Friday, November 23, 2007

Military Spouses try for a Presidential Debate at Fort Hood

Military Spouses for Change are attempting to do what no one before them has ever done, get a Bipartisian Presidential Debate about issues that pertain to military families and veterans. So we can seek answers to "our problems" that have become legendary over the past 50 years. Answers on how they will change the status quo and let DOD keep manipulating funding for base housing, dependent programs, barracks etc and how many of the issues families depend on are seem to be ignored by Congress and the administration.

We are electing a president who will probably spend the bulk of his or her first term managing military conflicts and performing extensive foreign policy damage control. In 2008, the next President will inherit at least two wars and the costs of those wars, internally as well as internationally, will continue to grow long after the last service member comes home.

Consequently, Military Spouses for Change[1] is inviting the presidential candidates from both parties to Fort Hood, Texas (Killeen), on February 1st, to talk about foreign policy, our military, our veterans, our wounded warriors, and our military families.

Fort Hood is the largest military installation in the United States. There are almost 46,000 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood and more than 24,000 spouses. On any given day, at least a third of these soldiers are deployed to Iraq and every week at least two soldiers from Fort Hood (on average) are killed in Iraq. (I am 34 and I know more widows than my mother knows.)

This kind of event has never been done before and it needs to be done now. Not only because Americans on both side of the aisle need to be reminded (before Super Tuesday) that we are electing the next Commander-in-Chief, but also because our service members and their families deserve to be addressed and heard by the people who wish to be elected in that position.

We also think this country’s large veteran community should know which candidates truly value the military and veteran vote (if not for moral reasons, then for practical reasons). There are approximately 1.4 million active duty service members in America and 1.2 million in the National Guard/Reserves. If you include the spouses, that comes to a total of 4.1 million votes.

Meanwhile, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 8 adults were veterans (26.4 million) in 2003. If we assume that at least half of those adults were married, then we have approximately 39 million vet couples giving us a total of almost 43 million American adults who are currently serving in the military, have served in the military, or are married to someone serving or who had served. That is not an insignificant number.

As an organization and as military spouses, clearly U.S. foreign policy is important to us. But the American public has an interest in this as well, not only for fiscal reasons (e.g., we have spent 447 billion dollars on the war in Iraq alone), but for national security reasons.

Furthermore, what about the depletion of our states' National Guard and reserve units? How are we going to replenish those units so that individual states can respond to a natural disaster or, heaven forbid, another 9/11?

So far 1.5 million service members have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. What are the candidates’ positions on the possibility of reinstating the draft if, for example, we become engaged with Iran before he or she enters office?

Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense has reported more than 64,000 wounded and 4,000 killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Department of Veterans Affairs, however, has reported treating 250,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, including 95,000 for mental health conditions.

Meanwhile, an estimated 700,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are expected to seek care from the VA within the next ten years, at a projected cost of 7 to 9 BILLION dollars. A recent DoD taskforce assessing the mental health capabilities of the military announced: "The system of care for psychological health that has evolved over recent decades is insufficient to meet the needs of today's forces and their beneficiaries, and will not be sufficient to meet their needs in the future." (

What do the candidates propose to do for our returning wounded warriors and their families? How do we effectively identify their mental, physical, social, and financial needs and how do we effectively meet those needs?

The suicide rate is the highest in almost 30 years and the propensity to serve is at a 20 year low. Consequently, the Army and Marine Corps are relying on reenlistment and recruiting bonuses that will cost nearly 2.5 billion dollars next year.

I support this idea 100% sounds like a great idea to me.....

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Senator Clinton to introduce legislation to stop bonus collection of wounded veterans

November 21, 2007

Learn about Senator Clinton's Support for Troops, Veterans, Military Retirees and Families by Clicking Here

“Requiring soldiers who are being medically discharged to return their bonuses is outrageous. It dishonors their service and undermines the Army's solemn commitment to soldiers and their families,” Senator Clinton said. “If the Administration does not reverse this misguided policy, Congress should pass legislation to set this right.”


Legislation to Guarantee Full Payment to Veterans to be Introduced by Clinton

Senator Hillary Clinton today called on the Pentagon to immediately end a policy that requires repayment of enlistment bonuses by medically discharged wounded soldiers. She also requested that the Army disclose the number of wounded soldiers who have been affected by this policy and promised to introduce new legislation to guarantee the fully payment of bonuses and incentives to wounded veterans.

In the wake of recent news reports of wounded combat veterans forced to repay thousands of dollars in signing bonuses to the Army because they could not complete their tour of duty (see:, Senator Clinton sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, strongly urging a reversal of policy.

