July 27, 2010

Chairman Mitchell and Members of the Subcommittee, The American Legion would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify today and strongly appreciates the Subcommittee's commitment to addressing this issue. In many ways, this generation of wartime veterans can identify with the veterans of previous generations exposed to other environmental hazards, such as radiation and Agent Orange. This kinship comes from the suffering, hardships, and challenges they faced in dealing with the very government that placed them in harm's way.

As service members, veterans are trained to fight and defeat the enemy. For those Gulf War veterans with an array of medical conditions not easily diagnosed, they were not prepared for the battle ahead with both the Department of Defense and the newly-created Department of Veterans Affairs. Fortunately, these veterans had an ally -- The American Legion.

Today, The American Legion would like to address the cultural perception of Gulf War Illness: the research; the care (both medical and benefits wide); and finally the education and outreach to Gulf War veterans.

For Most: A Military Success Story

The Southwest Asian War was historic in many aspects. Each military operation from start to finish truly demonstrated the greatest military force the world had ever seen. Over a six month period, from August to February, the military buildup was textbook and unprecedented. The airpower unleashed in January of 1991 softened the Iraqi military and inflicted tremendous damage prior to what was predicted to be a major ground action. The "100-hour War" had no equal in the United States military history. Military losses were minimal. Clearly, noncombat injuries far outnumber the combat wounded on the battlefield. The anticipated threat of chemical or biological warfare never materialized. The multi-nation Coalition Forces, working in harmony, successfully freed Kuwait and confined Saddam Hussein within the Iraqi borders. Service members returned home from Operation Desert Storm to warm welcomes and parades.

For Others: An Adventure

Back home, thousands of National Guard and Reserve personnel were being federalized for deployment to augment their active-duty counterparts. That meant refresher training on such activities as Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) Warfare Protection; Decontamination Activities; Combat First Aid; Prisoner of War processing and confinement; Geneva Convention; Weapons Qualification; and physical training. Going through the mobilization for deployment meant medical and dental checkups; wills; powers of attorneys; cleaning and packing equipment; inoculations; medications; and more training. As unit after unit were deemed combat-ready, they were deployed.

When service members began arriving in Saudi Arabia, they found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. Most were still wearing their "Woodlands Green" camouflage fatigues in the desert surrounding. Daytime temperatures soared and nighttime temperatures dropped. Diets changed according to locations. Some still had access to hot meals prepared in field kitchens or makeshift dining halls, while others began their Meals Ready to Eat daily regimen. Once in Saudi Arabia, service members began taking their malaria pills until their issued allotment was depleted.

Training resumed with increased emphasis on NBC conditions. Efforts to break the boredom resulted in volleyball, basketball, baseball or football games while wearing the protective mask, protective suits, protective boots, and protective gloves. Hydration was emphasized at every turn. Then there were the "other" shots, as prescribed (botulism and anthrax) and the additional medication (Pyridostigmine Bromide - PB) with or without instructions.

Some units were deployed to the desert locations living in "tent-cities," while others remained in quarters, such as Kobar Towers - an underutilized community house project built by the Saudi Arabian government for their nomadic citizens. At Kobar Towers, underground parking garages were converted into assembly areas, stores, call centers and dining facilities.

For Others: A Long Nightmare

Before long the environment began to change. Pesticides were used by the individual service members to repel insects - mostly flies and fleas. At times, a commercial sprayer (contracted) dispensed pesticides via a "fog machine" as it drove around the compound. Personal hygiene was emphasized depending on the location. In the desert, some had access to field showers - gravity-fed setups next to tanker trucks. Latrines were "cleaned" daily with the body waste normally burned off by use of diesel fuel. Kerosene stoves were often used inside the tents for heat at night. Small diesel generations provided power for lighting the tents. Much larger generators provided power for kitchens, dining areas, and recreational areas. In addition, garbage was disposed of in "pile it and burn it" landfills - little to no quality control over these burning activities - most were civilian operated.

Then the oil well fires began. The density of the smoke varied based on location from extremely heavy (blocked out the sun) to light (a haze). Wind direction also played a major role. When it did rain, there were times that the rain drops left spots on clothing and skin as it penetrated the clouds.

