A 43-year search for a lost helicopter in Vietnam ends
As with so much in life and in death, there was news last week that was joyous and sad and bittersweet for the small community of the Vietnam War’s band of brothers of the Ia Drang Valley.
Early Dec. 28, 1965, an Army Huey helicopter, tail number 63-08808, lifted off from the huge grassy airfield at the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) base at An Khe in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam.
Two experienced pilots, Chief Warrant Officer Jesse Phelps of Boise, Idaho, and Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Stancel of Chattanooga, Tenn., were at the controls. Behind them in the doors were crew chief Don Grella of Laurel, Neb., and door gunner Jim Rice of Spartanburg, S.C.
All four were veterans of the fiercest air assault battle of the war, fought the previous month in the Ia Drang.
Huey 808 was one of 10 birds in a platoon of A Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, led by Capt. Ed "Too Tall to Fly" Freeman.
Normally, all missions were flown by at least two helicopters, but this one was so brief and so routine and along a route so well-known and marked by the center white line of a familiar highway that Freeman and his boss, Maj. Bruce "Ol’ Snake" Crandall, already at the Landing Zone with the rest of A Company’s 20 helicopters, agreed to waive that requirement and let 808 fly alone.
With that, 808 flew off the face of the Earth. It disappeared without a word on the radio of distress or trouble.
For weeks, searchers and Huey pilots combed the rugged jungle hills on both sides of the road and the mountain pass. Choppers hovered over every break in the tree cover, peering down or sending crewmen to look.
They found nothing.
The families of the crewmen joined the ranks of those waiting for news, for hope, for some closure of an open wound. More than 1,600 American servicemen are still missing in action in Vietnam.
Last week, the Department of Defense liaison officers who work with MIA families called Ol’ Snake Crandall and surviving family members of the four missing crewmen to confirm that after 43 years, search teams following one of thousands of leads had found and positively identified the wreckage of Huey 808.
In what amounts to almost an archaeological dig, the Joint Task Force — Missing in Action team assigned to this lead also recovered dog tags, other personal artifacts and some human remains.
The remains will be flown to the Central Identification Library in Hawaii.
"They told us it could take several months to complete that process," said Shirley Haase of Omaha, Neb., the sister of Grella. "I only wish my mother was here for this news. She waited for so long."
The men of Huey 808 will be coming home at last.
Grieving mothers and fathers have died waiting for news that never came.
Siblings have grown old.
Their buddies have never forgotten and never rested in pressing for a resolution to this case.
Too Tall Ed Freeman and Ol’ Snake Crandall, his wingman and boss, never missed an opportunity to ask questions or get a little pushy with a government official, even a president of the United States or a North Vietnamese army general, in seeking an answer to the mystery.
Too Tall Ed died last summer in a Boise hospital. In their final farewell visit, he and Crandall, both Medal of Honor recipients, talked about Huey 808, and Bruce promised Ed that he’d keep pushing the search as long as he lived.
Joseph L. Galloway is a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers. firstname.lastname@example.org
I am glad we still have teams doing the recovery of remains in Vietnam, for many families the word of a confirmed death is important, yes everyone realizes that the NIAs are probably dead, but without the remains you just really never know. Joe Galloway was in La Drang Valley and his attachment to these pilots and the men of the 7th calvary is unique in todays society. Joe Galloway is one of the few journalists that really gets what it is like to be in "the valley of death".
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A 43-year search for a lost helicopter in Vietnam ends
Gulf War syndrome linked to chemicals
Posted on: Monday, 13 April 2009, 20:54 CDT
U.S. researchers link brain damage consistent with chemical exposure in veterans with Gulf War syndrome.
The study, published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, says the findings may lead to diagnostic tests and treatments.
Before this study, we didn't know exactly what parts of the brain were damaged and causing the symptoms in these veterans, lead author Dr. Robert Haley of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas says in a statement. We designed an experiment to test areas of the brain that would have been damaged if the illness was caused by sarin or pesticides, and the results were positive.
Areas that would have been damaged -- cholinergic receptors -- were stimulated in 21 chronically ill Gulf War veterans and 17 well veterans. The ill veterans showed abnormal responses when brain cell responses were measured using brain scans.
What we found was that some of the brain areas we previously suspected responded abnormally to the cholinergic challenge, Haley says. Changes in functioning of these brain structures can certainly cause problems with concentration and memory, body pain, fatigue, abnormal emotional responses and personality changes that we commonly see in ill Gulf War veterans.
