Chris Kornkven is a Gulf War veteran who, since his homecoming in 1991, has endured debilitating health effects from his military service. Chris noticed his symptoms-chronic fatigue, arthritis-like pain, and stiffness in his major joints, along with significant short-term memory problems and long-term memory retention-while he was still in the Gulf War zone. He assumed that these health problems were endemic to the Gulf area and that they would fade upon his return home, but he became concerned when they did not subside. In 1992, after hearing that other Gulf War veterans were reporting the same conditions, and that these conditions were persisting and not improving, Chris became active in veterans' health issues.
Chris remarks that, for the past almost 20 years, his joint pain has been a daily reminder of his military service. Ordinary movements-walking, climbing steps, kneeling, or playing with his children-keep him in the grip of pain. He reports that his fatigue is unrelenting and is not relieved by sleep. At times, sheer exhaustion overcomes him when he is at the wheel of his car, and he has had to pull over to the side of the road just to rest. His problems with memory have been as severe as his joint pain and fatigue. Chris admits, "Even simple tasks or appointments that should be easily remembered require compensating in some manner, either by taking considerable notes, as when I first returned [home], or in using a personal digital assistant, as I do these days. Although coaching and compensating have aided me, significant activities that I have been involved in are forgotten as if I never participated."
Concerns with how widespread health effects were within the Gulf War veteran community prompted Chris and fellow veterans to found the National Gulf War Resource Center, Inc. in 1995. The organization was created to provide a clearinghouse of information for fellow veterans, their family members, caregivers, or others involved with Gulf War veterans. Chris served as Interim President of the organization, then was elected national President serving from 1996 until 2001. In that capacity, Chris has provided numerous media interviews and has met with Congressional, Pentagon, and Veterans Affairs officials, veterans service organizations, as well as veterans and their families, striving to ensure that veterans receive the medical care they earned.
Knowing firsthand the devastating effects of Gulf War Illness, Chris is committed to finding ways of improving the quality of life for ill Gulf War veterans. In his search for answers, Chris has worked with the National Gulf War Resource Center, Inc., Gulf War Veterans of Wisconsin, Veterans of Modern Warfare, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and the Gulf War Illness Research Program, which is under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP).
After years of working with veterans, Chris relishes the opportunity to have a seat at the table when discussing research projects as a Consumer Reviewer for CDMRP. "It gives me considerable satisfaction when reading through these projects the level of commitment from those submitting proposals. They truly are as interested in finding solutions to these medical problems as we have been, and our opinions as veterans are being heard."
Source: Congressionally Directed Gulf War Illness Medical Research Program, http://cdmrp.army.mil/cwg/stories/2010/kornkven_profile.shtmlPhotos and text used with permission of Mr. Chris Kornkven.