenol, and when his temperature decreased, he was released with a decongestant and Motrin,” she added. “But the frequencies of his headaches, the abdominal pain, as well as the Upper Respitory Infection [URI] remained.”
The medics in theatre thought it could be Tuberculosis or Mono, but instead passed it off as the young soldiers wisdom teeth and sent him to the dentist on November 6th. Except after the appointment the symptoms persisted, the URI worsened and he developed insomnia. In two weeks; headaches, shortness of breath, loss of physical activity, diarrhea, constipation, rash, nose bleeds, fever, poor appetite, weight loss and stomach pain riddle his once healthy body.
The soldier reported a 5-10 pound weight drop, and increasing abdominal pain was affecting his breathing. By November 10th he was admitted to the ER in theatre with anemia, thrombocytopenia (low platelets) and fever. With his LDH elevated to 4,011, Spc. Monk was scheduled for medEvac to Germany.
On Veteran’s Day November 11th after a battery of tests, the doctors in Landstuhl were concerned it was Leukemia, and transferred him to a civilian hospital in Germany to confirm which type. At Homburg University Hospital [HUH] three doctors concurred the 20 year-old soldier had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia [ALL], and treatment was urgent.
“I was angry, surprised and in disbelief,” Spc. Monk grieved. “I had a fear of the future, and of the unknown.” His HUH roommate was another American soldier with ALL also stationed in Iraq at Basra.
Concerned, his wife called Landstuhl hospital. “They told me he was transferred to Homburg and gave me the number. I remember pacing the living room on hold when a nurse came to the phone and said, ‘I'm sorry, your husband has Leukemia.’” Laura confessed, “My stomach dropped. I felt like I was going to throw up. I remember collapsing to the floor and curling up into a ball in the middle of the hallway. I was scared. I felt at that very moment my world was about to end.” Adding, “My first reaction was denial. But I was more angry at myself for being mad at him for missing my birthday.”
His wife displeased at the way it was handled, and rightly so, was frantic wondering how he was coping alone in a hospital in another country. “It was unimaginable to know he was given a cancer diagnosis without anyone by his side. When we spoke by phone the floodgates opened and we cried together. I tried to console him that everything would be okay, and I’d be there soon. But my main concern was keeping him calm.”
Laura Monk commends the Army for transporting her to his bedside within four days. “I hadn’t seen him in three months. When I arrived he was sweaty, unkempt and hairy---but he was alive and hugging me. We were very emotional. Hearing him cry was the saddest weeping I’d ever encountered.”
The Monk’s unable to surmise what factor played a role in his diagnosis with a sudden, aggressive cancer. Laura reasoned, “We could ponder and cry until we figure it out, but we can’t change it, all we can do it is move forward. We may never know the answers.”
Although the language barrier was difficult, the liaisons made certain her daily hospital commute was effortless. She met several families at the Fisher House, and realized that her husband was alive, and had all his limbs, so why be distraught. “These families could be here to say goodbye to their service member and I’m crying over cancer?”
Part of his chemotherapy treatment was in stages spanning over two years; Induction, Consolidation and Maintenance. While Spc. Monk was undergoing two rounds of induction chemotherapy and one round of cranial radiation, they took long walks together and talked about their past and future. Grieving about what could have been if just one thing had been different. “We have become more appreciative of one another, expressing it every day. With the help of a social worker, we've learned how to communicate without yelling and fighting,” Laura admitted.
They decorated his room for Christmas making a wrapping paper chain that counted down the days---which changed frequently. After two and a half months in Germany and completing induction therapy, they flew by military aircraft C-17 and C-130 to Walter Reed Army Medical Center [WRAMC] in D.C. “The journey in Germany taught us that life is short and being there with the ones you love make it worthwhile. We are both appreciative for the treatment at Homburg---they saved him,” Laura said gratefully.
In February 2010, Spc. Monk received another round of chemotherapy at WRAMC but the young couples secondary concern was future children. “You anticipate your soldier going to war and pray they return safely. But you certainly don't expect them to come home mid-tour on a C-130 because they have cancer,” Laura confided. They applaud the WRAMC medical team and social worker, Stacee Springer for helping them receive a grant from the Walter Reed Society, and having the ability to freeze sperm at the Fairfax Cryobank in VA. “If I lose him, I will never be a mother to anyone-else's children,” she insisted.
Soon after, Spc. Monk requested he be transferred to North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s Cancer Hospital [UNC] so they could finally be home. WRAMC accommodated him and UNC began eight rounds of consolidation chemotherapy, putting his Leukemia into remission before proceeding with a bone marrow transplant [BMT]. In November 2010, the final month of consolidation they prepared a trip to Texas to visit his mother for Thanksgiving, instead they ended up in the ER. Spc. Monk was experiencing pain in his left arm where his port was. After an ultrasound they located a blood clot in his limb. They admitted him intercepting the holiday with his mother.
Within days his doctor approved the trip, but while enroute the familiar symptoms he experienced in Germany a year before---resurfaced. When they returned from Texas he was admitted for two final rounds of chemo, but when his doctor and nurse stepped into the room, they weren’t their jovial selves. They reported the discouraging news that the Leukemia relapsed, and his BMT would be suspended. At the end of December his LDH doubled since Iraq to 8,000.
It was imperative the cancer be in remission before they move forward with a BMT, but that meant a new round of induction therapy, and locating a donor. His odds would decrease each time if a remission wasn’t successful. The January 6th 2011 bone marrow biopsy confirmed he is not in remission. His doctors ordered another round of a different drug anticipating to will force the Leukemia into remission and assist with the leg pain that developed.
Spc. Monk’s dreams are simple, and still in tact; be cancer-free, go to college, start a family, take a honeymoon, and possibly go downrange again, as he feels robbed of his Iraq deployment. Heartsick to discover his only brother in the Navy, was a fifty-percent match for the BMT, now, while awaiting remission and hopes of a transplant, he sleeps when he can, cherishes being with his family, especially their 13-week old Saint Bernard, Nanna. “I wish I could go back to the way things were pre-deployment….with the attitude I have now,” the courageous 22 year-old soldier disclosed. “Once I stopped making girls fit into my life, I found the perfect one.”
“Like the marriage vows…besides loving him, I’m happy to be caring for him,” shared the newlywed. But she’s troubled by the inability of some friends to accept the cancer and be supportive---aware that half of the diagnosis is the immense support system. “A majority of our friends have fallen away, but the ones that stuck by, we are immensely indebted to. ” She mourned, “It stings because while he was sick, all he wanted was to be with them in Iraq. They called a handful of times, but ultimately, were not the friends we thought they were.” Disheartened with his unit, with the exception of presenting him with the Army’s Accommodation Medal----haven’t contacted him.
The Warrior Transition Brigade at Ft. Bragg have been outstanding in their care and advocacy during Spc. Monk’s cancer treatments. medicine grabber, family updater Monk. There is no doubt in my mind you met Austin the time you did and were married the time you did to help him through this. I truly believe you're his angel. God won't forget about the things you two have been through and you both will be rewarded.And the support and comfort they found early on in Landstuhl with the Chaplain and Soldiers Angels was instrumental. “They’ve all been part of this journey and without their help and guidance, we would have been lost,” Laura admits. Their family, despite living in Philadelphia, California, South Carolina and Texas have visited, with assistance of Operation First Response, and Operation Hero Miles. “It shows that no matter where you are in the world, your family is never too far away.”
In the interim, one 10/10 marrow match donor was located ….but after a January 13th bone marrow biopsy it confirmed his health has improved, but without a full remission he‘ll remain on a chemotherapy pediatric protocol for the next four weeks, then another BMT will be performed.During his arduous 14 month battle….hope for remission, and their bond, remain steadfast. Laura Monk quotes Gary Allen, “No, life ain't always beautiful, but I know I'll be fine. Hey, life ain't always beautiful….but it’s a beautiful ride.”
Kaitlyn Murphy, a friend wrote, “Love is hard, long, and feels like an endless fight but you can't stop fighting. They’ll always be in my prayers. There is no doubt she met Austin at the right time to help him through this. I truly believe she’s his angel. God won’t forget the things they have been through and will be rewarded. One day they'll enjoy just being Mr. and Mrs. Monk.”
