Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Man getting clout for Gulf War veterans

Kirt Love

by Bryan Kirk - Telegram Staff Writer
Published February 13, 2008

Chet Edwards
Kirt Love is a man on a mission, and for the first time in a long time, he is getting some political muscle to back him up.

With the help of U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, Love is hoping to help those who served during the first Gulf War to get more access to resources through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Last month, Edwards wrote a letter to Dr. James Peak, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and asked him to form an advisory committee.

On Feb. 5, Dr. Peak responded to Edwards’ appeal and agreed to form the Gulf War Veteran’s Advisory Committee to address issues related to treatment, benefits and family support.

“My staff is drafting a proposed charter for my review within the next 10 days,” Peak wrote.

In the corner of the memo sent back to Edwards, Peak wrote that he appreciated the suggestion made by Edwards.

“My motivation was to see that Gulf War veterans have adequate input into VA decisions,” Edwards said.

There have been a number of committees born as a result of the specter of Gulf War illness.

In January 2002 a presidential advisory committee, known as the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses was formed to determine what causes the illness known as Gulf War Syndrome.

However, those questions were never answered.

“There is still a question about exposure to chemical agents in the first Gulf War. There are still a lot of concerns that have not yet been fully answered.”

Love couldn’t agree more.

The Crawford resident and Bell County native has been fighting for answers from the U.S. government about the ailment commonly referred to as Gulf War Syndrome for more than a decade.

Love mounted his campaign in 1997, six years after the war ended and four years after he nearly succumbed to what he still believes were chemical agents used by Iraqi forces against U.S. troops during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

The changes in Love, however, were gradual.

When he and other members of his unit returned from Iraq, they began to experience substantial weight gain. Two years later, Love found himself substantially thinner and near the point of dying.

“I spent two years on my death bed. I was not supposed to make it,” Love recalled.

He was unable to eat or drink unless he ingested a teaspoon of powdered sulfur.

Still, no one knew what he had, and they still don’t know, Love said.

When he recovered sufficiently, Love went to Washington to try to get something done for Gulf War veterans who suffer from ailments that may have resulted from chemical agents.

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