Source: United Press International
Gulf War syndrome linked to chemicals
Monday, April 13, 2009
Agent Orange Payments by the Canadian Government
The Government of Canada is offering a one-time, tax-free ex gratia payment of $20,000
related to the testing of unregistered U.S. military herbicides, including Agent Orange, at
Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown in New Brunswick during the summers of 1966
The deadline for applications is April 1, 2009.
EligibilityDelivering on Commitments Related to Herbicide Use and Testing at CFB Gagetown
Delivering on Commitments Related to Herbicide Use and Testing at CFB
September 12, 2007
A commitment was made to respond to concerns raised by Canadian Forces (CF)
members, Veterans, civilians and area residents about the health and environmental
impacts of herbicide use and testing at CFB Gagetown.
Public concerns relate to two distinct components of herbicide use and testing at CFB
Longer-term annual use (since 1956) of registered herbicides to clear brush from
training areas to ensure safety of military personnel. These same registered herbicides are widely used in Canada; e.g. agriculture, forestry, utilities, airports, railways, private industry, golf courses, parks, lawns, etc.
Small-scale testing of unregistered US military herbicides, including Agent
Orange, over 3 days in June 1966 and 4 days in June 1967 in cooperation with US
military This is the only known time and place where Agent Orange was sprayed
Public concerns are being addressed by Government in two ways:
Results of the Research Program
Provided information on the history of herbicides used and tested at CFB
Gagetown from 1956 to the present day, and the potential risks to human
health and the environment. Research tells us that the Base is safe and that the vast majority of people on the Base and in nearby communities have not experienced long-term health effects.
Ex gratia payments on a compassionate basis related to the testing of unregistered
US military herbicides, including Agent Orange, at CFB Gagetown in 1966 and
1967 For some, research cannot take back the years of uncertainty.
Because of lack of information, and time gone by, people have lost the
opportunity to demonstrate how they may have been involved or affected
by the testing.
Lawmakers seek details of burn pit data
By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Mar 31, 2009 16:54:07 EDT
Troops exposed to fumes from open-air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan face “significant danger,” according to independent scientists hired by Congress to look at a study conducted by the military on the burn pit at Joint Base Balad, the largest U.S. facility in Iraq.
“Independent scientists who have reviewed the joint study of Balad Air Base have informed us that there is a significant danger that veterans may become ill as a result of exposure to fumes emanating from such burn pits,” states a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed and sent by eight lawmakers on March 30. “They also noted that the underlying data supporting the study was not included and that it will be difficult to ascertain the potential health care implications of exposure to the fumes without this data.”
The letter asks Gates to provide that data to Congress and the Government Accountability Office, even if it needs to be reviewed in a classified setting.
The letter is signed by Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; Evan Bayh, D-Ind; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; and Reps. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y.; Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.; John Hall, D-N.Y.; Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.; and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H.
“We are concerned that veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan may be ill, and some may have actually died, as a result of exposure to dangerous toxins produced by burn pits used to destroy waste,” the letter states. “The Military Times reports that scores of returning veterans who were exposed to burn pits display similar symptoms: chronic bronchitis, asthma, sleep apnea, chronic coughs and allergy-like symptoms. Several also have cited heart problems, lymphoma and leukemia.”
Lawmakers also have sent letters to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Erik Shinseki, who said VA is working with the Defense Department to connect troop exposure data with possible ailments; and to Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, asking that the burn pits be monitored for safety.
Petraeus said the military would monitor the pits, and that incinerators are being added to reduce exposure to chemicals, such as dioxins, benzene and volatile organic compounds known to cause cancer.
More than 150 veterans have contacted Military Times with illnesses and ailments that they believe are related to the burn pits, which have been used to burn everything from plastic bottles to petroleum products to medical waste. In some small locations — such as combat outposts with only a couple of hundred people — trash has been dumped and burned within feet of troops’ living quarters.
At Balad, as much as 240 tons of waste was burned every day in monstrous pits that created large plumes of black smoke. Service members say their living quarters were often filled with smoke and even ash, though Air Force officials say Balad now has two incinerators to handle the waste.
Kerry Baker, Disabled American Veterans’ assistant national legislative director, has been gathering a database of those sick combat vets, and said he now has 182 people on his list. Of those, 48 have developed lymphoma, leukemia or another form of cancer; 55 have pulmonary disorders including asthma and asthma-like symptoms; and others report multiple sclerosis, sleep apnea and heart problems. At least 16 veterans in the database have died, Baker said.