“Requiring soldiers who are being medically discharged to return their bonuses is outrageous. It dishonors their service and undermines the Army's solemn commitment to soldiers and their families,” Senator Clinton said. “If the Administration does not reverse this misguided policy, Congress should pass legislation to set this right.”

Senator Clinton announced that she will introduce legislation that requires the military services to continue to pay certain bonuses to a member of the Armed Forces who is medically retired or separated due to a combat-related injury. The legislation would amend Title 37 of the United States Code to guarantee full payment for various incentive payments for wounded servicemembers.

[A copy of Senator Clinton’s letter is attached].

November 21, 2007

The Honorable Pete Geren

Secretary of the Army

Department of the Army

Washington, D.C. 20310

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I write to request the immediate reversal of an Army policy that requires repayment of enlistment bonuses by medically discharged wounded soldiers. According to recent media reports, the Army is directing wounded soldiers who have been medically discharged to repay their enlistment bonuses because they are unable to complete their term of enlistment. This policy is outrageous and should be reversed immediately. Soldiers who have enlisted in the Army have made a commitment to serve our nation. With our nation at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should honor those who make that commitment. By agreeing to serve and then suffering wounds during their service, these soldiers have earned their bonuses. To ask soldiers who are being medically discharged to return their bonuses dishonors their service and undermines the Army's stated commitment to soldiers and their families.

Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, wounded soldiers have faced numerous bureaucratic hurdles that have resulted in treatment that does not measure up to their service and sacrifice. Whether it is the disgraceful treatment as outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical center or the pay problems experienced by wounded soldiers, many wounded soldiers have been treated with indifference and neglect.

As a Senator on the Armed Services Committee, I have continuously raised the problems faced by wounded soldiers to Army leadership at hearings, meetings, through correspondence and by offering legislation. At each point, I have been assured by the Army and Defense Department leadership that they are working to improve the treatment of wounded soldiers. In light of this history, it shocks the conscience that the Army could demand that wounded soldiers return their enlistment bonuses.

Therefore, I again request a reversal of the flawed policy of requiring wounded soldiers to repay their enlistment bonuses. I also request any data that reflects the total number of medically discharged wounded soldiers who have been affected by this enlistment bonus repayment policy to date and the total amount of enlistment bonus repayment money collected to date.

With soldiers bravely serving every day in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, it is important that we demonstrate our commitment to soldiers and their families by reversing this flawed policy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Cc: The Honorable Robert M. Gates

Secretary of Defense

Admiral Mike Mullen

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Hillary Clintons link for Veterans

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Senator Clintons Thanksgiving Thoughts for the Troops

Senator Clinton’s Thanksgiving Day Message to Our Troops:

Thinking of our Troops on Thanksgiving

“Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends. Our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe help make our Thanksgiving possible. When I gather around the table with my family, we will give thanks for the troops who honor our nation with their service. We remember them on this day when they are so far away from family and loved ones, and we keep them in our thoughts and prayers. The service of those in our armed forces reminds me of our larger mission as a nation -- to build a "more perfect union" worthy of their sacrifice and striving to be a just and free nation for all people. This Thanksgiving, let us all celebrate, honor, and give thanks for the members of our armed services. I join with their families and friends praying for their safety and for a peace that will soon bring them home.”

Hillary Clintons Veterans Link

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Canadian Soldiers exposed in Nevada Atomic tests file suit
Atomic veterans launch suit
1957 Nevada Test; 'We were sent there without knowing'

Jack Aubry
CanWest News Service, CANDA

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

OTTAWA - A group of veterans exposed to radiation during atomic weapons tests in Nevada in 1957 will launch a class-action lawsuit against the federal government after receiving word that they will be offered a "pathetic" $24,000 each in compensation.

Jim Huntley, who is one of the surviving soldiers from the tests, told a news conference on Parliament Hill yesterday that the group is being ignored by Defence Minister Peter MacKay, with their phone calls no longer being returned by officials in his office.

He said the widows of veterans who have died from radiation exposure should be compensated $150,000 each.

"We were sent there without knowing," Mr. Huntley said.

"We can't be training aids or guinea pigs but that's what we were. They were also trying to figure out how the soldier would react when that bomb went off. Whether he'd go forward and fight or quit and go the other way.

"Now, I can't get a call from anybody for two or three weeks. I don't trust them, I don't like them, they've lied to us and it just keeps going and going. And I am tired of it, and frustrated, and I think lawyers will do a better job than I have done."

He said the atomic veterans were told the government would announce the package last month but that promise appears to have been scrapped after Gordon O'Connor was shuffled out of the defence portfolio and replaced by Mr. MacKay.