Chemical detection equipment was strategically dispersed on vehicles and on the ground to give early warning of the presence of chemical agents. Unfortunately, they seem to go off frequently, very frequently -- almost all the time. In fact, some service members just remained in their NBC protective clothing (except the mask and gloves) between alarm activations. It was almost a "crying wolf" situation - service members did not consider them reliable. It was reported that some were even disabled because of the repeated "false alarms."

Next SCUD missiles were launched, which were normally greeted by two Patriot missiles launched to intercept them. Explosion were impressive and debris was visible as it dropped from the sky and could be heard when they fell to the ground. The psychological impact of not knowing whether the SCUD missile was carrying a chemical or biological warhead weighed heavy on many service members. Each time a siren sounded, protective NBC gear was donned and worn until the all clear was announced. Unfortunately, the very last SCUD launched reportedly did the most damage. It hit a barracks not far from Kobar Towers, killing some National Guard and Reserve personnel from Pennsylvania.

So Why Am I Sick?

Not long after the war, The American Legion Service Officers began getting complaints from returning Gulf War veterans about medical problems they encountered either while in country or upon return from Southwest Asia. The symptoms were wide-ranging, but fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, memory loss, and mood swings appeared to be met with a common diagnosis - "it is all in your head" or "it is stress-related" by both Department of Defense (DoD) and Department of Veterans Affairs health care professional. Some ill service members were prescribed medications such as Prozac or other mood altering drugs. Some service members were even accused of malingering.

Some service members going to VA medical facilities were told to go back to the Military Treatment Facility, but since they were no longer on active duty they were told to go back to the VA or their private health care providers. Those who went to private doctors were told to go to the VA or Military Treatment Facility because their medical conditions were clearly service-connected.

None of the health care providers denied that the symptoms existed; they just didn't know what was causing them and treatment was pretty much non-existent. Some were diagnosed as the flu - for months. Others were given anti-fungal medications proven to be ineffective. Frustration began to set in. Repeated complaints seem to fall on deaf ears, except family members who were also beginning to become very angry with the lack of answers or medical treatments. Veterans were only seeking medical treatment from health care professionals in the military, Veterans Affairs, and the private sector - getting few answers to the question "Why am I sick?" and little to no treatment.

Building of a Data Base

Soon The American Legion began compiling a list of ill Gulf War veterans. As our unofficial list grew, acting VA Secretary Anthony Principi authorized VA to begin collecting name on an initial Gulf War Registry - not treatment, no compensation - just begin collecting names. Once The American Legion had collected over 100 names, former Representative Joe Kennedy (MA) agreed to listen to the complaints of ill Gulf War veterans and their families. As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, he held the meeting in this very hearing room. What started out as a meeting, ended up being a hearing chaired by the late Representative "Sonny" Montgomery. Veteran after veteran told his or her story, in some cases, the spouse had to speak on a veteran's behalf because of illness prohibited the veteran from attending. It became increasingly clear a much larger number of veterans were ill compared to what VA and DoD were reporting to Congress.

When other congressional hearings began, both DoD and VA agreed that there was no evidence of anything that would be making these service members sick. However, when one of the Members of Congress, Representative Steve Buyer (IN), showed them the medications he was taking since his return from the Gulf War, the tone of Congress, DoD and VA began to slowly change. Congress became more aggressive, while DoD and VA became more defensive. From this pivotal moment, the issue of Gulf War Illness became a national issue of concern.

Looking for the Silver Bullet

At this point, everyone was looking for the "cause" not the "solution." That remains the situation today, still looking for the "diagnosis" rather than "successful treatments." Among the first suspects was a disease called Leishmaniasis (a parasitic disease) since a few service members had actually been diagnosed with it, but that was ruled out as "the cause." Then the issue of depleted uranium (DU) surfaced, but it too was determined not to be "the cause." Then the inoculations, to include anthrax, were suspected, but they were also determined to be "safe." The PB pill became a new theory, which has not been completely ruled out at this point. Some pointed to the oil well fires or the diesel exhaust or poorly ventilated tents, but none seems to be the right cause.

