U.S. Troops Exposed to Chemical Weapons

~ By Freddy Groves ~

The pictures of blistered skin and the photocopies of the medical records make it clear: Service personnel in Iraq were exposed to chemical weapons — nerve agent Sarin or mustard blister gas.

It wasn’t just one or two broken and leaking canisters that were uncovered. Photos show dozens, even hundreds, of canisters in multiple caches.

Depending on which version of the story you read, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel either did or didn’t recently order medical examinations of those soldiers who’d been exposed to those chemical-warfare agents. He asked that the medical treat­ment they received be exam­ined.

A Department of Veterans Affairs press release dated 2000 says that a former acting VA secretary had been “helping secure expanded benefits for veterans who were prisoners of war, or who were exposed to Agent Orange, radiation or mustard gas.”

A 2005 press release says that the VA “announced a national outreach campaign to locate veterans who were exposed to mustard gas,” but goes on to say that “most of these veterans participated in chemical testing programs during World War II.” Nothing about what was being found in Iraq.

Somewhere between 2000 and 2005, troops in Iraq unearthed caches of chemicals — and were injured. As late as 2008, sol­diers reported contact with the chemicals. Some were denied decontamination. Some were accused of malingering. A few were given ineffective creams. A few were hustled out for care; most weren’t.

Some veterans who handled those canisters still have symp­toms that were not taken care of at the time, especially breathing problems. If you were there, make an appointment to be checked out.

To read the whole story, go online to NYTimes.com and search for “Troops to Be Checked for Chemical Exposure in Iraq.”

Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to colum­nreply2@gmail.com.
© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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