Monday, December 31, 2012

What has sadly been lost this week amid all the chatter about the so-called fiscal cliff is the fact that members of Congress are already threatening to throw our veterans under the bus. And it is nothing short of despicable.

Back in September, I reported for Newsweek/The Daily Beast that an unidentified Senator tried to block disabled veterans and their survivors from getting a cost-of-living adjustment to their benefits. The Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) increase for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits, which typically passes the House and Senate without opposition, was cleared by Senate Democrats but was unconscionably placed on a “secret hold” by an unidentified Republican senator.

Under obscure and preposterous Senate rules, a single Senator can anonymously keep a bill from advancing toward a vote with what is called a “secret hold.” The senator in this case was never identified - though several off-the-record sources told me who he was. I wish I could tell you all so you could flood his office with angry emails and letters. 

Anyway, that Senator eventually dropped the hold and the measure, HR 4114, which provides a meager 1.9 percent increase in disability benefits for veterans and surviving spouses, matching the planned increase in Social Security benefits, was ultimately approved on Nov. 13, the first day the Senate reconvened. 

But now, according to several reports, Congress may decide to slash these fundamental benefits. According to a statement on the website of Bergmann & Moore, a respected law firm that solely represents veteran disability cases, Congress could cut these benefits by thousands of dollars, which would be disastrous, especially for disabled veterans and their families living on a fixed income.

As the Washington Post reports, a change in how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated could mean that veterans who started receiving VA disability benefits at age 30 would have their benefits reduced by $1,425 at age 45, then $2,341 at age 55, and then $3,231 at age 65, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Rick Maze at Army Times also covered this issue, which has sparked understandable outrage among veterans and veteran advocates. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the incoming Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, has denounced this absurdly misguided austerity measure. 

“We must do deficit reduction, but not by cutting programs for people who lost arms, legs and eyes defending our country,” said Sanders.

When the House passed the COLA bill in July, House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) said, “Veterans have enough to worry about without the added stress of not knowing if their cost-of-living adjustments will be held up in a political tug-of-war. We have an obligation to the men and women who served this nation to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep the promise made to them.”

Sanders and Miller are both correct. While these two pols rarely agree on anything, they recognize that maintaining our veterans' disability benefits should never be a partisan issue. 

So, as you read all the reports this week about the so-called fiscal cliff, don't forget that Congress is already threatening to throw our veterans under the bus. And if this bothers you as much as it bothers me, contact your area representative in the House and the Senate and tell them, in no uncertain terms, that this just isn't right.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

West Side Story: The Greatest High School Football Game Ever Played?

Valley vs. Dowling: America's best high school rivalry?
Talk about your Friday Night Lights. It was 35 years ago that arguably the greatest high school football game in America was played, and the greatest high school rivalry was born. And the game wasn't played in Texas. Or California. It was played in Central Iowa.

The game in 1977 between the Valley Tigers and the Dowling Maroons, both of West Des Moines, Iowa, was epic. It created a high school rivalry that USA TODAY recently called one of the greatest in the nation. Well, I say it is the best in the nation.

OK, I'm admittedly biased. I was a senior at Valley that year. But judge for yourself. If you're not familiar with the game, or the rivalry, sit back and enjoy the story.

It was the fall of 1977. The Bee Gees topped the charts. President Jimmy Carter was trying again, and failing again, to cut inflation. New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would soon fire another manager. And Dowling's football team was expected to boast yet another perfect record in the Metropolitan Conference in Des Moines.

An absolutely dominant program in the disco decade, Dowling had never lost a conference game to that point, winning an unbelievable 64 straight against Des Moines opponents since the Metro was established in 1968 (the conference changed and expanded to the Central Iowa Metropolitan League - CIML - in 1991).

But the seniors at Valley - Dowling's burgeoning rival - were undaunted. They felt this was the year they would finally defeat the mighty Maroons. They talked about it and prepared for it all summer, and on an electric late-September weekend, they set out to prove it.

While most games don't live up to the hype, this one surpassed it. For drama, significance and pure emotion, the epic Valley-Dowling clash of 1977, which was played out before standing-room-only crowds over two consecutive nights because of lightning and heavy rain, was arguably the greatest high school football game ever played in America, and without question the greatest game ever played in Iowa.

