Sunday, March 7, 2010

Letters to the Editor: Veterans now face a battle for proper medical care

St. Petersburg Times, Florida

(St. Petersburg, Fla)  - I thank you for printing this story. I am a Desert Storm veteran and actually take 14 different medications a day. The majority of the population does not know of the battle veterans endure after the war. I've been battling the bureaucracy of the Veterans Affairs Department for about six years. I have experienced the same problems dealing with the VA as Wally Heath, who was featured in your story.

I spent two tours in the Persian Gulf in 1990 and 1991, the first being Desert Storm. When the pyridostigmine bromide, better known as BP pills, was issued, the soldiers were given a direct order to take the pills or face an Article 15 (disciplinary action).

During the two deployments to the Persian Gulf, our M8 Chemical Alarms would sound off, only we were told it was from the diesel engines or sand getting in the device. During mid March of 1991 the alarms would continue to sound to the point where the chemical sergeant had us shut all of them down. A couple of times a day I would check, and the M8 would sound in less than 30 seconds.

Upon leaving the location, a couple of my troops and I noticed about a dozen dead goats to the side of the road. There was no sign of trauma, and they had been dead for day or two. There was no infestation of insects, and that side of town was deserted.

Several years ago a letter was sent by the Department of Defense stating that our unit may have been exposed. Four years ago I found out with my own research we had been exposed to sarin gas from the demolition of weapon caches in Iraq.

So many different stories are yet to be told by many veterans. No matter what war or conflict our armed forces have fought in, veterans have faced mental and/or physical problems from each. My fellow veterans and I have placed our lives in harm's way to serve our country, and now that hundreds of thousands of us fall ill, we face an even longer battle trying to obtain the proper compensation, diagnosis and care we deserve.

John Arias, Port Richey

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