Lastly, Laura Monk stresses, “If you’re in the UNC area you could try to donate platelets, or if you sign up at the Bone Marrow Registry and are called to donate, you could save someone’s life. Even if you’re not his match, you maybe for someone else…..”
Bone Marrow GuidelinesEvidence of carcinogens in Iraq follows:
Visit marrow.org and register. Please fill out a questionnaire to determine if you meet the requirements. A FAQ’s tab answers concerns you may have.
"Iraq, Kuwait Dust May Carry Dangerous Elements"
Dec. 8, 2010
Dale Griffin and Cpt. Mark Lyles analyzed dust samples taken in Iraq and Kuwait in 2004 and found a wide range of heavy metals at rates in excess of World Health Organization maximum safe exposure guidelines:
• Arsenic at 10 parts per million: poisonous and can cause long-term health effects or death.
• Chromium at 52 parts per million: linked to lung cancer and respiratory ailments.
• Lead at 138 parts per million: can lead to headaches, nausea, muscle weakness and fatigue.
• Nickel at 562 parts per million: can lead to lung cancer, respiratory issues, birth defects and heart disorders.
• Cobalt at 10 parts per million: can lead to asthma and pneumonia.
• Strontium at 2,700 parts per million: linked to cancer.
• Tin at 8 parts per million: can cause depression, liver damage, immune system and chromosomal disorders, a shortage of red blood cells, and brain damage that can lead to anger, sleeping disorders, forgetfulness and headaches.
• Vanadium at 49 parts per million: can cause lung and eye irritation, damage to the nervous system, behavioral changes and nervousness.
• Zinc at 206 parts per million: can cause anemia and nervous system disorders.
• Manganese at 352 parts per million: linked to metabolic issues, arkinson’s disease and bronchitis.
• Barium at 463 parts per million: can cause breathing problems, heart palpitations, muscle weakness, heart and liver damage.
• Aluminum at 7,521 parts per million. Aluminum was of particular concern to Lyles and Griffin because the metal has recently been linked to “multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases.”
© COPYRIGHT December 2010, R. B. STUART. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction of this Blog in any form.
15 November 2010
Our use of carcinogenic chemicals and a cozyness with Big Pharma seems to fester during war time, as a more potent cocktail with severe adverse reactions is introduced with each war. In 1990 soldiers deployed for the Persian Gulf - Desert Storm war under Bush Senior's regime, the soldiers witnessed piles of dead animals in the desert. They were stacked into decomposing mounds five months prior to the troops arrival.
The animals weren't considered a direct threat since the soldiers weren't camped directly beside them. But the potential for breeding grounds of diseases remained. To contain the existing problem military personnel thoroughly sprayed the decaying animals with the insecticides; methyl carbamate and “Baygon” (a propxur produced by Bayer, the aspirin makers), “Sevin” (a carbaryl produced by Aventis, a French company and smallpox vaccine maker that donated close to $2 million to the Bush camp in 2000), and “Lannate” (a methomyl produced by the chemical making machine DuPont). All are listed as poisons. Our military has already chosen to die for their country---but does that include by the hand of Big Pharma too?
From their deployment, over the past twenty years Gulf War Veterans have faced an endless battle with the VA for their array of chronic health issues. Only to be pacified with an all-inclusive watered-down diagnosis of Gulf War Illness, and mediocre benefits for their exposure.
Our current Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF] Veterans have since 2003, encountered a gamut of toxins in theatre; from the carcinogenic smoke of Burn Pits that includes feces from port-a-potty’s, to radiological exposure from inhalation or ingestion of depleted Uranium dust from spent munitions, both of which has infiltrated their camp environment, as well as the Iraqi civilians, via air, soil and water.
Without the DoD willingly coming forward with their cancer diagnoses amongst deployed soldiers, and refuting cancer as a war wound----medical doctors at the VA and other medical institutions are meeting challenges they’ve never seen before. As a percentage of soldiers are being diagnosed with rare, aggressive cancers post-deployment 4 – 36 months---that don’t fit the criteria of the illness.
Wyoming native, Cody Feeback [pictured above] joined the United States Marine Corps in 2002 at 18. The teen whose penchant for hunting, fishing, camping and spending time with his friends and family---would take second place to the Military service in which he became a devotee. “I loved the Marine Corps the friendships are like none other…it is a wonderful bond you experience with your fellow Marines,” explained SGT. Feeback whose home base from 2002 to 2005 was Camp Lejeune, N.C.
In February 2003 the 19 year-old deployed from Camp Lejeune in good health for his first tour in Kuwait, Iraq. He spent the next five months in northern Kuwait at Camp Coyote where as a Combat Engineer was in charge of Convoy Security. Like most soldiers, SGT. Feeback experienced vomiting and diarrhea in theatre, but like most soldiers deployed since 2003, was told it was normal. “I didn’t want my family to worry any more than they already were,” so SGT. Feeback never mentioned it. [on a night convoy below]
In the DoD’s own December 20, 2001 Field Manual, “Treatment of Nuclear and Radiological Causalities.” Chapter Three, page 13 outlines the radiological exposure dosages from 0 – 5 cGy being nominal and acceptable for military personnel during peacetime. But during war, if the dosages are from 75 – 300 cGy, onset in 6 hours the symptoms are headache and nausea at the low end of cGy, vomiting for the high range of cGy with an onset of 2 – 3 hours. The low range of duration is 12 hours upward to 3 – 4 days.
When diarrhea is included to the aforementioned symptoms, the cGy dosage ranges from 300 – 530. The onset of diarrhea within 2 – 6 hours with a duration of 2 – 3 weeks. There is a minimal 24-hour window after exposure to Uranium to order a urine or fecal bioassay. If ordered, those results are kept confidentially in the soldiers RER records [Radiation Exposure Records].
On Chapter Five, section I, Low Level Radiation, 5-2, B, Exposure Guidance page 5 – 1 and 5 – 2, “The risks associated with radiation exposure within the range of 5 – 75 cGy are confined primarily to the risk of increased incidence of malignant diseases, including solid tumors and leukemia.” So from their own admission, the U. S. Military is fully aware of radiation exposure of deployed troops resulting in a Cancer diagnoses, but maintain ignorance when a soldier is actually diagnosed post deployment.
SGT. Feeback’s tour ended July 2003 and returned to Camp Lejeune. He reconnected with his parents and three siblings, then in 2005 he transferred to Camp Pendleton, California. By that September he received orders to re-deploy. His second tour sent him to Fallujah, Iraq where over the next seven months he made a home at Camp Fallujah. Unaware that local doctors were recording high-rates of abnormal birth defects in Fallujah civilians.
Study Finds Iraq Littered with High Levels of Nuclear and Dioxin Contamination
The Guardian UK
--Jan. 22, 2010
• Greater rates of cancer and birth defects near
• Depleted uranium among poisons revealed in report
More than 40 sites across Iraq are contaminated with high levels or radiation and dioxins, with three decades of war and neglect having left environmental ruin in large parts of the country, an official Iraqi study has found.
Areas in and near Iraq's largest towns and cities, including Najaf, Basra and Falluja, account for around 25% of the contaminated sites, which appear to coincide with communities that have seen increased rates of cancer and birth defects over the past five years. The joint study by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionizing radiation, which is thought to be a legacy of depleted uranium used in munitions during the first Gulf war and since the 2003 invasion.
So when SGT. Feeback’s tour ended in March 2006 he returned to Camp Pendleton where he awaited the completion of his stint in the USMC. And by September 21, 2006 SGT. Feeback was honorably discharged. The only thing the 23 year-old had on his mind was living a comfortable and fun life with his family, so he moved back home to Wyoming. The next two years he worked as an equipment operator until a position opened at the local VA, in their warehouse shipping and receiving. Within a month he met Roxan, and 16 months later, in March 2010 they were engaged, and prepared for a September wedding.
Then without warning in July 2010 he developed Flu-like symptoms that sent him to the Sheridan VA Medical Center. “I complained of abdominal and lower back pain, the Doctor assumed it was appendicitis and ordered a urinalysis and CT scan,” the 27 year-old informed. “But when the Doctor read the CT scan they saw a mass on the right kidney.”