Lee Crawford, Valley's head coach at the time, told me once that it was easily the most exciting game of which he'd ever been a part. "I coached a lot of games in my 35-year career, but I was never involved in one quite like that one, before or since," said Crawford. "It had a lot of meaning for the school and the community. It was big. No, it was huge."

Galvanizing the city's west side, the game, which kicked off the intense rivalry that still exists between the two west-side schools, was the first of many big games for Crawford-coached teams at Valley, which had been a good-but-not-great team in the conference for so long. But even more significantly, it represented the end of Dowling's football invincibility in the city.

For Steve Flood, Valley's senior center that year and a lifelong friend of mine, beating Dowling meant everything. "I must have seen 10 Valley-Dowling games growing up, and every year they would crush us," Flood once told me. "We worked hard all summer preparing for our senior season, but the truth is there was one game most of us were looking toward."

The game was billed as a battle between the city's two flashiest quarterbacks, Valley's Richie Safren, also a good friend to this day, and Dowling's Rory Vacco - both seniors. "It was a huge game. Richie and I both went on a cable TV talk show to talk about the game," Vacco once told me. Vacco was the backup quarterback at the beginning of that season to then-junior Bob Hanson, who went on to basketball stardom at the University of Iowa and the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls.

But when Hanson broke his collarbone, Vacco moved into the starting spot. Hanson, who by then already set his sights on a basketball scholarship, never played football again.

"I would have started that year either way, at quarterback or receiver, but it was too bad Bobby got hurt because a lot of people wonder to this day what would have happened if he would have played in the Valley game," Vacco said. "I was faster, but Hanson was a better passer, and we had the talent to run both types of offenses."

As kickoff approached, there was an abundance of confidence and nervousness in both locker rooms. "We were relaxed and nervous at the same time, but man were we pumped up," said Ken Wilson, a hard-hitting special-teamer for the Tigers that year who also remains a close friend to this day. "We had a sense of purpose, and nothing was going to stop us. We just had the feeling this time was going to be different."

To no one's surprise, the game quickly developed into a defensive struggle. The only scoring in the first half came late in the first quarter when Valley's Steve Lindgren hit a 45-yard field goal - the longest, and sweetest, of his career. "I grew up in the shadow of the (Valley) stadium on Sixth Street (in West Des Moines). I spent hours there by myself kicking field goals, hoping someday we'd beat Dowling," Lindgren once told me. "Just being a part of that game was the biggest thrill of my life to that point."

By halftime, everyone knew they were witnessing something for the ages. But with the skies getting darker, they also knew the game was in real danger of being stopped. Sure enough, just before the players were to return to the field, the rain and lightning came, and the athletic directors from both schools agreed to postpone the affair. Feelings among the players were mixed over who would benefit most from the 23-hour delay.

"We thought it was an act of God," Rick Henson, Valley's senior wide receiver, once told me. "But considering that Dowling was a Catholic school and our quarterback was Jewish, we weren't sure which god was behind it."

Most of the Dowling players wanted to get back on the field as quickly as possible to prove they were still unbeatable. "When we went into the locker room, we were behind but we still felt that physically we were beating them up," said Dowling's Vacco. But when the game was postponed, Vacco noted, "it changed everything. We prided ourselves on conditioning. Valley had six or seven guys that played both ways (offense and defense); we didn't have any. We felt we could have worn them down in the second half."

That night, few players or coaches on either team got much sleep. "It was the longest halftime of my career," said Crawford, who on Saturday afternoon reviewed the game films and made a few adjustments to the blocking scheme that helped free up his freelancing quarterback. "They (Dowling) were stunting and containing Richie (Safren) on the outside," he explains. "We changed the blocking set-up a bit to free him up."

Dowling's starting defensive tackle and team captain, Frank Harty once told me that the changes Crawford made took him right out of the game: "Nothing against (Dowling Coach Jim) Jorgensen, but Lee (Crawford) absolutely out-coached him in that game."