Defense officials have said there are no known long-term health effects due to burn-pit exposure, but lawmakers say the issue deserves closer scrutiny.
“Our experience with treating illnesses caused by Agent Orange and Gulf War Illness taught us that we must be vigilant in monitoring and treating our veterans long after they have returned from the battlefield,” the letter states. “Although the Department of Defense currently maintains that there are no health dangers to troops from exposure to burn pits, we believe it is premature to dismiss concerns raised about burn pits after only a few years.”
Will Jenkins, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Bishop, also has created a Web site for people who would like more information about the burn pits, including the studies released by the military. People may also share their burn pit stories at the site, learn how to seek help, or read media accounts of the burn pits.
Read more on the web
• VA to gather data on alleged burn-pit victims
• Burn pit at Balad raises health concerns
• Possible contaminants and their potential effects
• Burn pit fallout
• Senator wants answers on dangers of burn pits
• Troops air complaints about burn pits
What the troops say
Pentagon must recognize burn-pit health hazards
General Urges Servicemembers to Seek Help for Stress Disorder
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2009 – Servicemembers at war can be confronted with traumatic, sometimes shocking, events that can cause long-lasting emotional and psychological wounds.
In some cases, servicemembers develop what is called post-traumatic stress disorder. In past wars, the disorder was known by other names. In World War I, the medical profession called it shell-shock. In World War II and Korea, it was called battle fatigue. During and after the Vietnam War, it became PTSD.
No matter the name, the devastating effects remain the same, and the disorder can manifest itself in many ways. For Army Brig. Gen. Gary S. Patton, the dreams are the worst. Patton, now the Joint Staff’s director for personnel, served as a brigade commander with the 2nd Infantry Division in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005. As a colonel, he commanded 4,100 soldiers who deployed from Korea to Iraq, and then redeployed to Fort Carson, Colo.
“It was a very tough neighborhood,” he said during an interview. “It was a very active terrorist threat.”
Patton calls the dreams “sleep disturbances,” and said that was one of the reasons he sought mental health help. “I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a loud explosion going off in my head,” he said. “Not only do you have the sound, but the recreation of the smell and taste that you get from being right there in an [improvised explosive device] explosion.
“That effect has diminished, but it’s disturbing nonetheless.”
One of the dreams centers on Army Spc. Robert Oliver Unruh. Patton was observing actions on the north side of Ramadi when Unruh, a 25-year-old combat engineer, was hit in the torso by small-arms fire.
“We put him in an armored vehicle to [medically evacuate] him to our aid station,” the general said. “I was the last person to talk to Specialist Unruh because he died before my eyes there.”
Calling the sleep disturbances dreams doesn’t really give them their due. The incidents unroll as they happened, he said. He smells the cordite, he feels the blood, he hears the conversations, and he sees the young specialist die.
Patton wears a bracelet with Unruh’s name on it as part of remembering the 69 soldiers from his brigade who paid the ultimate sacrifice over a year in Iraq.
“No one is immune from the stresses of combat,” Patton said. “It affects everyone, in all specialties.”
When he returned from the deployment, Patton said, even driving became a challenge.. “When I first got back, I had what I call driver anxiety,” he said. “It was very hard for me to drive or ride in my car. I found myself scanning to the front, to the side as we drove along.”
It was a natural reaction in Ramadi as he looked for snipers, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades, but it wasn’t logical in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Patton sought mental health treatment.
“Servicemembers coming back need to understand that they are not alone,” he said. “There are others who have experienced the same things and they can get help.”
Sleeplessness, anxiety and rage are normal outcomes for human beings going through this, Patton said. Servicemembers need to understand that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, and it does not derail careers.
This is a change from the past. When Patton entered the service in 1979, he served with noncommissioned Vietnam veterans who suffered from the disorder, but did not seek help because it was widely believed that superiors considered those with the disorder shirkers.
“It was something that wasn’t on our radar screens back then,” he said. “It’s pretty common knowledge that we have some ground to cover just in overcoming the stigma associated with PTSD, but we’re doing it.”
Superiors also recognize the disorder and are working to reduce the stigma. Patton made brigadier general. Army Gen. Carter Ham, the four-star commander at U.S. Army Europe, made two, three and four stars after seeking treatment.
When Patton’s brigade left Iraq in 2005, every unit had lost people in Ramadi. The brigade and post leadership treated the screening process seriously and offered mental health services.