Immediately they medEvac him to the Denver VA for a biopsy. “The Doctors were certain after the biopsy it was Wilms Tumor, but were perplexed since it is a pediatric kidney cancer usually found in three to six year-old children.” The following day when the urine results came back he was diagnosed with Stage III.
“At first my response was disbelief and fear for my family,” he admitted. “I don’t have any idea if I was exposed to burn pits or had depleted Uranium exposure. Even so, I don’t blame anybody for this sickness…I just don’t like putting my family through all this stress.”
Within a month his right kidney was removed. “I underwent eleven rounds of radiation and am currently going through 24 weeks of chemotherapy,” SGT. Feeback informed. “I’ve had good care at the VA, and have had a lot of support with visitors and phone calls.” [Marine Feeback below]
On September 4, 2010, while undergoing treatments, SGT. Feeback married Roxan, and after serving 4 years and 8 months in the USMC he conveyed, “I was very proud to serve my country and I would do it again.”
The dedication a majority of soldiers have for the military is palpable. And no matter what they were exposed to during deployments, the selfless, courageous men and women serve with honor and devotion never blaming….even at their own peril. And if the U. S. Military subjugates the evidence of cancer stricken soldiers in attempts to hide the environmental genocide in Iraq….then its higher ranking officials will find themselves marred in the history books, as a disloyal superpower that thoughtlessly devoured its own.
In June 2010, Doug Rokke, Ph.D. retired, U.S. Army Major commented on the predicament Operation Iraqi Freedom [OIF] Veterans and civilians of war torn countries are subjected to. “We’ve ignored what we have done to the residents of the nations. We [the U.S. Military] has invaded without justification and then trashed their country. I have come to the realization that based on history we in the military bought the notion ‘to protect,’ but who are we protecting, and from whom?”
“We in the military are simply the extension of power and greed, reality not myth. And the abandonment of our Veteran’s is because of the casualty numbers, that we ourselves are responsible.”
“I am constantly bombarded by telephone, E-mail, knocks at my door, and stopped wherever I go. Every day more Veterans or their families seek help, and suffice to say it’s becoming worse---while we continue to set-up more of the same,” concluded the disabled Veteran Doug Rokke.
AFP Agence France-Presse
--Oct. 5, 2010
GENEVA (AFP) – The UN Health Agency, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Iraqi authorities are carrying out a survey of birth defects in Iraq following media reports of abnormal patterns in Fallujah, a WHO spokeswoman said.
“An investigation has begun in six governorates (administrative region) of Iraq into these reports of congenital defects,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told journalists.
The BBC reported in March 2010 that large and growing numbers of birth defects were observed by doctors in Fallujah, a former insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad that was at the heart of some of the fiercest fighting with US forces.
Chaib said the scientific “pilot assessment” by “the Iraqi government with the help of the... WHO” began in July and would take about 18 months to complete.
The study covers Sulemaniah, Diyala, Baghdad, Dhi-Qar, Basra and Anbar province, which includes Fallujah.
It will lay out “the magnitude, distribution and trends of Congenital Birth Defects” in Iraq and establish a basis for comparison with today as well as between different parts of the country, according to the UN health agency.
Reports of health abnormalities among civilians in Iraq or soldiers who served there have sparked claims of links with special weaponry allegedly used during successive wars, including armour-busting depleted Uranium shells.
International Coalition To Ban Uranium Weapons, U.K.
--Oct. 29, 2010
The United Nations First Committee has voted, by an overwhelming margin, for state users of depleted Uranium weapons to release data on where the weapons have been used to governments of states affected by their use.
136 states voted in favor of a resolution calling on state users of depleted Uranium weapons to release quantitative and geographical data to the governments of affected states. The resolution will now go forward to the United Nations General Assembly for a second vote at the end of November 2010.
Although UN resolutions are non-binding, they are a useful means of focusing attention on key issues. In this case the ongoing failure of the US to release data on its use of depleted Uranium in Iraq and concerns over the use of the weapons in other conflicts, such as the interventions in Somalia in the mid-1990s.
The resolution was opposed by only four states - the US, UK, France and Israel. These four also voted against previous resolutions accepting that DU has the potential to damage human health (2007) and calling for more research in
affected states (2008).
By Adam Levine, CNN
--Oct. 15, 2010
Military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to use waste methods that expose troops to potentially toxic emissions without fully understanding the effects, according to a new government audit obtained by CNN.
Between September 2009 and October 2010, investigators from the Government Accountability Office visited four bases in Iraq and reviewed planning documents on waste disposal for bases in Afghanistan. None of the Iraq bases visited were in compliance with military regulations. All four burned plastic--which generates harmful emissions--despite regulations against doing so.
The emissions have been the source of controversy as troops have complained about a host of problems, from cancerous tumors to respiratory issues, blaming exposure to burn pits. Military officials have denied any consequential effects on most troops.
Prior to an initial outcry about the pits more two years ago, the largest base in Iraq -- Balad Air Base -- was burning everything from hazardous and medical waste to plastics, using jet fuel as accelerant, according to military documents. The smoke poured over the living quarters and the base hospital, exposing thousands of troops to the emissions.
The U.S. military generates about 10 pounds of non-hazardous waste per service member each day and "may consist of plastic, Styrofoam, and food from dining facilities; discarded electronics; shipping materials such as wooden pallets and plastic wrap; appliances; and other items such as mattresses, clothing, tires, metal containers, and furniture," the report says.
According to the report, there were 221 burn pits in Afghanistan by August and more are anticipated. Only 21 remained in Iraq and, like the troop levels there, the numbers are expected to decrease. The burn pits are operated by either the military or contractors.
While the pits have been in use since the beginning of each war, regulations and guidance were only issued in 2009 -- eight years into the Afghanistan conflict and six years after the start of the war in Iraq.
The military's attitude about the impact of the burn pits has shifted. When complaints initially arose in 2008 military officials denied there was any hazard to troops. Last year the Pentagon changed that position, declaring long-term effects for troops who had pre-existing conditions was foreseeable.
A GAO analysis of the data from the samples collected found matter named on the CENTCOM list of potentially harmful substances. Investigators found that the samples which exceeded the levels considered safe if exposed for a year mostly contained fine particles. Fine particles can embed in the lung tissue, and of particular concern is when there is prolonged exposure.
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, who has been vocal in his concern about troops' exposure to burn pits, urged the Pentagon to restrict the use of the pits in Afghanistan. “I am deeply troubled to learn that the Defense Department has not taken simple steps, such as segregating plastics, to ensure that our troops are not exposed to harmful emissions,” Feingold said in a statement.
The acting commander of Central Command, Lt. Gen. John Allen, wrote a letter to Feingold in July saying the military is trying to eliminate the use of burn pits at bases that are active for 90 days or more and occupied by 100 personnel or more. In Iraq, Allen anticipates there will be no burn pits by December of this year. Afghanistan is more challenging, but the military is in the process of procuring “almost 200 incinerators,” he said in the letter, obtained by CNN.
10 July 2010
By R. B. STUART
Memorial Day makes us remember that no matter how many wars, generations and decades go by---we as a human race never seem to learn. The exploitation of our military is a cruel punishment our enemies don't even deserve. What “we” do to our own with radioactive weapons, and the catastrophe of environmental carcinogens left behind---makes water boarding look like shooting a beer keg at a water park.
Most heart wrenching is the disservice by the DoD for those brave and healthy men and women who join the ranks of service to protect us. To be careless with their courageous souls is incomprehensible, but that’s exactly what the U. S. does generation after generation. As they string the Veteran’s together with empty medals from Korea, to Vietnam, to the Gulf War and now Iraq and Afghanistan. Their Purple Hearts, missing limbs, PTSD and aggressive rare cancers are less about the casualties of war, and more about the severity of illnesses that emerge with each generation of deployed military.
The DoD drapes their denial with the American flag---while hiding beneath their crooked smile---vats of mustard gas, Agent Orange and depleted Uranium masked in red, white and blue lies. It is unpatriotic to question their motives, but it is also inhumane to willingly contaminate and kill your own. As this new chapter of Iraq war crimes lends itself to the horrors of science fiction….it is another black mark upon our future.