After reviewing the films and putting his players through a light workout, Crawford went home to rest up. As he lay on the couch, he says he received an omen: "I was watching the Oklahoma-Ohio State game on TV, and Oklahoma, which ran the wishbone then like we did, upset the Buckeyes. When that game ended I jumped off the couch and said, 'We're gonna win this thing!'"

By game time Saturday, the bleachers were bulging and the sidelines were 10-deep with fans. No official count was made because tickets were sold the previous night and this night the gates were left wide open. But estimates ran as high as 10,000, including high school football coaches, players, and fans from as far away as Grinnel and Oskaloosa.

The first score of the second half came with just over a minute gone in the third period when Valley's Safren pitched the ball to senior wide receiver Henson, a city track champ who sprinted 50 yards to the end zone. "Richie's pitch was behind me and low, but I turned around and grabbed it, and all I could see was green grass," Henson once told me. "I ran past the Dowling bench on the way to the end zone and just said 'see ya'."

Dowling coach Jorgensen later complained that Safren was down before he gave up the ball to Henson. "It was a blown call," he told the Des Moines Register after viewing the film. "He (Safren) was sitting down when he made the pitch."

A little over six minutes after Henson scored, Safren took it in himself from the 16, putting the game virtually out of reach. When the clock ran out, the scoreboard read "Valley 17, Dowling 8." Dowling's dynasty was finally over, and the Valley faithful went wild. Chanting "we're number one," thousands of fans flooded the field like so many Jim Valvanos looking for a player to hug. Police protected the goal posts, but the celebration was unstoppable. 

"It was total euphoria," recalled Crawford.

Said Valley's Flood, "As I walked very slowly back to the locker room, I just kept looking up at the scoreboard. It took a few days for it to really sink in that we had won."

By midnight, most of West Des Moines - it seemed - was celebrating at the house of Sam Bernabe, a Valley senior that year whose postgame get-together quickly became the mother of all high school parties. "It went beyond anyone's expectations," Bernabe once told me. "The police tried to contain it to just our house, but it got to the point where it took up several neighbor's yards and the street. But the police cooperated 100 percent; they were great. Everyone had a good time."

There were, however, some ugly aftershocks to this game. In an unfortunate act, a Valley player and some friends spray-painted "VHS #1" on signs around the Dowling campus. Then, in an ugly retaliation, a few Dowling players spray-painted racist comments - and, inexplicably, their jersey numbers -  on the Valley building, and broke a number of the school's windows. Players on both sides were disciplined; the Dowling players were kicked off the team.

Dowling's Frank Harty, who was not involved in the vandalism incident, apologized before Valley's student council. "For me, the loss on the field was terrible but what happened afterward was worse," Harty told me. "There was no excuse for that, and I know to this day the guys involved regret it. My dad went to Dowling and my kids will go to Dowling. It's something we're all still ashamed of."

But today, most players on both sides agree that, for the most part, this was a healthy rivalry whose passions remained on the field. Dowling's Vacco told me, "For most of the guys, I don't think there ever were any hard feelings. It was a huge game, a great rivalry then and now, but it was just a football game."

John Hayes, who was in his first year as Dowling's athletic director in '77, told me once that the game forever changed the face of Des Moines high school football. "It used to be Roosevelt, but Valley became our number one rival after this game," said Hayes, who noted that while both teams "played their hearts out, it's as if the adrenaline was all gone for us by the second night. Richie (Safren) really hurt us with the option."

However, Hayes added, "I always like to remind people that it took Valley two days to beat us."

Jeff Morris, the Maroons' place-kicker and starting offensive guard who missed a 31-yard field goal as time ran out in the first half, put the game in perspective: "It was a tough loss, but it wasn't the end of the world. Valley has beaten Dowling enough times since that it doesn't mean as much to them. But the parents still remember the game."

Valley went on to win its first Metro championship that year - the first team other than Dowling to win one - before falling to Sioux City Heelan in a sub-freezing away game in the first round of the state playoffs. But no one remembers much about the bitter-cold Heelan loss. It's the Dowling win that will be remembered. Because it transcended football.

The men and women who attended Valley High 35 years ago will tell you that this one football game created a unique bond at the school that went beyond the football field and lasted the rest of that year, especially among the seniors. The chant "17-8" echoed in the hallways, classrooms, and locker rooms for months.

