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The Toxic Apocalypse, We are all in this Together!Dave Biller for Salem-News.com
If any family understands toxic exposure, it is my family. We have endured it through multiple generations of military service.
(WAYNESBURG, Pa.) - When I was a child, my father had a photo album from WWII that was full of pictures of nothing but a city in rubble. We were sworn to secrecy and were not permitted to discuss these photos with anyone. I always remembered this one photo of an arch doorway of a church still standing with the rest of the building just gone.
Later in life I learned that there was the impression of little girl’s charred remains on that doorway. I never noticed this detail until it was explained to me by my father. The story of his personal experience of this little girl at the church, I will never forget. As it turned out these were his one of kind personal photos of the devastation after the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki.
My father was one of forty Marines sent into Nagasaki on a recon mission just prior to the bomb drop. The first Marine died of cancer within a year. He told me guys began dying from cancer at various times after returning home.
The first one was within a year and a half. He always thought he was one of the lucky ones. For some reason, he didn’t get cancer. However, all of his kids were born with some sort of birth defect. As for myself; I was born with scoliosis (Curvature of the spine). Most of my brothers and sisters were born with something and have had medical issues throughout their life.
My oldest brother served multiple tours in Vietnam as a Marine. He was wounded in combat, but also had multiple medical problems related to Agent Orange and passed away almost four years ago from pancreatic cancer. His children didn’t escape the wrath either. His oldest son passed away earlier this year from congestive heart failure. He had suffered from medical complications since birth.
I was stationed at Andersen AFB Guam from 1986 to 1988. I had medical issues ever since I was there. In recent years, I learned of multiple toxic exposures. I thought that Agent Orange would be one of those exposures. Others include TCE, PCB’s, numerous heavy metals and as my research continues, I suspect possible chemical weapons may have been stored in bunkers I worked in. I know these bunkers have been removed, but the contaminants were never revealed. I remember the bunkers smelled bad when we were in them.
If any family understands toxic exposure, it is my family. We have endured it through multiple generations of military service. The strange thing is; since WWII, we have not lost a family member to a bullet. Nevertheless, we have certainly suffered casualties. I’m not sure what’s worse.
Exposure death is not quick. It lingers on and effects future generations. My son was born premature. I don’t know what other health problems he will have and what his kids will have. The million dollar question is, where does it stop?
There is another angle to this story though. We are looking at direct exposures from multiple wars; multiple generations. I have two nephews serving now in Afghanistan. Does this mean they will have burn pit exposure or some other exposure? What is the difference between all of these exposures?
The answer is: there is no difference. Veterans separate themselves by generations and wars, but they are really the same group exposed to toxic chemicals through air, water and soil.
The chemicals damage the body based on acute exposure and chronic exposure. Another variant is the persons overall condition both at the time and throughout life. Based on people I have talked to, it seems like they can handle the conditions until they hit mid life and things start getting worse. That was the case for me.
I’ve had issues since leaving the military. The VA wouldn’t help me. I was able to cope with most of them and got private care for what I couldn’t deal with. Now my age seems to be a factor. I need the VA to help me figure out what is happening. Now it is affecting my work. Now it is really starting to affect my quality of life. I am no longer able to brush it aside as I did when I was younger.
So we have gone multiple generations without the government stepping up. I think one of our biggest issues is that there has been no research programs established for any exposures. Sure there are some haphazard programs developed to determine of the issue should be recognized by the VA, but I’m talking about full blown research programs run by an independent entity like the University of Pittsburgh. They actually have resources available to establish research programs for the government.
They already conduct veteran studies in other areas. We are our own worst enemy. We need to quit separating ourselves into different exposure groups like wars, contaminated bases, generational gaps and types of exposure. We are all fighting the same fight and we are all in this together. We should be pushing one bill on Capitol Hill that covers everyone in one group. So what kind of bill should we look at? A bill that includes:
It’s time for veterans, families and others exposed to fight together for programs to support exposure research programs and medical support through eh VA. There is strength in numbers and these things are all related.
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