Mr. Huntley said the veterans, many of whom have had to deal with cancer and other ailments since the tests, have been fighting for more than 20 years to get the government to acknowledge that they were exposed to radiation during atomic blasts.

He noted that the U.S. government decided in the 1980s to recognize the plight of its veterans who took part in the tests, granting $75,000 payments to veterans who have developed any of more than a dozen types of conditions, mainly cancers.

"There are widows who have lost their husbands from these tests and it's not right that they not only have received no compensation, but they haven't even been recognized," said Mr. Huntley, 68, of Balzac, Alta.

A spokesman for the Canadian Atomic Veterans Association, he said he would be contacting the group's lawyers as soon as he returned to Calgary.

A January, 2007, report, produced for Mr. O'Connor, found that the levels of protection the men used were questionable during the tests and some personnel were "exposed to radioactive contamination on the testing grounds where they had to live, sometimes for months at a time."

Mr. Huntley said the government continues to ask the veterans to prove that their illnesses are related to the atomic weapons tests they were exposed to 50 years ago.

© National Post 2007

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

VA fights back against CBS report


SUICIDE" REPORTING -- Says CBS used a "questionable

journalistic tactic" in compiling reports. But, VA's

arguments don't hold water.

The VA is striking back at CBS News for their reporting on veterans and suicide.

The first CBS report is here... http://www.
The second is here... http://www.vaw

But, the VA's arguments, against CBS and for their own advocacy, do NOT hold water.

VA's self-congratulatory press release (below) speaks of all they have done in the area of suicide prevention. Truth be told, VA has virtually ignored the problem of veterans and suicide until this year.

In the wake of the Walter Reed scandal and the ensuing stories about problems in VA healthcare, the VA added more suicide counselors.

Their suicide hotline did not get started until late July of this year.

Now, regarding their complaints about CBS.

The VA release states, "VA is concerned that the data CBS presented in its broadcast was not reviewed by independent scientists as most legitimate academic studies are."

This is completely wrong. CBS did not do or claim to do an academic study...they merely reviewed statistical data. And, to make sure they had it right, CBS sent that statistical data to a statistician outside of CBS for independent review as shown in the first report. This statement by the VA is deliberately misleading.

The VA also states, "We are reviewing the limited information that CBS has made available to us..."

Let's make something clear. VA could have had this same data had they gone out to the individual states and asked for it.

VA did NOT do that because they didn't want to know about the suicide problem because then they would have had to address they have been forced to do now.

Once again, the VA is trying to back away from their mistakes. They should be ashamed of using the old "kill the messenger" tactic instead of taking this damning information to heart and doing something about it.

And, to Acting VA Secretary Gordon Mansfield who had ample time to try to do something about the suicide problem during his tenure at the VA: "Mr. Secretary, you are a disgrace. A disgrace for not taking responsibility for the shortcomings of your agency and a disgrace for trying to lay them off on someone else."

For more about veterans and suicide, use the VA Watchdog search here... http://www.yourv

VA press release here... http://www.

Press release below:

Learn More about how to get a VA Loan today -- Click Here


Statement on CBS News Stories Aired November 13 and 14

November 14, 2007

WASHINGTON – Every suicide in America is a tragedy. VA cares about each veteran and their physical and mental health. We have more than 10,000 mental health workers who have dedicated themselves to helping veterans cope with the issues and crises they face. We operate a veteran suicide hotline which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help any veteran in need. That number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). VA has suicide prevention coordinators at each of our VA Medical Centers.

VA strongly encourages veterans who may be considering harming themselves in some way to seek treatment from VA or other health care providers in their communities. Our people are there to help during a crisis. VA's care and treatment works and is available for veterans with PTSD, depression and other mental health problems.

VA operates the largest mental health care system in the country, spending $3 billion each year on its mental health programs, and has taken several measures to increase its mental health services in recent years. Those include new programs bringing mental health into primary care, intensified rehabilitation for those with serious mental illnesses, and expanded programs for homeless veterans and those with substance abuse problems.

VA is concerned that the data CBS presented in its broadcast was not reviewed by independent scientists as most legitimate academic studies are. Regardless of this questionable journalistic tactic, VA takes the problem of suicide very seriously and wants veterans to come to VA for help if they are under stress or in crisis.

VA is constantly reviewing scientific findings, both from our own research and that of others, to guide us in improving care for veterans. We are reviewing the limited information that CBS has made available to us and are accelerating our own research to ensure we are doing everything possible to improve the information available to the medical and research communities about suicides in veterans as a means of better understanding how to prevent these tragedies.