In the Senate, the list of chemicals provided to Iraq by many different companies, including US companies reveals the very real possibility of the presence of a toxic chemical environment. That coupled with the thousands and thousands of "false alarms" by our military chemical detection equipment.

About this time, the question of possible low-level chemical exposure began to receive more consideration. While DoD definitively claimed that there was no presents of chemical on the battlefield, there were actually reports of detection of Sarin on the battlefield (a Marine FOX vehicle and a Coalition Forces chemical detection team). Then reports of the demolition of a munitions storage complex at Khamisiyah, by US service members was validated via video footage taken by an ill service member. "Seeing is believing." However, even this "suspect" after years of analysis was determined not to be the cause of undiagnosed medical conditions.

Seeking Health Care

From 1990 until 1996, access to care in the VA health care delivery system was strictly limited to service-connected disabled veterans and economically disabled veterans. Access to care was very confusing and complex. However, since 1996 more than 8 million veterans have enrolled in the VA health care delivery system and nearly 6 million are "unique patients." Unfortunately, by this time many ill Gulf War veterans seemed to have lost faith in VA's health care delivery system. Their biggest complaint was the lack of urgency, sincerity and compassion in dealing with their medical conditions. Both VA and DoD had created registries, but by this time, all Gulf War veterans were being added to the registries whether the veteran was ill or not.

However, to find the exact number of ill Gulf War veterans receiving treatment for their diagnosed medical condition would be a major challenge and results were extremely disheartening. Many of the initial Gulf War veterans seeking health care from VA for their undiagnosed medical conditions just walked away. Some went to private health care providers. Some just tried to accept their fate and suffer their pain in silence. The trust in VA was lost. The confidence is minimal.

The stigma of being an ill Gulf War veteran is real. There did not seem to be a standard protocol in dealing with these veterans by the system. Even as legislation was passed addressing undiagnosed illness, public law did not successfully translate into proper care and treatment of ill Gulf War veterans. Veterans searched for health care professionals who believe they were sick - whether in the public or private sector. Regrettably, there is still no treatment prescribed for ill Gulf War veterans.

Once a doctor described Gulf War illness as "being shot with a bullet made of ice. The damage is done, but the evidence has melted away. The absence of evidence doesn't mean that the evidence is absent."

"Placing Care Before Process"

Members of The American Legion were asked by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, James Peake, to serve on the Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans. The Advisory Committee produced a report entitled: "Changing the Culture: Placing Care Before Process." This title represents the collected thought of that Advisory Committee - America has an obligation to the men and women of the Armed Forces that exceeds the existing bureaucratic paradigm.

The American Legion would highly recommend you and your colleagues review the recommendations made by this Advisory Committee to VA Secretary Shinseki.

Nearly every Gulf War veteran who addressed the Committee addressed their frustration and dissatisfaction with the way they were initially treated - or mistreated - within VA. Veterans who were not easily diagnosed were treated as liabilities and pushed aside. We even learned of biases within the health care profession that found undiagnosed illness as simply a desire for disability compensation. If the answer is not obvious, quit looking or send them to mental health. Nearly every Gulf War veteran who appeared before the Advisory Committee had pretty much given up on VA ever making a diagnosis or providing treatment.

Had the medical conditions existed prior to deployment, most of symptoms ill Gulf War veterans identified would have likely made them "unfit for duty" and would have cancelled their deployment orders to Southwest Asia. Clearly, they would have probably been released from the Reserves or Nation Guard for being "unfit for duty." That is why the ill Gulf War veterans find it is so unacceptable -- that the failure of two Federal health care delivery systems to have failed returning veterans with such disregard.

Gulf War Veterans Illness Task Force (GWVI-TF)

The Gulf War Veterans Illness Task Force (GWVI-TF) recently published a report of their findings after a comprehensive review of all VA programs and services that serve the Gulf War cohort of veterans. The task force focused its efforts on veterans who were deployed to the Operation Desert Shield or Operation Desert Storm components of the 1990-1991 Gulf War period. However, as part of the task force charge to develop innovative and forward-looking solutions, it identified lessons learned from past practices and policy that can be applied to today's programs and services supporting the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom cohort.