After seven years, the VA Director of Compensation and Pension Service, Bradley G. Mayes sent a training letter on April 26, 2010 to all VA Regional Offices, “Environmental Hazards in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Military Installations.” Informing regional employees on specific environmental hazard incidents that present health risks to service members and Veterans. And provide guidance on handling claims for disabilities potentially resulting from exposure to environmental hazards while on active duty. As well as “fact sheets” for VA examiners when conducting Compensation and Pension (C&P) examinations associated with such exposure.
Mayes outlined; Service members can be exposed to environmental hazards in the course of their military duties, which may result in adverse health effects. Numerous environmental hazards in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other military installations that could potentially present health risks to service members and Veterans have been identified. The hazards discussed in this training letter are as follows: (1) Large burn pits throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa; (2) ”particulate matter” in Iraq and Afghanistan; (3) a large sulfur fire at Mishraq State Sulfur Mine near Mosul, Iraq; (4) hexavalent chromium exposure at the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant in Basrah, Iraq; (5) contaminated drinking water at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina; and (6) pollutants from a waste incinerator near the Naval Air Facility (NAF) at Atsugi, Japan. And stressed, “It is imperative that regional office personnel are aware of these environmental health hazards and are well-trained to handle disability claims from Veterans based on exposure to them.”
In May 2006 the VA sent the letter below to, 25-year-old Army Specialist Travis Bromfield admitting to his exposure while deployed in Iraq. By September 2005 seven months into his year tour, he was diagnosed with a terminal, stage IV Poorly Differentiated Neuroendocrine Carcinoma of unknown primary, of the liver, bones, lungs, kidneys, brain and spine. Spc. Bromfield was given a two-month life expectancy, this particular cancer only occurs in patients age 55 or older. He died February 20, 2007. For him and his family, the information about the hazardous environment in Iraq was withheld, and he was unable to protect himself while deployed. But how many more have to die needlessly while the U. S. war machine burns through the Middle East?
They campaign for a ban on the use of uranium in all conventional weapons and weapon systems and for monitoring, health care, compensation and environmental remediation for communities affected by their use.
ICBUW represents more than 120 NGOs worldwide and seeks to do for uranium weapons what the International Coalition to Ban Landmines and Cluster Munition Coalition did for those types of weapons, in essence to develop a uranium weapons treaty that would prohibit the use of uranium in all conventional, i.e. non-nuclear, weapons. research projects.
An ICBUW spokesperson said: “We warmly welcomed the interest in uranium weapons shown by activists from the US and elsewhere in the world during the recent civil society NPT UN conference. Global opinion is rapidly turning against uranium weapons - something clearly seen by the UN resolutions on the issue, where 141 states accepted that uranium weapons have the potential to harm human and environmental health. In 2008, UN member states called for more research on the issue yet the US's refusal to release the firing coordinates from 1991 and 2003 is hampering this work and leading to unnecessary civilian exposures. ICBUW calls on the US government to urgently release this data to the UN and NGOs.”
Their world map of DU User Nations shows in red confirmed, grey suspected use.
An overview of ICBUW’s impressive timeline in the last two years highlights
the progress of their campaign:
UK MPs accuse US military of human rights atrocity over use of toxic munitions in Fallujah.
Irish depleted uranium ban bill receives warm reception.
Costa Rica bans production of depleted uranium weapons in their free trade zones.
US set to discontinue depleted uranium in medium calibre ammunition.
Netherlands Parliament approves motion for a moratorium on depleted uranium weapons.
Kiwi MP submits Members Bill calling for depleted uranium ban.
University of Vermont divests from cluster munition and depleted uranium manufacturers.
Latin America Parliament calls for a moratorium on uranium weapons.
British jury rules that DU was likely cause of dead Gulf Veteran's colon cancer.
The Belgian parliament votes unanimously to ban depleted uranium weapon investments.
German Bundeswehr manual challenges US and UK denials over depleted uranium in Afghanistan.
UK Uranium Weapons Network launched as Belgium becomes first country to ban
depleted uranium weapons.
The First International Cancer Conference held in Basrah, Iraq due to the alarming increase of cancer reports.
DU exhibition opens at Berlin's Anti-War Museum .
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs agrees to fund ICBUW research projects.
Belgian Senate approves prohibition on financing of depleted uranium weapons.
Costa Rica to ban depleted uranium weapons.
UK Co-operative Bank ceases all investment in DU weapon manufacturers.
Italy approves a 30 Million Euro for DU Compensation Package for Veterans’.
UN General Assembly passes its second DU resolution.
Nordic Network Against Uranium Weapons established in Oslo.
UN Secretary General publishes report on DU weapons.
Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs acknowledges need for uranium weapons treaty.
European Parliament establishes a DU Working Group.
UK politicians and NGOs condemn renewed DU test firing.
In late 2008 Burke PLLC became aware that cancer cases amoungst soldiers began to surface. Although, I began reporting on cancer stricken soldiers in 2006 ….it has taken that long for injured parties ignored by the DoD and VA, to step forward, while the mainstream media lags behind barely covering the topic of cancer in the military post Iraq----which 95 percent of the American public is unaware of.
Lead council in Multi District Litigations, Susan Burke and sister, attorney Elizabeth Burke, filed 43 different lawsuits, all statewide legal actions in 2009. “When you look at the number of troops deployed to Iraq, the majority have been exposed to burn pits and contaminated water,” Susan Burke said.
It is only a matter of time before the contractors placed in Iraq, responsible for willingly exposing our troops to carcinogens, are placed before the firing squad of outraged American’s. Till then, it’s buisness as usual for our troops in Iraq; DU with their morning coffee, doughnuts and Burn Pits…a breakfast of champions for our future Veterans.’ So don’t be fooled this Memorial Day when you see the flags flying half mass in Washington, nor the fraudulent salute from our Former Administration, Bush and Cheney. As they are the two responsible for creating the war, and for sacrificing our men and women for their own diety; no longer a golden cow, but a pig made of green tresury paper with red, white and blue threads, dripping in brown sludge: their money hog [god] drentched in oil. Burn baby burn…..
10 April 2010
By R. B. STUART
The Army Times reported on March 17, 2009, “VA to Monitor Burn-Pit Exposure Data” that Veterans Affairs Secretary, Eric Shinseki wrote to Congress days prior that That The Veterans Affairs Department is gathering data to monitor potential health problems among troops who say they were made ill by exposure to smoke from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Adding, a growing number of service members say they were exposed to everything from burning petroleum products to plastics and batteries. At every base in Iraq and Afghanistan burn pits are used to dispose of waste, including feces. Burn pit tests in war zones have shown that the fires release dioxins, benzene and volatile organic compounds, including substances known to cause cancer. While soldiers reporting more serious adverse health effects believe they are linked to those exposures.
Shinseki said the exposure data from burning trash and waste is already part of a large, ongoing population-based study comparing the health of 30,000 veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, with the health of 30,000 non-deployed.
That study evaluates; “self-reported exposures (including burning trash and feces), symptoms, chronic health conditions, functional status, pregnancy outcomes and health care utilization,” Shinseki wrote.
He also said it is “essential” for the VA to educate its health care providers about toxic exposures and possible long-term health effects related to the burn pits. So far, about 200 veterans have contacted Disabled American Veterans to say they are sick, and that they think the burn pits caused their ailments. Of those, about 30 have developed lymphoma and leukemia. Other reported conditions include asthma, bronchitis, sleep apnea, chronic coughs, allergy-like symptoms and heart problems.
Defense officials say that health effects as a result of exposure to burn pit smoke are likely to be “temporary” and should “clear-up” once troops return home. Shinseki concurred, “Most toxic materials from burn pits may be eliminated from the bodies of exposed veterans in a matter of days or weeks.”
If burn pit smoke is so harmless, then I invite VA Secretary Shinseki and DoD officials to take their kids to Talil, Iraq this summer instead of Disney World….and let them run amok building sand castles. If they expect other parents to give their blessings to deployed children who are exposed to this “easily assimilated toxic smoke”----then they shouldn’t have any reservations.
Army SGT. Amanda Older from San Antonio Texas [pictured throughout] deployed with the 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade [BfSB] out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina September 2007 for Baghdad, Iraq. “My Camp Rustamiyah was located within walking distance of a factory which regularly burned feces. My suspicions are that’s where they dumped the port-a-john’s we used. The stench was so vile twice a day---you did not even want to walk outside,” remembered the 23 year-old who was in perfect health prior to deployment.