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Colonel Dan on next VA Secretary Nominee

Call your Senator this week at local office... stop the Peake Nomination
also see:

VA nominee Peake’s hearing set for Dec. 5

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Nov 20, 2007 5:52:55 EST
The Bush administration’s nominee to be the next secretary of veterans’ affairs will appear before a Senate committee Dec. 5 to answer questions about what he will bring to the job if confirmed.

This could be a quick process if retired Lt. Gen. James Peake, a West Point graduate and former Army surgeon general, satisfies the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee that he is prepared to take on the many challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs, including a growing backlog of benefits claims, lengthy waits for some appointments and treatment of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, especially for mental health issues.

But Senate aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Peake’s nomination could easily become a prolonged fight if his answers are unsatisfying or if his nomination somehow gets tied up in a partisan feud that has delayed action on legislation to improve veterans’ benefits and health care.

The Senate committee, chaired by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, has been complaining that leaving the VA secretary’s post vacant since Oct. 1 seems to indicate the Bush administration considers veterans’ issues to be unimportant.

The White House formally nominated Peake for the VA post on Thursday, just as Congress was beginning a previously scheduled two-week break. The Dec. 5 hearing will come on the first week back from the break. Congressional leaders hoping to end the legislative session no later than Dec. 21, which does not allow a lot of time for extensive hearings or investigation.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Matz Jr., president of the National Association for Uniformed Services and a member of the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Committee that has recommended numerous improvements in veterans’ programs, said he thinks Peake is “an excelled choice.”

Peake was commander of the Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash., in the mid-1990s when Matz was deputy commanding general at that post.

“I know him well,” Matz said. “What a great choice.”

Given the fact that LTG Peake is associated with QTC a private contractor with nearly a billion dollar in contracts with the VA, and it's current Chairman was a past Secretary of the VA just prior to the contracts being awarded to QTC which raised them from a few million a year to many hundreds of millions a year, Secretary Anthony Principi, a sane person has to question "conflict of interest" exactly whose interest is General Peake going to be working for, the veterans, the governments or QTC's, these are valid areas to question.

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Colonel Dan on the VA and PTSD

Ref your document

US Department of Veterans Affairs Disability Policies for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder:

Administrative Trends and Implications for Treatment, Rehabilitation, and Research


I believe there is a connection..with how veterans perceive treatment by the VA including delays in Claim processing..basically there is no treatment. A Vet finally get's an appointment with the VA, and is relieved.. he thinks, finally I am going to get some help making the pain of PTSD, depression, etc go away, and finally will get some financial assistance... boy is he in for a shock. Many have been thrown out of the military waaay tooooo soon.. and dumped in a new bureaucratic VA nightmare

Look at the status of claims for these suicidal veterans.... how long they fought for benefits...the feeling of abandonment.. after all it's just in their head..get over it....BS

Far too many Pysch Dr's at VA are just pill pushers.... far too many have a foreign background and ARE NOT familiar with a soldier's or American background/culture.
Far too many will not make a statement as to the probability of the veteran's mental problems being service connected. They will say, that is not their job, they will say rules prohibit them from saying so.. which is completely false... they will say that's up to a claims processor..a non-med person... Then after meeting with a Psych Dr for many months... he gets a short sitdown with a C&P examiner.. who has never met the vet before, has not read the complete file, and then despite the veteran having been blown up by a IED or such, or spending 30 years in the military, will state the veterans mental health problems are not service connected, but are related to his divorce and/or his drinking. DUH!! STRESS is Stress.... you don't have to prove being shot at, blown up, etc.... there is a lot of stress in just serving.. even just preparing for deployment is stressful..
some handle it, some don't

BRecent Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Administrative Trends Regarding
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Disability

From 1999 to 2004, the number of veterans receiving VA disability payments for PTSD
increased 79.5% (from 120265 to 215871), whereas those receiving payments for
other disabilities increased only 12.2%.

From 1999 to 2004, total PTSD disability payments rose 148.8% (to $4.3 billion annually),
whereas payments in other disability categories increased by only 41.7%.

Most veterans’ self-reported symptoms of PTSD become worse over time until they
reach 100% disability, at which point an 82% decline in use of VA mental health services
occurs; no change in use of VA medical health service occurs.

In a recent review of disability award files, 25% of files were found lacking compelling
evidence of combat exposure, putting the monetary risk of potential fraud at $19.8

Among veterans seeking mental health treatment in VA clinics, most (up to 94%) concurrently
apply for PTSD disability benefits.

Only about half of those veterans who apply for PTSD disability are seeking psychiatric
care at the time of their disability application submission.

A nearly 2-times regional difference in the rate of approved PTSD disability claims is
found across the nation; this variation is not explained by differences in PTSD symptom
severity or psychiatric comorbidity, suggesting inconsistent evaluation standards
or procedures.