In his case, Patton found that counseling and conversation helped. “One of the best things for me is just communication with others who went through the same thing,” he said. “Our family members, who love us dearly, have a hard time relating to what we went through. My greatest relief was just through talking over the experiences with others who had been there. I gained coping skills just by talking to other soldiers.”
Counseling helps, but there are other treatments as well. The disorder often comes in tandem with traumatic brain injuries and military and Veterans Affairs researchers continue to make progress in treatments.
But this won’t help if personnel don’t seek aid. “My advice is to go seek mental health care as you would for a physical ailment,” Patton said.
Special Report: Healing the Invisible Wounds of War
Given how it was another General Patton who made "shell shock" a famous term" in WW2when he slapped that soldier in the Army hospital in Italy, which led to General Eisenhower relieving Patton of command. (I wonder if they are related?) Over the years the terms for (PTSD) have changed, for to many years soldiers and politicians downplayed the medical problem, and the chain of command in the military, labeled military members as being "weak" if they sought mental health treatment. It was not until 1980 that PTSD was even added to the psychiatric diagnostics manual DSM-3, and veterans were compensated for it.
There are estinmates that from these 2 new wars Iraq and Afghanistan that the percentage of military members suffering from PTSD may be as high as 30% of the 1.6 million combat veterans that have served since 9/11/2001.
Gulf War Syndrome Gets Real
BU experts evaluate the science for landmark federal report
| From Explorations | By Caleb Daniloff
SPH’s Roberta White says symptoms of Gulf War syndrome, such as fatigue, skin lesions, and gastrointestinal upset, are not the result of stress alone. Photo by Frank Curran
Gulf War veterans suffering a host of neurological problems have scored a victory in their struggle to legitimize their medical claims – thanks in part to public health experts at BU, whose research effectively debunks years of government denials.
A congressionally mandated panel, made up of leading scientists, medical experts, and military veterans, charged with shaping federal health research related to the 1991 Middle East conflict has concluded that Gulf War syndrome is a real medical condition and that it afflicts at least one in four of the 697,000 U.S. veterans who fought in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. The landmark report, presented in November by the BU-based Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake, calls on Congress to appropriate $60 million for treatment of Gulf War vets.
“Veterans of the first Gulf War have been plagued by symptoms of ill health, including fatigue, problems with thinking, skin lesions, and gastrointestinal upset, since their return seventeen years ago,” says Roberta White, the committee’s scientific director and a professor and chair of the School of Public Health department of environmental health. “Despite their persistence and severity, these symptoms have often led to no diagnosis in a substantial portion of the war’s veterans.”
The 450-page report brings together for the first time the full range of scientific research and government investigations on Gulf War illness. The report found that the condition fundamentally differs from stress-related syndromes seen after other wars and states that scientific evidence “leaves no question that Gulf War illness is a real condition.”
The report lays the blame for several health problems on the troops’ exposure to toxins, primarily in two contexts where the exposure was caused by the U.S. military itself. In anticipation of a chemical attack, the drug pyridostigmine bromide was given to hundreds of thousands of troops. And living and dining areas, tents, and uniforms were sprayed with pesticides to battle desert insects.
The report also suggests that the U.S. demolition of an Iraqi munitions dump may have exposed 100,000 troops to nerve gas stored at the facility. Gulf War veterans have shown significantly higher rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative condition also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, than veterans of other wars. And troops that were stationed downwind from the demolition site have died from brain cancer at twice the rate of other Gulf War veterans.
For almost two decades, the government and the military have downplayed veterans’ complaints, often referring to them as another form of post-traumatic stress disorder. For its report, the research committee evaluated hundreds of studies of Gulf War veterans, extensive research in other human populations, studies on toxic exposures in animals, and government investigations related to exposures in the Gulf War.
“The illness is probably controversial because it’s symptom-based, and most veterans don’t have a common medical diagnosis that fits all of their symptoms,” White says. “It may also be controversial because people feel that it’s obvious that war is stressful and therefore stress must be causing the health symptoms, even though this has never been proven. In fact, it’s been discounted in quite a few studies.”
White has been studying Gulf War illnesses since 1993 and served as research director of one of the three initial VA-funded centers on Gulf War illness. Since the early 1990s the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, among other federal entities, have funded SPH studies of Gulf War veterans and the effects of exposure to low-level sarin, pesticides, and pyridostigmine bromide.