Service-Connected Disability Ratings

One of the greatest concerns facing veterans from the Gulf War era who have filed for disability is that some veterans were continuing to suffer from symptom clusters that could not be attributed to known diseases or disabilities through conventional medical diagnostic testing and that these veterans were "falling through the cracks" within the current disability compensation scheme. The existing VA system of benefits was designed with a more traditional understanding of medical conditions, and was not initially equipped to deal with the unexplained illnesses that began to surface from Gulf War veterans.

Due in part to the recommendations of the GWVI-TF, rule-making is underway to add additional diseases to the list of those subject to the presumption of service connection based on qualifying Gulf War service. Based on evidence provided by the National Academy of Sciences on chronic diseases associated with service in Southwest Asia, additional rules to ensure that veterans can efficiently access the benefits they've earned may also be forthcoming. The American Legion stresses that the lessons learned from the long uphill battle faced by Vietnam veterans in dealing with the aftereffects of the herbicide Agent Orange must continue to be implemented with the new spate of conditions resulting potentially from environmental hazards. As is the case with Agent Orange, research must be continuously examined, and where sound medical principles support the addition of new presumptive conditions or new understandings of existing conditions VA must adjust their procedures to ensure these veterans receive equitable benefits.

Recently, the VBA Compensation and Pension (C&P) Service has developed two training letters designed to inform and instruct regional office personnel on development and adjudication of disability claims based on Southwest Asia service. Training Letter 10-01, titled "Adjudicating Claims Based on Service in the Gulf War and Southwest Asia", was released on February 4, 2010. This training letter provides background information on the Gulf War of 1990-1991, and explains the initial 1994 and subsequent 2001 legislation found in Title 38 United States Code, Section 1117, which was a response to the ill-defined disability patterns experienced by returning Gulf War veterans. It explains the terms "undiagnosed illness" and "medically unexplained chronic multi-symptom illness" used in the legislation, and stresses that service connection may be granted for other diagnosed chronic, multi-symptom illness in addition to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome, which are identified as examples in the legislation. It also provides step-by-step procedures for procuring supporting evidence and for rating a disability claim based on Southwest Asia service under Section 3.317 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

The training letter includes a separate memorandum to be sent with the VA medical examination request so that examiners are informed of the issues related to qualifying chronic disabilities and better able to evaluate a Gulf War veteran's disability pattern. Here, The American Legion cannot state more firmly that coordination between VBA and VHA elements in the understanding of these disorders must be consistent. All too often in American Legion Quality Review visits to Regional Offices, we see apparent disconnect between VBA and VHA elements in the claims process. Without a full understanding by both sides of the equation, veterans' claims will suffer from poor interpretation and these veterans will continue to slip through the cracks.

VA is additionally providing information on environmental hazards in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other areas, and is working in close coordination with DoD. This should enhance the understanding of environmental hazards associated with Gulf War and Southwest Asia service outside of the original Gulf War. They are discussing airborne toxic substances resulting from the widespread use of burn pit fires to incinerate a variety of waste materials in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as hexavalent chromium contamination at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Basrah, Iraq, from April through September 2003.

With regard to the growing understanding of these environmental contaminations, not only overseas but also with regard to situations such as the groundwater contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, The American Legion's Comprehensive Resolution on Environmental Exposure could not be more clear: veterans must be provided examinations and treatment which is thorough and appropriate, and that all necessary action be taken by the Federal government, both administratively and legislatively as appropriate, to ensure that veterans are properly compensated for diseases and other disabilities scientifically associated with a particular exposure. This requires close monitoring of the development of all ongoing research on the long-term effects of all environmental exposures and point out to the proper officials any perceived deficiencies or discrepancies in these projects; and ensuring that government committees charged with review of such research are composed of impartial members of the medical and scientific community.

Education and Outreach

The American Legion continues to encourage ill Gulf War veterans to seek timely access to quality health care within VA through numerous venues - pamphlets, articles in The American Legion Magazine, Department Service Officers, and word of mouth. In 1996, with enactment of eligibility reform, The American Legion aggressively encouraged all veterans to enroll in the VA health care delivery system. Enrollment quickly grew yet still many ill Gulf War veterans continued to resist returning to VA medical facilities.