In 2006, the VA took an average of 657 days for appeals resolution of disability claims.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Senators are home on Vacation let them know veterans need this passed

Okay all we have 97 Senators that are neglecting Veterans! Multiple Sclerosis needs to be addressed! Gulf War veterans are showing increased incidents! We need a registry by period of service!!!! But maybe Senator Murray can add this to the bill!
Now all we have 97 Senators to call by phone, email, fax....their DC staffers are still in office...the Senators are home so get their attention!
We still can make some good things happen in this session of congress TOGETHER!!!
Title: A bill to extend the period of time during which a veteran's multiple sclerosis is to be considered to have been incurred in, or aggravated by, military service during a period of war.
Sponsor: Sen Murray, Patty [WA] (introduced 3/13/2007) Cosponsors (2)
Latest Major Action: 3/13/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs.


COSPONSORS(2), ALPHABETICAL [followed by Cosponsors withdrawn]: (Sort: by date)
Sen Brown, Sherrod [OH] - 5/8/2007 Sen Sanders, Bernard [VT] - 5/1/2007

To extend the period of time during which a veteran's multiple sclerosis is to be considered to have been incurred in, or aggravated by, military service during a period of war. (Introduced in Senate)

S 847 IS


1st Session

S. 847
To extend the period of time during which a veteran's multiple sclerosis is to be considered to have been incurred in, or aggravated by, military service during a period of war.


March 13, 2007
Mrs. MURRAY introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Veterans' Affairs


To extend the period of time during which a veteran's multiple sclerosis is to be considered to have been incurred in, or aggravated by, military service during a period of war.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


Section 1112(a)(4) of title 38, United States Code, is amended by striking `within seven years from' and inserting `after'.


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This is a MUST read about PTSD and the Iraq War

Barbara Barrett of McClatchy News has caught the terrible pain of one man dealing with PTSD and refuses to fully address it, because he is afraid what will happen to his men.

I can't begin to do the article justice you must read all the installments of the 4 part story, she takes you thru the deployment to the battles and SFC Chad Stephens own inner battles at home. The Promise, The Silver Star and PTSD

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Letter from Colonel Dan on CNN story

Vets... go this CNN website...

Tell them to look at the Keith Roberts story, tell them your story..

Thank you CNN for the story... But you only scratched the surface. Story at:

Ref your story on Wounded warriors face home-front battle with VA.

This is the tip of the iceburg. Thanks you for helping to expose the VA system, Chicago VARO is one of the worst. This has been going on after every war. Research Chicago VARO. A real travesty. Follow up with a story on Keith Roberts, In the PTSD case of U.S. Navy Airman Keith Roberts (1968–71) the U.S. Dept of Justice in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Stephen Biskupic, decided to indict a Wisconsin Vietnam-era Navy veteran (who was diagnosed with PTSD by at least five different mental health professionals), using the power of his office to convict and jail the vet on trumped-up charges of wire fraud in 2004-2005. Pushed by a VA OIG in Chicago... who is this OIG, look at him and other of his cases. He shold be lookng at the VA system, not the vets trying to use it.

Wounded warriors face home-front battle with VA
Story Highlights
Ty Ziegel lost an arm, part of his skull when he was attacked in Iraq

VA initially rated his brain injury at 0%, meaning he got no compensation for it

Another vet: VA rejected his claim, saying his wounds were "not service connected"

Ziegel: "I want to make the VA system better"

How this ties into other Vets, such as Keith Robert's.

Vets... go this CNN website...

Tell them to look at the Keith Roberts story, tell them your story..

to the veterans and widows of veterans I agree with Colonel Dan flood the CNN site with your personal stories of how the VA has dealt with you and your family, the good, the bad and the ugly......

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The DOD claims DU is safe, this shows it is anything but

VA has this story today showing what happened to a town that use to build DU weapons, and it is an eye opener, I wonder how DOD try's to spin this, and if they even try.

'Safe' uranium that left a town contaminated

They were told depleted uranium was not hazardous. Now, 23 years after a US arms plant closed, workers and residents have cancer - and experts say their suffering shows the use of such weapons may be a war crime

David Rose in Colonie, New York
The Observer

It is 50 years since Tony Ciarfello and his friends used the yard of a depleted uranium weapons factory as their playground in Colonie, a suburb of Albany in upstate New York state. 'There wasn't no fence at the back of the plant,' remembers Ciarfello. 'Inside was a big open ground and nobody would chase us away. We used to play baseball and hang by the stream running through it. We even used to fish in it -though we noticed the fish had big pink lumps on them.'

