by David McNease
It is staggering the type and amount of different illnesses Gulf War Veterans have but the VA will not recognize or grant disability because no direct link can be established. US forces were exposed to a variety of airborne toxins from the war. No direct link can be established because there is no evidence and no exact documentation can be produced to support VA claims.
In 1983 when I joined the Army I was a very healthy young man. During my entry physical into the Army my complete medical history was a couple of broken fingers. After the 1st Gulf War in 1990-1991, I literally had dozens of problems that were not present before the war. On 12 August 2004, when I received my VA response to my claim the VA told me that asthma, chronic migraine headaches, Gulf War Illness, multiple chemical sensitivities, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain syndrome were not related to my military service. All conditions were noted and referenced both in my retirement physical and fully documented in my medical records. Today, I am still baffled by the fact that I came into the service without any of these illnesses yet I have them today.
Many Gulf War veterans became ill and have multiple physical problems because of the pollutants in the air. Many Gulf War veterans have died because of their illnesses. Exposure to the air during Operations Desert Storm was toxic. The prevailing winds during most of January, February and March 1991 were from the north to the south. Which meant that all the smoke, soot, and chemicals from the bombs that were dropped drifted back over US forces and were both breathed in through the lungs or were ingested while eating. Literally, most coughed up black oil soaked soot, it came out of the nose, eyes, ears, and even leached through the skin. After sleeping it was easy to scrap off the oily, black soot that had accumulated on clothing.
This picture was taken several days into Operation Desert Storm. The sky was dark from all the toxins in the air.
There are several different pollutants that went into the air that US combatants breathed. It was common knowledge that Iraq had chemical weapons. Iraq used them during the Iran Iraq war. The large stockpiles of munitions were probably targeted and burned by allied aircraft. The areas throughout Iraq that were targeted had residual fires and secondary explosions that burned for days. Those fumes drifted south right on US forces. It is highly likely that a variety chemical agents went airborne because of allied bombing. Also, the actual munitions that the allied forces used burned and went airborne. I had the only M-8 chemical agent alarm at my unit location. My M-8 alarm went off at least twice. The warnings were dismissed because we could not get an accurate reading. I am convinced trace chemicals were in the air. Walking around it was easy to see the oily soot and chemicals as they collected on our equipment and darkened everything. The tents and equipment was so badly contaminated that they were burned or buried because we could not return to the US with the contaminated equipment.
Adding to the mixture of pollutants were the oil well fires. It is my hypothesis that Saddam Hussian piled chemicals around the oil heads before he had them set fire. When the oil head burned it sent the agents into the air. Much of the agents were burned but it was a perfect way to weaponize the chemicals without leaving a trace behind. The agents went into the air along with all the soot from the oil well fires.
Ground forces that actually went into Iraq and Kuwait used a variety of weapons on the Iraqi forces. Some of the depleted uranium that was used in the tank rounds had to go airborne from the fires. Artillery, missiles and other munitions that were fired and used in combat had airborne materials that added to the toxic air. When the ground forces found stockpiles of munitions they were burned in place. Adding to the mix we burned raw fecal matter in cutoff 55 gal drums. The stench often burned so slowly they lingered around us when eating chow.
It is easy to surmise that the air was toxic. Combat veterans of the Gulf War complain of different illnesses and injures because they are real. Skin and eye irritation, respiratory problems, kidney trouble, liver problems, nervous system difficulties, cardiovascular system problems, reproductive system illnesses or significant miscarriage, gastrointestinal tract illnesses, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, joint pain (fibromyalgia), sleep troubles and memory problems are all from exposure to toxic chemicals.
Enough with the different studies. It is time to treat every Gulf War veteran as though they were exposed multiple airborne toxins. We went to war when asked. We followed those whom were our leaders. We had faith that those whom were responsible for our well being would ensure we were given medical treatment for our illnesses and injures that were sustained during combat.