VA's outreach was limited to a sporadic publishing of a periodical entitled the Gulf War Review and information on their website. Each provides updates as to developments on Gulf War illness related issues.

VA has moved forward to some extent with increased internal education of their medical and benefits related staff; however the mission of increasing understanding of the medical factors involved for the actual veterans who have served still lags far behind what is necessary. Veterans Service Organizations must pick up the slack with their own advocacy efforts. To be sure, The American Legion is positioned well within the community to provide information to veterans through materials such as our pamphlets on "Gulf War Era Benefits & Programs", and our Department Service Officers are trained annually to ensure the information they provide to veterans is the most current. However, actions such as these do not void VA's responsibility to provide this information directly to veterans. All too often when we are able to convey information to veterans, the response we receive is that this is the first time they have heard much of the material. This cannot be allowed to happen. This information should come straight from the horse's mouth to the veteran. VA cannot continue to rely on veterans' groups as the near sole provider of this valuable information to our nation's veterans.


The most revealing comment we have heard from the ill Gulf War veterans that we have talked to was their answer to one simple question, "If you had it all to do over again and your unit was deployed to the Persian Gulf, would you go?"

The answer was unanimous - "Absolutely!"

Mr. Chairman and Members of this Subcommittee, these young men and women did not fail us - we, as a nation, have failed them. However, we continue to be engaged on this battlefield and the battle is not lost. VA must move forward to elevate their attention to these conditions in a manner that learns the hard lessons of the battle against Agent Orange-related disease. The time to act is sooner, not later. The more aggressively we attack this problem in the now, the less we will struggle with solutions in the future.


  1. The sad part about all this is the benefits lost because no new evidence could be presented each year. The claim closes out and there is nothing you can do.

    A lot of us suffer still today, and if it doesn't get worse you have no new evidence, and it doesn't make a difference if the illness is debilitating. If VA doesn't accept the illness as military related you lose. It's as if VA expects you to make your own diagnosis.

  2. I am sorry to say that I have seen a large variance of care and Disability processing since moving into the St. Petersburg area of responsibility. The care I received while living in Omaha, NE compared to Eglin Outreach Clinic is night and day. I had a Mental Health doctor involuntarily commit me to a Psych ward to cover up their mistake of removing me from all medication without tapering off that med while starting a new one. This after I begged that doctor to help me in the clinic and stated that I would voluntairly go into a hospital so I could get properly medicated. BIG difference between voluntary and non-voluntary! Then there is the problem of claims processing. 14 months and nothing from VA. Omaha claims took 4 months on two occasions. Right now I am just disgusted with the whole VA system here.

  3. My GWI symptoms of neck/joint pain, chronic fatigue, memory loss have been pushed aside by the VA, and the PB pills and vaccinations I took are not listed in my medical records. Because my illness has been progressive and did not see doctors until 2001 the VA claims I cannot get compensation. I tried to get seen by a VA facility in 1999, but since I had medical insurance through work they would not see me and again pushed me aside. Now I have been unable to work for two years due to GWI and Hodgkin's Cancer. Can we get some help for our Gulf War brothers who suffer tremendous pain daily and who have been told it's in our heads by private doctors and given depression meds. All of us are not depressed we suffer true pain. Please don't let the VA push our claims aside

  4. I was attached to 2nd Armored (forward) out of Germany,I have IBS Vertigo on occasion and waiting on my C&P to come in I think we should all have a RALLY in one spot.Maybe in front of Associated Press to make it easy for them to report it!

  5. The resource that you mentioned here is something that I have been looking from quite a time. And finally it ended with such a nice blog post. Don’t have words to thank you.

  6. I was in Saudi at the end of the war as a volunteer from the Florida National Guard and I am receiving some disability but only 40%. I have not been able to work for over 2 years and I am finding very difficult to find any records of me being over there. It seems that any information that there was either was lost or was not put in my files for record. The VA does not care about my situation. I have asked Sen. Bill Nelsons office for some help but I have not received any yet. Can someone please help me.

  7. Because everything prior to 1997 was destroyed. Conveniently covering up all the Gulf related Illnesses after returning from deployment.