Although, environmental toxins weren’t what the former JROTC drill team member had in mind when she joined the military around Mothers Day of 2005 at the age of 18. Initially I joined for a challenge, and for something to do. I wanted to see if I could handle the physical training, and when I graduated I felt a sense of pride,” SGT. Older shared. “It’s not that I was patriotic, or had love of country---that developed after joining.”
While undergoing two months of Basic Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina she lived in the barracks and cooked only using microwaves. It was then she decided when her term was up that she’d attend Culinary School and become a chef. “There wasn’t any particular cuisine in mind, just be skilled enough to be a professional chef.” Besides a career---a bright future with marriage and children were undoubtedly on the young beauty’s horizon.
SGT. Older, a Human Intelligence Collector specialized in interrogations on detainees. “I had to be verbally aggressive---water boarding was strictly prohibited,” she informed. The former league bowler was healthy through her entire 15-month deployment, which came to an end December 2008. And by March she started to experience 30 pounds of weight gain, a deterioration of her muscles, high blood pressure, acne, “moon-face,” and facial hair. “I went from being able to do 93 sit-ups in two minutes to not even one sit-up without assistance,” she heartbreakingly recalled. “Although initially, I didn’t see a doctor until about six months after my return due to the stigma of going to the medics,” she confessed. Explaining, “There’s a lot of soldiers using the Troop Medical Center [TMC] to get out of doing something physical like PT, marches, rifle training or cleaning the HMMVW [HumVee].”
“By June 2009 I had seen at least a half dozen Physician Assistant’s at Ft. Bragg, but never the same one. It was never my Primary Care Provider. I don’t think I ever even met my Primary Care Provider,” she recollected. “The doctors at Ft. Bragg insisted my blood pressure was high and I was gaining weight due to stress and possibly developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Actually, my uncle Dr. Steven Older informally diagnosed me with Cushing’s Disease.”
“The Ft. Bragg doctors recommended I see a nutritionist, as they believed if I lost weight my blood pressure would go down. Then once I transferred to the Presidio of Monterey in Monterey, California I was fortunate enough to have an Internist who immediately recognized something bigger was occurring. He didn’t make any assumptions, he just ran tests until he figured it out. And that to have such high blood pressure at such a young age, was probably not just my bad genes.”
Then on September 11, 2009 everything changed when he informed her of the diagnosis, Stage III Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma—Cancer of the adrenal gland. According to The Transational Genomics Research Institute, it’s a rare, non-gender specific cancer that affects only 1 in every 1.7 million.
“My initial reaction was disbelief…shock---then fear,” SGT. Older confided. “It took me a couple of days before I was able to grasp the concept of “cancer.” Then I was pained. My heart hurt. I felt like I was letting my family down by getting sick, and I felt like less of a soldier for having to be at the doctor’s so much. Prior to diagnosis (at the Presidio TMC while the doctors were still trying to troubleshoot the illness), my chain of command couldn’t understand why I wasn’t “trying harder” during Physical Training. I was seen as weak and was stereotyped as “one of those soldiers.” ”
And within four days after diagnosis the courageous soldier underwent surgery, an adrenalectomy to remove the 9 cm. tumor on her left adrenal gland and began an oral chemotherapy treatment. Soon after SGT. Older was transferred to a Warrior Transition Unit [WTU] at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. “Most soldiers there are burn victims or awaiting prosthetics, so I was looked at as if nothing was wrong. My supervisor was very understanding and did all he could to get me transferred to Florida as quickly as possible.” And by the end of 2009 she was finally moved to the Community Based WTU in Florida.
Within three months after the diagnosis a CT Scan was ordered, only to discover the cancer had spread to a stage IV, including her lungs, liver, and abdominal lymph nodes. Immediately, an IV form of chemo was administered. SGT. Older has completed three of six rounds of chemo, and faces her 4th round the beginning of this month. When finished she’ll revert to the oral chemotherapy for the next two years.
“SGT. Amanda Older is a true solider,” her father Wayne and step-mother Faye said lovingly. “She went from fighting the enemy to fighting a cancer that may be a direct result of that combat. She is still a true solider battling this disease with everything she has. She has a great spirit and great attitude, and with this kind of challenge that is the kind of ammunition she needs, And if she runs out, she has her family and friends who will give everything they have. We love her and are very proud of her.”
Not only does she have a combined family of six siblings lovingly rallying around her, she is also receiving much needed emotional support from the military. “Since moving here the new chain of command has been very supportive. My First Sergeant and Case Manager drove down to Miami to visit me during my first treatment, and is currently working to get TRICARE [insurance] to finance a wig for me. My Platoon Sergeant has made it clear that no matter what I need they are only a phone call away.”
With health care failing on so many levels, none more so than medical treatment for the military and Veteran’s, SGT. Older commends the doctors and RN’s at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center. “The care I have received since moving to Florida has been phenomenal. The doctors are top notch. Everyone is passionate about what they do and actually take the time to get to know their patients.”
No matter what the circumstances, SGT. Older remains a soldier at heart---ever faithful to her military service, but still questions “what” caused the rare, aggressive cancer. “I wonder every single day why this has happened to me. I know God has a reason for everything but I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what the reason is. I suppose in “His time” I will figure it out. But I believe a number of things contributed to my condition. I was exposed to many burn pits; burning feces, plastics, metals, trash, and even animals. And while out on missions even explosions, as well as a series of anthrax vaccines before and during deployment.”
“As fast as my cancer is spreading, I wonder every day whether or not I’ll live to see my younger brother get married,” she bravely admits. “I’m still scared and embarrassed of my bald head. It brings me to tears every morning looking at it in the mirror. I don’t even let my family see me without wearing a wig or scarf. I have a very hard time accepting the fact that I actually have cancer. Some days I wish it had been an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or bullet that had wounded me instead of this disease…at least then I could see and feel the damage. The only way I know the cancer is there is by the nausea and lack of energy I have from treatments.”
After her first term in the Army, a mere but combustionable 4.8 years, SGT. Older’s unwavering dedication to military service has not waned. “My wish is to survive this…I have so much I still want to accomplish. I want to visit Rome, buy a house, have a child, go to Culinary Arts school…but more than anything I want to return to active duty—though, not in that particular order. Being a soldier is all I know, and everything I love, and I want that life back,” she grieved. “I feel like so much has been ripped out from under me by this disease. I hope to figure out what caused this and then spread the word to prevent it.”
Her mother Karen mourned, “I have watched my daughter go through so much in the past eight months. I saw Amanda in May 2009 for her birthday and I knew then something was terribly wrong with her health. How the doctors at Ft. Bragg could not see this is beyond me. If someone would have taken the time to run some basic tests, maybe just maybe, the cancer would have been caught before it reached stage IV.”
“I find it appalling that the military will not acknowledge cancer as a war related injury, when a completely healthy soldier developed it while in Iraq,” her mother said angrily. “However, because cancer cannot be seen from the outside, people just assume there are no injuries. Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma is an extremely rare and aggressive cancer. And I believe in my heart that the cancer is a by-product of when my daughter was exposed to depleted Uranium in Iraq.”
“To use our soldiers as guinea pigs physically makes me sick,” her enraged mother stated. “This is not what my daughter signed up for and I will not allow her to suffer in vain. I will continue to write State senators, newspapers, etc until someone takes notice.”
“Our American Soldiers need a voice. They deserve to be heard and recognized for their sacrifices,” she begged. “I am so proud of each and every one of them. I pray that God will not let their pain and suffering be in vain.”
Labels: Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma, Army SGT. Amanda Older, benzene, Burn-Pits, Camp Rustamiyah, Cancer, carcinogens, chemo, dioxins, DoD, DU, IED, Iraq, PTSD, R. B. Stuart, Sec. Eric Shinseki, solider, VA
31 January 2010
Sister Solder: A Chronicle of Life After Iraq
By R. B. STUART
As early as 2007, four years after the war in Iraq, the medical journal, Lancet Oncology observed a trend, that several cancer registries were being locked out of Veteran’s Administration [VA] data beginning late 2004 [a year after the war in Iraq]. For decades the VA had voluntarily shared its data, allowing access to cancer patients. A Centers for Disease Control spokesman said as a result, "Potentially, 40 000 to 70 000 cases were missed nationally each year." Since several of the cancer registries national estimate of cases are askew, the spike in cancer rates of soldiers being diagnosed with cancer post 2003 deployment---remains unreported.