Today there are lumps on Ciarfello's chest - strange, round tumours that protrude about an inch. 'No one seems to know what they are,' he says. 'I've also had a brain aneurysm caused by a suspected tumour. I'm constantly fatigued and for years I've had terrible pains, deep inside my leg bones. I fall over without warning and I've got a heart condition.' Ciarfello's illnesses have rendered him unable to work for years. Aged 57 and a father of five, he looks much older.

The US federal government and the firm that ran the factory, National Lead (NL) Industries, have been assuring former workers and residents around the 18-acre site for decades that, although it is true that the plant used to produce unacceptable levels of radioactive pollution, it was not a serious health hazard.

Now, in a development with potentially devastating implications not only for Colonie but also for the future use of some of the West's most powerful weapon systems, that claim is being challenged. In a paper to be published in the next issue of the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment, a team led by Professor Randall Parrish of Leicester University reports the results of a three-year study of Colonie, funded by Britain's Ministry of Defence.

Parrish's team has found that DU contamination, which remains radioactive for millions of years, is in effect impossible to eradicate, not only from the environment but also from the bodies of humans. Twenty-three years after production ceased they tested the urine of five former workers. All are still contaminated with DU. So were 20 per cent of people tested who had spent at least 10 years living near the factory when it was still working, including Ciarfello.

The small sample size precludes the drawing of statistical conclusions, the journal paper says. But to find DU at all after so long a period is 'significant, since no previous study has documented evidence of DU exposure more than 20 years prior... [this] indicates that the body burden of uranium must still be significant, whether retained in lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys or bone'. The team is now testing more individuals.

In 1984, having bought the factory from NL for $10 in a deal that meant the firm was exempted from having to pay for its clean-up, the federal government began a massive decommissioning project, supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers. The clean-up did not finish until summer 2007, having cost some $190m. Contractors demolished the buildings and removed more than 150,000 tons of soil and other contaminated detritus, digging down to depths of up to 40ft and trucking it 2,000 miles by rail to underground radioactive waste sites in the Rockies. All that is now left of the NL plant is a huge, undulating field, ringed by razor wire.

Despite this colossal effort, Parrish and his colleagues found high concentrations of DU particles in soil, stream sediments and household dust in the vicinity of the site, deposited long ago when the factory burnt the shavings and chips produced by the weapons manufacturing process: the study estimates that, over the years, about 10 tons of uranium oxide dust wafted from the chimney into the surrounding environment.

The Army Corps clean-up team tested the soil from some of the gardens of houses backing on to the plant, and in cases where it was found to be emitting more than 35 pico curies of radiation per gram they removed it. The researchers discovered dust in and around buildings emitting up to 10 times as much. DU, inhaled in the form of tiny motes of oxide that lodge inside the lungs, emits alpha radiation, nuclei of helium. Unlike the gamma radiation produced by enriched, weapons-grade uranium, alpha particles will not penetrate the skin.

But inside the body DU travels around the bloodstream, accumulating not only in the lungs but also in other soft tissues such as the brain and bone marrow. There, each mote becomes an alpha particle hotspot, bombarding its locality and damaging cell DNA. Research has shown that DU has the potential to cause a wide range of cancers, kidney and thyroid problems, birth defects and disorders of the immune system.

When DU 'penetrators' - armour-piercing shells that form the standard armament of some of Britain's and America's most commonly deployed military aircraft and vehicles - strike their targets, 10 per cent or more of the heavy DU metal burns at high temperatures, producing oxide particles very similar to those at Colonie.

TV footage shot in Baghdad in 2003 shows children playing in the remains of tanks coated with thick, black DU oxide, while there have long been claims that the DU shells that destroyed Saddam Hussein's tanks in the 1991 Gulf war were responsible for high rates of cancer in places such as Basra.

Parrish's team includes David Carpenter, an environmental health expert from Albany University. 'DU burns, it releases particulates that can be breathed in, and it doesn't go away,' he says. 'The issue does not concern military personnel as much as civilian populations in theatres where they are used. Now we know that we can still find measurable levels of DU among the people of Colonie, we need a much bigger study to establish whether they have suffered disproportionate ill-effects such as cancers as a consequence. If they have, it would raise a serious ethical challenge to the use of these weapons. Arguably it could constitute a war crime.'

The NL plant on Central Avenue, Colonie's main artery, opened in 1958 and became one of the Pentagon's main suppliers. DU - the material left in huge quantities by the process of refining enriched uranium for bombs and nuclear reactors - is extremely dense. A pointed rod fired at high velocity will penetrate not only armour but several feet of concrete. In 1979 a whistleblower from inside the plant told the local health department that it was releasing large amounts of DU from its 50ft chimney, which was not properly filtered. The state government carried out atmospheric tests and in 1981 ordered that main production cease. The factory shut three years later.