  8. What help is there for the non deployed National Guard Gulf War Veterans? I am very ill and doc says that I am totally disabled with multiple different illness and etc that does not run in my family but match GWS/GWI that is including a spec scan of my brain that shows damage...I went into basic and AIT from Jan 91 - Aug 91 and in that time frame I got 2 sets of shots..the second set they said were for deployment if we were sent..I started having problems after the shots and then I cleaned contaminated equipment from some of the first round of soldiers coming home and yes was informed that what was on the equipment was making the soldiers sick...I have not been able to work since 2002 and am housebound..I went to the VA in 2009 and they told me that National Guard was nothing and going to get nothing and refused to let me see a doc and would not even take my DD-214 or the form I had filled out...I need help please

  9. My son, PFC Aaron Barnes, died 8/24/11 from a rare cancer caused by exposure to DU. The Iowa City VA Hospital told him he wasn't exposed to anything and sent him home without even a biopsy. After, he died, they told the IL Legion Commander that one of his Legion members was one of their first DU patients and their first death. How many more have to die until something is done? I have written letters to anyone I can think of and finally St. Rep. Don Moffitt has submitted a resolution on DU. This will only be in IL but it's a start.

  10. Hi Kimberley I just wanted to say that Im sorry for the lose of your son and that my prayers go out to you and your family. Also wanted to say thanks for you sharing your story it shows that we cant stop fighting and that things can change on step at a time. Best of wish

  11. I was over in desert storm and sustained a free floating paracytic cyste in my left eye that was indeed confirmed by doctors in japan as a sand fly consistent from Saudi Arabia,only to suffer with this problem for 20 years and then to finally have surgically removed from a surgeon at the v.a. medical hospital in Tucson,arizona.I'm still awaiting a disability percentage 25 years after sustaining this eye problem that hindered my vision for all those years.

  12. Hi everyone that may still be looking at this. or is new to reading this. As I read the comments before me and as of right now were all in this together and in the same condition and people do need to understand the hardships and challenges we face daily. I have heard it so many times its all in your head hears another med to take it should help out the other ten I take daily. I personaly have had five back surgeries, one neck surgery radio freq nerve blocks on my neck, lost my wife my house and my dog and also had to leave my job. After my first back surgery I came out not talking to good oh its from the anisizia it should get better after a couple of weeks it didnt get better but then I under went three more back surgeries in the same year and found out I had cancer. After I came out not talking good after the fourth one my wife at the time took me to a new doctor and his like oh we need to get you to a specialest ok after seeing him one time his like I think I know whats going on but lets do a biopsie on it to make sure. less than a week later I was in seeing a cancer doctor that told me I had stage four throat cancer and that I was eating and breathing through a hole the size of a straw. He told me right there that he wanted to put a track in my neck so I could breath. He asked if I thought I could make it a week then they would perfourm the most brutel change in my whole life and it was going to take away the things I loved doing. If you have ever had cancer or someone in your family has had cancer my blessings go out to all of you. I have noughting against smokers or anyone for that matter but the doctor told me that 5% non smokers wourld wide. get this type of cancer so they have know idea how I could have throat cancer. We went through alot of different places in the desert from burning fecies, to burning oil lines, to scud missels blowing up right next to our barrecs to iraq amunition to the insects to the down town smell that you can never forget to the last but not least my favorite the PB Nerve agent pills we had to take that had never been tested on the human body as of 1991. I had a set still in the selefan package you know the one with the tin foil you pop them out of. When I was over there and was told to take something that made us all sick for weeks. So I decide to bring one package home incase someone needed to test it for what was in it. So I stuck it in my foot locker for a couple of years before I open it up again it was shut locked tight but to my amazment the only thing left was a plastic bag with a big hole that looked as if it had been burnt from the inside out leaving a 2 x 2 hole with just a small film on the inside now if that can happen whats going on inside of us the soldiers that took these drugs not knowing the out come they might produce that has been over twenty two years ago now if it wasnt for my kids Im not sure how I would have made it from there to here other than survile mode every min of the day not away to live. Back to the story The Doctor comes in to check on me before surgery and asks me if Im ready for this as most people say yea lets get it over with so they roll me back into the OR holding room I had just left all of my family and kids and after sheding some tears which I never could do sense my return to the US 19 years ago I always felt there were no feelings like I was just here but not here anyway so Im sitting there in the holding room think about all of my family and freinds everyone I had ever had contact with let me tell you that was the longest five minutes of my life. As they come to wheel me into the OR Im thinking this is it all my pain and suffering will soon be over as I thought I would not make it threw the ten hour surgery they performed as they said count to ten I made it to like five I think. OK let me stop and say one thing this story isnt a sympothy storey oh poor me know I just want anyone who reads this to understand what we soldiars are going threw on a daily bases my story is only one of millions ok trillions no efinity. My saying that I go buy every day is take one day at a time good or bad and it dosnt take far to find someone worse off than you. So we all have are own stories. So as I drift off to a deep sleep it beater be a real deep sleep for what there going to do to me, I watched a youtube video on the same surgey I had so I could see what all they did not a pretty pitcher they basicaly take my neck and put it up on top of my head while they go to operating what they had to do was to remove my voice box and surronding parts so in the end I m let with a hole in my neck and a wall that seperates my stomack and lungs and a little hole in the middle of all that so they can feed me for the next six months. Whith know way to communicate other than a white tablet to scrible on. So heres what happens when you wake up from all of that your minds going I need to breeth through my mouth but I cant panic mode what do I do somebody give me something this is not cool you cant talk you cant breath ok Im going to lose it everyone out even my wife. So after along 3 week hospital stay I finaly get to go home but now I have to learn how to deal with facing everyone. After going through radiation and multipal surgery after surgery loosing all of my teeth one by one. Before I went over there in 1990-1991 I had just got married and I always had energy to go and do anything when I returned it was just the opposite run down tired you name it I feel it daily I have had two divorces and just recently had to leave my job after 26 years I finaly had to say enough is enough. I hope that if anything my story can help you or anyone that reads this make it one more day and to all the men and women that have gone before us god bless may we all keep them in our hearts and prayers. And to all of us still fighting lets keep fighting together.