I have tracked nearly 40 soldiers since 2006 who have been diagnosed with rare, aggressive forms of cancer post their tour, half, have already died. The DoD and VA are less then forthright about this pattern---even as they approach the seventh anniversary of the war this March.
The environmental culprit, depleted Uranium and most recently the carcinogenic smoke from burn pits [the military’s resolve of disposing their sanitation in landfills---is burning the refuse, no matter what the content, in acre size dirt pits].
The United Nations Environment Programme has been conducting measurements of DU sites in Kosovo since 2000, later including Serbia, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq [the latter to be found with 42 contaminated sites]. Their “Depleted Uranium Awareness” pamphlet admits there’s a DU concern----but down-plays the cancer risks. DU is unable to penetrate the skin, but once there is inhalation or ingestion of the radiological DU dust, its toxicity has the ability to radiate the lungs and gut [multiplying in the cells].
Their projected time frame after exposure is 10 – 20 years before symptoms appear. But that is far from the truth. As soldiers lay ravaged in VA hospitals across the U. S. ----or their family’s, kneeling at the foot of a needless grave, know all too well. Privy to the VA data since 2003, the DoD is familiar with their diagnosis of an uncontrollable wildfire of rare cancer, appearing 4 to 36 months after exposure.
It is abhorrent that the DoD and mainstream media has stood shoulder to shoulder with locked arms blocking this information from the masses---military and civilian---in fear of soldiers deflecting. Especially when protective masks, gear and literature is readily available but intentionally withheld. But is death the only option? The young widow of Army Command Sergeant Major [CSM] James W. Hubbard Jr. [pictured throughout], with the 139th Medical Group Unit in Independence, Missouri, shares his story below.
The strapping Georgia native was drafted in 1972, a mere 20 years of age the autumn he enlisted. He was happy to leave Georgia, knowing the military would create opportunity that he wouldn’t have if he stayed. It instilled a sort of pride in him. It afforded him the ability to travel the world, he toured Egypt twice and lived in Germany for three years. He eventually returned to school where he earned his BA in Criminal Justice.
By 1980 the dedicated Army soldier decided eight years of Active Duty was enough and transferred into the Army Reserves. Year after year of superior military service he edged his way up in ranks to Command Sergeant Major, a rank that was the highlight of his career, and a proud accomplishment. But with such honors comes much commitment and before long he received orders to deploy to Iraq.
Fit for duty, the extremely active CSM Hubbard was in excellent health, never even needing an aspirin, and in preparation trained at Ft. Riley, Kansas. As the war in Iraq commenced February 2003, he deployed from the 450th Movement Control Battalion out of Kansas with Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His battalion landed in Iraq and forged ahead to their base camp at Talil Air Force Base [it’s been reported that Talil has one of the largest burn pits, 50-acres in size]. From there he spent the next 13 months traveling throughout Iraq, visiting his soldiers a few days at a time, at the many camps they called home. His health remained good, adrenalin keeping any possible issues at bay.
His tour ended March 2004, the arduous, year long stint was finally behind him. And like every soldier returning home he underwent routine blood work. Except his results were unusual and he was directed to a civilian doctor, who referred him to a blood specialist for follow-up testing and blood monitoring. He returned to the civilian job he’d been at since 2000, as a Sergeant at the Department of Correction in Kansas. And within a year met Katie, his young and beautiful future wife. Life was great. “According to my husband, they just monitored his blood without further testing and sent him home,” his wife Katie Hubbard recalled. “During the summer/fall of 2005 he began complaining that he couldn’t run like he was accustomed to. He would tire more easily and his workouts weren’t the same. He also started gaining weight.”
Over the next two years they planned their wedding. As a sports lover he watched the Atlanta Falcon’s and the University of Georgia Bulldogs play as much as he could. And with his wife to be shared his passion for war and Sci-fi movies, a collection of WWII figures, and introduced her to the soul of romance through the silky sounds of Motown music.
Unexpectedly, in early 2007, CSM Hubbard received orders to deploy to Kosovo for a year. The blissful couple decided to wed that Spring and within three months he shipped out to Kosovo. “Before Kosovo, he became winded easier, tired more often but otherwise was in good health. His weight gain became more pronounced while deployed from 2007- 2008. And fatigue was progressively worse,” his wife remembered. “When James came home from Kosovo, within a month he went to the Topeka VA Hospital in Kansas to begin the post deployment medical evaluation.” [This is a vital part of a soldiers medical history. The results, as well as their RER numbers [radiation exposure records] validating the radiation exposure from their tour, is permanently logged in their records, and data base. The RER data isn’t easily accessible to the soldier---but is to the VA and DoD.]
CSM Hubbard’s initial routine blood work turned into a flurry of do-overs in a five day period, at which point they finally disclosed that ‘his blood levels were critically low, and may need to be admitted for further testing.’ Urging him to schedule an appointment with the hematology department. Within two days he sat before Dr. Chester Stone, a hematologist, who informed him that ‘his levels were low, but not critical.’ “He thought that James either had a parasite or Leukemia, but didn't think it was acute. Inferring that if it was Leukemia, it wasn’t the “bad kind.” So he scheduled a bone marrow biopsy the following week, and ordered another CBC count,” Katie said.
The biopsy was botched the first time, so they re-drilled to retrieve the piece of bone marrow they weren’t able to initially. The doctors decided to include a series of genetic testing with the sample. Leaving the Hubbard’s anxiously awaiting the results for three weeks.
By mid November 2008 they met with the doctor. Expecting Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia if it was cancer, but hoping for a parasite or something easily treated. “We arrived and the doctor said, ‘It's Leukemia.’ Adding, ‘It’s a rare form and we can't be certain if it's Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia or Bi-Linagal Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.’ I was stunned. It was a blow to hear,” Katie admitted. “They believed James' Leukemia was from his service in Iraq.”
Dr. Stone urged them to move forth with testing and enter into a Transplant Center as CSM Hubbard needed a bone marrow transplant within a year. He saw three doctors before it was confirmed as Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia [ALL], with 85 percent Leukemia Blasts in his bone marrow. In January 2009 his chemotherapy port, a Hickman Catheter was placed. The Chemo started February at MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center. “The Kansas City VA was to do his treatment, but the doctors there were not only horrific, but unknowledgeable and disrespectful,” Katie recounted.
CSM Hubbard’s Commander was very supportive inviting the Hubbard’s to stay with he and his wife during one of the cycles, continuing to visit him in the hospital. “Both his Colonel and Brigadier General are doctors in the civilian world,” she informed. “His Brigadier General kept in close communication with him out of concern. His Colonel stated there was no explanation for the type of cancer James had for his age. And was puzzled as to where he could have gotten it. Adding that, ‘It’s normally a young adults or children’s cancer.’ ”
Mrs. Hubbard confided, both she and her husband believed the cancer was from his exposure to the bounty of chemicals and depleted Uranium while deployed to Iraq. “In 2003, his unit entered immediately after the Iraqi’s left the area. With the blown up tanks and utter destruction who knows what toxins they were subjected to.” Revealing, “There was at least one other person from his unit that had Leukemia post deployment.”
Still with all the obstacles and challenges they faced in this tragic unexpected circumstance, CSM Hubbard remained optimistic about the future, often talking about his plans post treatment. “His main goal was to enjoy our new house and get back in shape.” So he decided to retire as Group CSM, forfeiting the opportunity to advance to Brigade Command Sergeant Major, a role he held twice during the interim between Iraq and Kosovo tours.
She noted his chemo treatment during the odd cycles affected his PTSD. “He was extremely moody and short tempered. The even cycles made him more tired and took a day or two longer to gather his strength back.” In all, “James was beating the cancer and was in clinical remission after round two. The first few cycles at MD Anderson went good and he was treated well,” she reported. “But the doctor was aggressive and wanted to get the last remaining residual blasts (0.65%) out. She wanted the counts to be 0.00%. He was to undergo another bone marrow biopsy prior to cycle five. That one would have told us if a bone marrow transplant was necessary.”
