SOURCE: Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, March 1, 2021: https://cdmrp.army.mil/gwirp/research_highlights/21gwirpmission_highlight
Gulf War Illness
The Unwavering Mission of the GWIRP Thirty Years after the Persian Gulf War
Posted March 1, 2021
Gulf War Veterans had the distinction of serving their country in a military operation that was a decisive victory. Despite this, many developed lasting health consequences that have been poorly understood, underestimated, and frequently denied. The unwavering mission of the CDMRP Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP) is to address the serious and persistent health problems affecting the military men and women who risked their lives for their country three decades ago.
The GWIRP focuses funding on competitively peer-reviewed research that expeditiously identifies effective treatments and accelerates their clinical application, improves definition and diagnosis, and results in better understanding of pathobiology and symptoms of disease. The GWIRP Vision is improved health and lives of Veterans with GWI.
Retired Air Force Technical Sergeant (E6) Vera Roddy, served in the Air Force and Air Force Reserves from 1977- 1992 and was an activated reservist during Desert Storm with the 1st Tactical Aeromedical Staging Facility (1st TAC ASF) (Provisional) at King Khalid Military City, Saudi Arabia where she was stationed as a mental health technician. Roddy first began seeking treatment for mysterious symptoms while still at King Khalid in February of 1991.
Photo and text used with permission of Vera Roddy
“My interest in research started out as a quest for my own answers, a way to help my clinicians provide the best possible care for something they often have little knowledge of. The quest grew in search of answers for my brother and sister Gulf War Veterans. More recently, I have come to realize that the research we do has a direct effect on military force protection, operational effectiveness, and medical readiness. This became even more personal to me this year, as my granddaughter entered the ‘family business’ by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. I always expected to be in the workforce until very late in life. I had to make a difficult choice ten years into this illness. I could no longer work and raise my children, so I dropped out of the workforce. Time is running out. We need answers and treatments now – not ten years from now. Gulf War Veterans are entering retirement years, and we have things we still want to do.”
The perception of overwhelming success of the first Gulf War, and clinicians’ lack of awareness of GWI, have led to barriers that inhibit dissemination of information about the disease. The impact of attitudes toward Veterans presenting with GWI symptoms, which may not be confirmed with standard laboratory tests, and misperceptions of the condition likely impact treatment plans and quality of life for these individuals. More than a quarter century after the ceasefire that marked the end of hostilities of the Gulf War, military personnel have suffered from lasting repercussions of chronic GWI that, in many cases, remain poorly managed. In the wake of symptom-based treatments that perhaps have fallen short of clearly understanding the pathways tied to the disease, the discoveries offered through the GWIRP represent encouraging steps toward speeding the development of effective treatments to Veterans. In addition, hope remains for effective diagnostic strategies and a consistent theory of what causes GWI. These may one day help to shield current and future U.S. military forces at risk of similar exposures and outcomes.
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