One of those who has now tested positive is Mike Aidala, 71, who worked at the plant for 22 years and became its health and safety director. 'When it started, the place was spotless,' he says. 'But over the years it got dirtier and dirtier. We burnt the chips produced by the lathes in a steel furnace.' He added: 'A lot of my co-workers died young. Whether the plant was the reason, I guess we'll never know.'

As concern in Colonie rose, a residents' group began to call for a publicly funded health study. For Anne Rabe, a founder member of a campaign that has now lasted for 25 years, the Parrish study represents overdue vindication. 'I do find it very ironic that the US government at state and federal level refused for so long to do anything, and now the UK comes along and has funded these tests,' Rabe says.

Repeatedly, US agencies have claimed that the Colonie plant was reasonably safe, despite the massive clean-up. Most recently, in 2003, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a report saying that, although the pollution produced when the plant was operating might have slightly increased the risks of kidney disease and lung cancer, there was now 'no apparent public health hazard'.

Rabe's campaign has conducted a health study of its own, assembling a dossier from personal contacts and by knocking on neighbours' doors. It found that among almost 400 people surveyed there were numerous cases of rare cancers, thyroid and kidney complaints and birth defects.

The main difficulty the campaigners faced in the past is that DU eventually dissolves and is passed in the urine. The US government claimed that the plant had been shut so long that it would be impossible to determine who had been contaminated - so rendering a full health survey pointless.

However, Parrish has developed new, more sensitive methods. At the same time, his impartiality is impeccable. Before his work in Colonie, Parrish tested more than 400 Gulf war veterans, failing to detect DU in any of them - so dealing a serious blow to those who claimed that DU is one of the causes of Gulf war syndrome. 'I did not expect to find it in Colonie,' he says.

Some of those who have tested positive display classic, common symptoms found in DU victims elsewhere. For example, Ciarfello says he was still in his twenties when his teeth 'just started to crumble: they ground down to nothing until they were just these little stumps and I pushed them out with my tongue'. Other members of his family are sick. His son developed a severe kidney condition, while his brother, Frank, can barely walk and also suffers chronic fatigue. A nephew was born with a disfiguring facial skin tumour that has required repeated surgery.

Tom Donnelly, 56, spent 34 years as a foreman at a garage door workshop next to the NL factory, where tests have found high concentrations of DU in dust samples from places such as shelves and light fittings. He has three auto-immune disorders: Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the bowel, total alopecia, and cerebral vasculitis, an immune system-related narrowing of blood vessels in the brain.

'The new tests suggest I inhaled about 4,000 particles of DU,' Donnelly says. 'I used to come to work in the morning and see the chimney blowing its smoke in a thick black plume. Most of us had no idea that the plant was using uranium at all. After all, the sign outside said National Lead. The Army Corps removed all that soil, but they never looked at the dust at all. The effect on my life has been devastating, but how many others are already dead?' One is his late boss and friend Tom Murphy - who, like Donnelly, developed Crohn's and died of it at 61.

Ann Carusone lived in a house behind the plant from the time of her birth in 1966 until 1993. 'When I tested positive, my reaction was sheer disbelief,' she says. She has endured years of a chronic lung disease, sarcoidosis, an inflammation of the lymph nodes usually found in much older people, as well as a blood disorder that produced petecchiae - dots of blood beneath her skin, similar to those seen in some of those exposed to radiation at Hiroshima. In her twenties she had a pre-cancerous ovarian cyst that when removed was the size of a grapefruit.

'I knew many people from round here who died young, in their twenties and thirties,' she says. 'We used to play out in the creek that flowed out of the plant site. The water was sluggish, a weird yellow-green colour. We'd splash about in it. Now we know it was laden with depleted uranium.'

'It's very striking how many people in this small group have immune disorders like Tom Donnelly's,' says Carpenter. 'I can say with great confidence that people who inhaled DU are at greater risk of lung cancer, as well as leukaemia, other cancers and genetic damage of the type that causes birth defects. Previous responses by official bodies could be said to amount to a cover-up. People have been told that there's no problem, and that's very clearly not true.'

Yesterday NL failed to return calls requesting comment.

Deadly residue

Depleted uranium (DU) is the residue left in massive quantities when bomb-grade uranium is refined to make reactor fuel and nuclear weapons.

The densest naturally occurring metal, it is used to make armour-penetrating shells, standard armament for some of the West's most widely deployed military aircraft and vehicles, such as Bradley armoured cars, Abrams tanks, and Jaguar A10 fighter planes.

Less intensely radioactive than bomb-grade uranium, DU emits alpha particles, known to cause cancers.