It had been six months since his diagnosis. With hope in their heart after round four the Hubbard’s left the hospital for a much needed break. They left Houston and drove back home to Leavenworth, Kansas. CSM Hubbard’s body, tired and beaten from three months of aggressive treatments and chemicals---almost knocking the life out of him---just wanted to go home with his dedicated wife and recoup.
Within two days their hope had vanished as CSM Hubbard had developed explosive bouts of frequent diarrhea. Katie Hubbard had been advised by his doctors before leaving the hospital to administer the over-the-counter remedy, “Imodium.” “After I cleaned him up he was sitting up on the bed. I walked away and when I looked back I saw that he fell over onto his side. I went back to the bed and laid beside him, and as I started asking him how he felt I noticed his eyes were as big as half dollars,” she exclaimed.
“I knew something was wrong so I called 911 and he was taken to the ER in Leavenworth, Kansas. They wouldn’t allow me to ride with him, so I jumped into my vehicle and followed them to the hospital,” she said with frustration. “I stood by as they carried him from the ambulance, wheeling him to the ER. James squeezed my hand when I told him I loved him, and not to leave me. I assured him I was there for him,” she wept. “Then the EMS insisted I register him and barred me from his side while they performed CPR. Before long, the doctors returned, only to callously announce his death.”
“James ultimately died from a reaction to the antibiotic, “Vantin.” During his last cycle of chemo his doctors didn’t listen when I explained his symptoms, they instructed me to treat it with “Imodium.” Their unwillingness to listen ultimately caused his death,” she said angrily. “He was just completing the therapy in round four and we were waiting to start round five when he died,” she mourned.
Without medical explanation, she assumed his potassium levels may have dropped dangerously low from the severe diarrhea, “But we’ll never know because St. John’s Hospital ER didn’t order the blood work,” she cried.
His Colonel later said to Mrs. Hubbard, ‘You don’t cover-up the symptoms by treating them with Imodium.’ Online she read, ‘moderate to severe diarrhea’ is one of the side effects of an ‘adverse reaction’ to the antibiotic.
On May 21, 2009, at the age of 57, after 36 years, 6 months, and 27 days in the military, CSM James W. Hubbard Jr’s, father and brother beckoned him from the gates of heaven, calling the courageous, dedicated soldier home. There was no chance for final wishes, as he died suddenly and unexpectedly---alone.
His two sons from an earlier marriage, a grandson, five sisters, and mother had not been given the chance to clutch his hand, and squeeze away the fear of the unknown, nor rest their eyes on their beloved’s face one last time. The mistaken prognosis of a 90-95 percent chance of survival had evaporated---into the ethers along with his spirit. Suffering no longer---his hopes and dreams of what could have been lay buried at Leavenworth National Cemetery.
The evidence---another witness who’s suffered the toxic environmental secrets of the U. S. military in Iraq---is lost. All because of the DoD’s failure to provide the troops with preventative measures to fight the invisible enemy known as radiation. Without caution, we enrage over an unborn fetus at an abortion clinic, but when it comes to our soldiers---without conscience---we fall deaf and blind. Heavenly Father help us for killing our own---while cloaked in patriotism, we have become, the Weapon of Mass Destruction.
CSM Hubbard's VA letter admitting the cancer was related to his tour in Iraq.
The Guardian UK
January 22, 2010
“Study Finds Iraq Littered with High Levels of Nuclear and Dioxin Contamination”
• Greater rates of cancer and birth defects near sites
• Depleted uranium among poisons revealed in report
More than 40 sites across Iraq are contaminated with high levels or radiation and dioxins, with three decades of war and neglect having left environmental ruin in large parts of the country, an official Iraqi study has found.Areas in and near Iraq's largest towns and cities, including Najaf, Basra and Falluja, account for around 25% of the contaminated sites, which appear to coincide with communities that have seen increased rates of cancer and birth defects over the past five years.
The joint study by the environment, health and science ministries found that scrap metal yards in and around Baghdad and Basra contain high levels of ionizing radiation, which is thought to be a legacy of depleted uranium used in munitions during the first Gulf war and since the 2003 invasion.
By Abdul-Haq Al-Ani & Joanne Baker
June 2009, Vandeplas Publishing
The book outlines environmental problems and legal implications of the contamination of Iraq due to the use of depleted Uranium in military weapons used during the Gulf Wars. The military use of uranium has the potential to be a serious contributing factor to the illnesses besetting the Iraqi population. The authors address the concerns surrounding the changing health patterns in Iraq since 1991 and, in particular, the increase in cancers and genetic birth defects amongst children.
COPYRIGHT January 2010, R. B. STUART. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction of this Blog in any form.
Labels: Army CSM James W. Hubbard Jr., burn pits, Cancer, depleted Uranium, DoD, Guardian UK, Imodium, Iraq, Lancet, Leukemia, MD Anderson Cancer Ctr, Military, R. B. Stuart, Talil AFB, UN, VA, Vantin
15 November 2009
Sister Soldier: A Chronicle of Life After Iraq
By R. B. STUART
In September when CNN reported on Marines being diagnosed with male breast cancer at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the Marine Corp skirted the issue, taking the stance of it not being a “war wound.” Even though water contaminated with toxic chemicals [benzene and the dry-cleaning solvent perchloroethylene, a carcinogen] may have caused their illnesses, the Marine Corps says no link has been found between the contamination and their diseases. Without that link, the men are denied treatment by Veterans Affairs, which says it can't treat them for a condition that isn’t proved to be “service-related.”
Even if those wounds, are illnesses like cancer borne from wartime service, the military is just as stanch. As they prefer not to admit to any wrong doings in fear of lawsuits --- as in this case of Marines.
In 2007, Congress ordered the Marine Corps to notify an estimated 500,000. About 1,600 Marines were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1960s and 1980s from the water--seeking $34 billion in compensation and VA benefits.
A stricken ex-drill instructor says, “Nobody in this world has been more disillusioned…. I feel like I've been betrayed.”
Regardless of the era, how many soldiers, or what the carcinogen---the military refutes any active duty soldier’s claim of exposure to toxins in wartime. This DoD stance is one of disbelief for our soldiers….none more so than those being diagnosed with rare cancers from their tours in Iraq. How is it that you willfully give your life to fight for causes you may not believe in, out of dedication to the country in which you’ve promised to serve. Only to have the American flag pulled out from under you.
Their pride of duty, tarnished by the Commander in Chief, and the General they so faithfully followed on the battlefield. To be deserted in a war zone is one thing….but when you’re deserted by the leaders of your country after you’ve sacrificed your soul and psyche to defend them….
then the uniform in which you’ve donned, the medals and bars that rest upon your chest create a heaviness of abandon that sinks within your heart.
In 1970 at 17, Gregory Leon Wilson enlisted in the Army. From 1970-1975 at Ft. Bragg, NC he remembered using the same chemical used in Agent Orange for weed control. The young Florida native hadn’t foreseen service becoming his lifeblood spanning nearly 40 years, nor the harm chemical exposure would bring. His sentiments of the American Government after four decades in the military, is one of shame, disgrace and dishonor. Now at 56 years old he asks, “Why does our Nation allow such abandonment of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines?”
Although it wasn’t always that way, the erosion of his respect began in 2005 while undergoing medical treatment at Ft. Hood.
Army Staff Sergeant Gregory Wilson [pictured above] was honored to begin his military career with the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Campbell Kentucky. Doing a job he loved and believed in, he was stationed around the world; in Honduras with a Task Force, in Germany Tour Retro-Europe, in Bosnia with the RAOC, and Camp Darby Italy. Stateside, his assignments took him to Ft. Bragg, then onto Ft. Bliss, Ft. Irwin California, and later the Texas Army National Guard.
In February 1991 SSG. Wilson was called to Iraq during Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Desert Fix. He was assigned a Special Forces Unit to search for WMD’s. Prior to deployment, he and other soldiers at Ft. Bragg were ordered to take the tablet, “pyridostigmine bromide” [without FDA approval or disclosing to the soldiers its usage] or face Court Marshall. [PB is used to prevent death in the event a nerve agent is used in chemical warfare]
Additionally, their fatigues were treated with the bug repellant, “permethrin.” The coating so resilient, it remained on their uniforms up to six months or 50 washings. When wearing the flight vest, SSG. Wilson could detect the fumes from the chemical as it wafted into his nostrils. “Immediately I developed an irritation, and shortness of breath.”