  13. wow, same here. I went into the VA medical Center in MPLS, Minnesota for a hypoglycemia test my Physician ordered and I got interrogated for nearly 3 1/2 hours and was told that my condition was psychological and there was nothing they could do and told me, "Good Luck!" also One of the doctors that was doing the lead interrogation was acting like an official and had the other doctor check me out at the desk before I could leave. I was like what the fuck. Even the desk clerk was like, "Check him Out?" the physician replied, "Yeah, you can let him go." then jokingly said, "unless you need him to stay" and as the clerk was typing he said, "Oh, no...he can go now." and was laughing. I thought what the fuck just happened. I figured it out later as I was leaving. The lead physician told me he looked through my record A-Z and couldn't find anything and that I wasn't in combat though A Navy Veteran Serving in the Persian Gulf War before Desert Shield and after Desert Storm, the ship I served on served in the Combat Zone and I was nearly killed in Oman during a time-off period the Captain Gave the Nuclear Specialist teams. I was over there before the fucking troops and fucking after and this doctor is telling me what I did and didn't do in the fucking War and the Navy, not only that interrogating me like i'm a criminal. before being checked out he said to me, "this is all psychological and there's nothing we can do for you hear or anywhere, good luck!" So, I hear your same symptoms and everything and had it since I really noticed it in 1991 and have been seeking help since 1996 when the condition got worse. I'm still fighting with the condition, but it's costing me my life. But, I will not surrender and I will not give up. I will fight to the bitter end! I'm a Navy War Veteran!

  14. Actually, if I was asked to go back to Iraq again. My answer would be a flat-out hell no. There is no amount of national pride, money, or condolences that will help with the insane amount of pain that I go through on a daily basis. Living on a daily basis is hell. I simply exist now, waiting for the shadow of death to wash over me. Had I known I had a lifetime of suffering ahead of me, I would have gladly stepped on a bouncing-betty to end it back then. At least I know my family would have been somewhat decently taken care of. Not like now, where I have to fight tooth and nail to get treatment for a disease that everyone thinks is in my head.

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