DU weapons that strike their targets produce clouds of tiny uranium oxide particles, which lodge in the lungs and other soft tissues such as the brain and bone marrow.

DU shells were widely used in the 1991 Gulf war; in Bosnia and Kosovo; and are being used now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fort Jackson's New National Cemetary to benefit South Carolina veterans and families

.Courtesy of the Charlotte Observor

National veterans' cemetery to open in S.C. next year
Associated Press Writer
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FORT JACKSON, S.C. --Retired soldier George Goldsmith is so fond of the 600 acres of twisted underbrush and towering pines on this Army training base, he plans to stay here for all eternity.

But when Goldsmith, 68, is laid to rest at the national veterans' cemetery at Fort Jackson, the weeds and much of the forest will probably be gone.

Goldsmith is one of many military veterans eager to see the cemetery open here by next year. He wore an Army uniform for nearly 40 years, and now he's helping local, state and federal officials develop the cemetery site into a serene, resting place for veterans.

"It is going to be a setting that is very appealing, a place that is going to be very comfortable," said the retired two-star general, predicting it will be transformed into hallowed ground where people may "have some personal time with God."

The site will be the first of six national cemeteries to open across the country under legislation signed by President Bush in 2003.

Under organizers' sped-up time line, a 10-acre portion of the cemetery will be ready for casket burials by the end of 2008 - even as other portions are under construction.

"I think that when we finish, we are going to have something that we are proud of and the veterans deserve that," said Goldsmith, who served in the Army Reserves and also heads the Chamber of Commerce's military affairs committee in Columbia, which is located just five miles from Fort Jackson.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates some 977 World War II veterans are dying daily and pressure has been building to provide burial sites, says Bruce Burko of the National Cemetery Administration.

"Our number one priority is to open up the Fort Jackson cemetery as fast as possible," Burko said.

During a visit to the site, Burko explained that most veterans' cemeteries are built start-to-finish over four to five years, with burials taking place only after the entire site is completed.

Under the Fort Jackson plan, an initial 10-acre portion of the site "will be wrapped in, and it won't even be noticeable that one part was started earlier than the rest," Burko said.

Sweeping his arm across the horizon, Burko predicted an imposing entryway will lead to a park-like setting of wide grassy spaces, in time filled with the traditional small marble headstones.

Given the Colonial-era history of South Carolina and its conservative, red brick architecture, the formal entry buildings and other administrative buildings will probably take on a similar style, Burko said.

The other national cemeteries are planned for Sarasota and Jacksonville, Fla.; Birmingham, Ala.; Philadelphia; and Bakersfield, Calif., Burko said.

Most of Fort Jackson's sprawling 53,000 acres is used for basic training, firing ranges and military schools. The cemetery will be fenced and visitors won't be able to get onto the training areas, Burko said. A benefit for visitors is nearby Interstates 26 and 77, allowing easy access.

Scott Nahrwold, Fort Jackson's top civilian in charge of the day-to-day operations at the Army's largest training base, said he is one of many officials getting at least a phone call a week from curious veterans.

Nahrwold said he was touched by one veteran, who called and said his wife had died and his own health was failing.

"He wanted to make sure his wife could be buried, but then re-interred" when he passes away, so at some point they could share a grave at the site, Nahrwold said.

While private cemetery space may be purchased in advanced, it is not possible to reserve a grave site at a national cemetery. Graves are accorded to eligible veterans and their dependents on an "as-needed" basis, Burko said.

Two national cemeteries already located in South Carolina are filling up rapidly. A new state veterans' cemetery is expected to be open within several months - but it is only 65 acres.

The site on Fort Jackson will be almost ten times that size - complete with shelters for internment ceremonies, administration and visitors' buildings, an area for assembling funeral corteges.

The cemetery will be built in 10-year stages, with a potential for about 5,000 burials each year. It is being planned to accept burials for 300 years.

I make no profit on this blog and the information is used for educational purposes of other veterans that read this blog.

Since I am 100% disabled you can imagine that I am glad to hear this, Fort Jackson is less than a 10 minute drive from our home, I will actually be able to go out and see the site before I die, which is more than most veterans get to do. By the time a veteran gets to a national cemetary they are usually deceased, I have seen the one at Beufort and it appear to be a Civil War Cemetary and I think it almost full if it's not full, but still it is about a 2 hour drive from home, not easily accessible for the family. But then again I don't want anyone coming every day, but there is something special about being buried with other veterans, some "hero's" most like me, just an average "regular joe". I served during the Vietnam Era and Desert Storm but like most soldiers I was there is about all that can be said for my service, I did it. My parents are buried at Riverside National Cemetary by March AFB, it's a serene place.

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