So in Dec 2004 it wasn’t unexpected that SSG. Wilson, an Armor Crewman/Driver be deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Besides neck and back pain from spine issues, he experienced numbness in three toes, and three fingers. Even still, he departed Ft. Hood, Texas in remarkably good health, heading for the sand box of Kuwait. [below parachuting]
During his first four months in Iraq, under the protection of the Tallil Air Force Base, SSG. Wilson weathered the sand storms and spray of bullets. While the battalion protected him from enemy fire---they couldn’t protect him from what was multiplying in his cells. He developed pain throughout his arms and neck and his health began to decline. By April 19, 2005 he was diagnosed with an enlarged thyroid. A doctor in theatre accidentally discovered it during an examination for the numbness in his extremities.
“I did not know that I had it. I saw six doctors before they found out my thyroid was the size of a small apple.” He was medEvac out of Iraq to Ft. Hood via Germany where it was removed.
A year later he discovered a small knot in his back. A Doctor at Ft. Hood diagnosed him with a benign Lymphoma. By the beginning of August 2006 after his med boards his tour ended, but the nightmare of inadequate care and an insufficient diagnosis began. Then three years later, June 2009, while at the VA in Albuquerque, NM, “I was having an X-ray of my spine and the technicians inadvertently discovered a mass of tumors in my lungs. There weren’t any symptoms so I didn’t realize it,” he remarked.
By July 2009, two rare cancerous tumors in a network of spider webs were growing in his neck / collarbone region connecting to other webbed tumors. The two alone were removed but no other treatment was given. Ironically, the growths were in the exact location as the bug repellent on the collar of his fatigues. The doctors said the route of the cancer was through his lungs, therefore most likely the carcinogen entered his system through his air passages.
SSG. Wilson has undergone two surgeries and four rounds of chemo with two pending.
“Treatments have been bad. Neither Ft. Hood or Amarillo, VA have treated me for my back issues or PTSD,” he recounted. The culprit for his cancer he reflected, “Besides having six Anthrax vaccines during my career, and exposed to PB. I have had prominent exposure to depleted Uranium from both Gulf wars, in 1991 and 2004. Coupled with the burn pits on every military base in Iraq. Ours at Tallil AFB was 50 acres or larger. Unexplained packages or IED’s [Improvised Explosive Devices] found roadside were detonated and burned in the pit. We breathed the smoke everyday. Depending on the wind and how much they burned would determine the heaviness and blackness of the air.”
For a Commander to abandon a soldier in action is unfathomable. But when a soldier is intentionally exposed to environmental toxins in theatre without his knowledge, producing long-term consequences to their health---and done so willfully---is premeditated. While the hazardous effects begin to sprout throughout the body, the proof of the deceit is unconscionable. To refute care and abandon the soldier when he is physically broken, and no longer of use, deemed---non-deployable---is no less than an act of a deserter, a traitor…a harrowing realization for the soldier and his family.
Although the military forsakened him, SSG. Wilson has had his wife of 14 years by his side, Brigitte, and their two children, a boy and girl. The health of his children, ages 16 and 13, weigh heavy on his mind. “They were born post my earlier tours in Iraq. So I worry about their health because of my past exposures,” he mourned.
His lung cancer is outside of the lungs, in soft tissue located throughout his body. Still after four months----he is without a proper diagnosis or stage. Although the four rounds of chemo have shrunk the tumors tremendously…his prognosis is “treatable but not curable.”
The uncertainty has propelled him into an emotional and mental Tsunami. “This illness explains some of the symptoms I complained about in December 2004. And it fills me with anger and rage,” he admitted. “Some of the pain in the areas of cancer are nodules within nodules webbed together.” [below, receiving Chemo at the VA]
Each day a soldier walks this land alone with a withering, broken body---he’s silently seeking the American public to do their duty, defend him, by stepping up in protest shouting, “no more.” Shaking a fist of injustice, and crying for the soldiers lives they’ve unknowingly lost from wounds not honored by the business of war, is when this betrayal ends for our brave men and women of war. For now, the personal stories of cancer continue.
“Since I was retired in August 2006, although not “medically retired,” the Military does not have anything to do with the cancer. But I feel that Ft. Hood knew that it was there. The Amarillo VA is treating the cancer, but I wonder why it wasn’t discovered during all of the X-rays performed. And two weeks before the Albuquerque VA X-rays, Social Security ordered the same for my spine and didn’t locate the cancer either.”
The inadequacy of the VA and majority of military doctors in theatre that fail to diagnose or misdiagnose is at the crux of the soldiers diagnosed with rare, advanced cancers. Since my beginning this long-term research in 2006, thus far 50 percent of the OIF soldiers have died. The soldiers family’s step forward with their beloved’s stories, out of frustration and disbelief that their medical treatment went awry. The families; the soldiers’ mother, father, wife, sister or brother are the keepers of these military secrets.
Shamefully, the Veteran’s medical system is set up to go awry. As the doctors callously perform hatchet jobs on the military men and women who return from war physically broken, psychologically maimed, and are sliced and diced until their spirit has been castrated. And their will to fight the VA system has been so convoluted with red tape, lost files, misdiagnosis, canceled appointments and lack of care, they become too powerless to buck the system they willfully defended, and their illusions with the military they so loved---begins to fade. Sadly, those meant to be honored----begin to disintegrate and die.
“Currently, my medical treatment is incomplete, there’s been no evaluation. Since I am not officially medically retired [pending], being held in this grey area unpaid for over three years. I feel that I have been betrayed.” He continues, “We are promised to be taken care of, but they didn’t tell us that first we have to prove what we have contracted. The consensus from the soldiers around here is as long as we lay down and die they’re happy.”
For over 30 years in varied units with numerous Military Specialties as Active Duty, National Guard and Reserves. “The VA system has begun telling us that these injuries are either “hereditary,” “it’s all in your mind,” “you are faking it” or “there is nothing wrong with you,” he concedes. “It is appalling that we need to defend ourselves in front of a host of case managers and a medical board for injuries sustained in the line of duty. It eventually takes its toll.”
The wind howls through the holes of betrayal ingrained in their honor, as the devotion and sacrifice is left behind on the tear stained desert sand of Iraq. They’re consumed by the unwelcome invader conceived in battle---and given birth to in the United States: Cancer. The foreign body causing illness and torment reeks havoc on their life. Thoughts of aloneness and confusion are only magnified by the hollow abandon of the military in which they serve. As the battle to live, and the battle to prove illness---has just begun. They’ll be cast aside as the “only one” while their medical records lay at the bottom of a dumpster awaiting incineration, in an attempt to destroy the truth, but can’t---as it is buried within.
SSG. Wilson’s disability is borne of a distinguished 36 year Military career. He has petitioned his local Congressman, Senator, the Department of the Army, but the Veteran’s Administration continues to offer him no relief. He is left without benefits, no income, no retirement, in need of medical support that he is not eligible for. “The regional level is denying the cancer so the information that’s needed is not moving up to the top as it should.” SSG. Wilson whose only sibling has died, says, “The hard part was to tell my mother after already losing her baby girl….that she may be losing her only son.”
“We, who have chosen to serve this country, know that risk comes with the job, and when asked, most will endure the risk gladly. But you promised to take care of us when needed, and now that we need you, you have turned your backs to us,” he argues. “We have been asked: are you thinking of suicide. Our answer is that we don’t have to---the VA is doing a better job.”
“I am old enough to remember when our Viet Nam heroes came home. And seeing them spat upon. I grew up with those guys. I watched some of them drink or drug themselves to death. I knew or heard of others. I remember how they felt about the way they were treated; the lack of respect, the lack of appreciation, and the total lack of understanding for what they suffered and endured in defense of our Country. Many moved on. Others couldn't hold on long enough to get the help they desperately needed. Some gave up waiting. Others still wait.”
SSG. Wilson concludes, “We can’t repeat the past. Our Veterans deserve better than this. I sometimes envy those who have died in combat because they died not knowing we won’t be taken care of….our nation deserves better. But currently, the only good Veteran….is a dead one.”
Copyright September 2009, R. B. Stuart, All Rights Reserved. No reproduction of this blog in any form.