"The win seemed to bring the whole school together," said Mike Stauffer, a starting offensive tackle on that Valley team, and my best friend then and still. "It's hard to explain, but everyone just got along after that - the way a high school should be. It was a magic year."

Mike is right. It was indeed a magic year. All because of that game. That epic game.

Friday, December 21, 2012


On Thursday, I received a rather self-congratulatory press release from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announcing that it is initiating new efforts to cut red tape for veterans waiting for their disability benefits. On the very same day, it was revealed that nearly 20,000 veterans died while waiting for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) to process their claims.  

The Bay Citizen newspaper reported the deeply troubling news that during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, VBA, which is part of the VA, paid a staggering $437 million in retroactive benefits to the families of 19,447 deceased veterans who still had outstanding claims when they died.

This shocking revelation, which was uncovered by investigative journalist Aaron Glantz, is a bombshell that may finally force an urgently needed overhaul of the beleaguered VBA, where nearly one million veterans currently wait an average of nine months for a decision.  

The fact that almost 20,000 veterans died while waiting for their claims is both a tragedy and a disgrace. This news should be the subject of an A-1 story in every newspaper, a cover story in every magazine, and the lead story on every news broadcast. But sadly, it has not gotten the widespread coverage it deserves.

“How many veterans need to die before this mess is cleaned up?" asks Paul Sullivan, a Gulf War veteran and one of the nation's leading veteran advocates. Sullivan, who once worked at VA and now works at Bergmann & Moore, a law firm that represents only veterans, says flatly, "No more delays, and no more errors. That's what the goal should and must be.”

This issue originally came to light when Veterans for Common Sense sued VA in 2007. The groundbreaking lawsuit, which I've covered for The Reno Dispatch and for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, forced VA to reveal that a few thousand veterans died each year while their claims languished at the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) in Washington, DC.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told the Bay Citizen that the data confirmed the worst fears of many veterans and members of Congress.  

“The common refrain we hear from many veterans is, ‘Delay, deny, wait till I die,’” said Miller, who called the burgeoning backlog of benefits claims a “national embarrassment.”

Miller is absolutely right. But his outrage begs the question: Where is President Obama? He has repeatedly pledged his commitment to veterans, and has specifically promised to address the backlog of veteran disability claims. It's time for the President to step up and have a dialogue with the American people about this issue. 

He should call a press conference today to address this latest news, and share with all of us just what he intends to do about it.

So, just what are VA’s current rules for expediting claims? At BVA, an elderly veteran can ask for advancement on the board’s docket, a request for a faster review. However, at VBA’s 57 regional offices, there are no regulations mandating that VBA provide expedited handling in cases of age, a terminal condition, homelessness, or financial hardship such as foreclosure or eviction. 

If a veteran tells VBA he or she is homeless, VBA often voluntarily provides faster service, with a goal of processing the claim in 45 days or less.

Unfortunately, VBA usually refuses to expedite claims in the face of urgent need by a terminal veteran. In one legal case that is represented by Bergmann & Moore, a 90-year old World War II veteran’s claim still awaits action after more than four years at VBA.  

Are new VA regulations and/or Congressional action needed to fix this problem, so fewer veterans die while waiting? Absolutely. Is it time for Miller and others in Congress to act, and for the President to get directly involved? Definitely.

Meantime, the VA's curiously timed press release on Thursday said the VA is cutting red tape for veterans by eliminating the need for them to complete an annual Eligibility Verification Report (EVR). VA will implement a new process for confirming eligibility for benefits, and staff that had been responsible for processing the old form will instead focus on eliminating the compensation claims backlog.

Historically, beneficiaries have been required to complete an EVR each year to ensure their pension benefits continued. Under the new initiative, VA will work with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to verify continued eligibility for pension benefits.

“By working together, we have cut red tape for Veterans and will help ensure these brave men and women get the benefits they have earned and deserve,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement.

Shinseki, himself a Vietnam veteran, seems like a sincere man who cares about his fellow veterans. But to date his efforts, and the efforts of all the politicians in Washington DC combined, have fallen short. 

Of course, there was no mention in the VA's press release this week of the shocking number of veterans who are dying while waiting for their claims to be processed. This is a national crisis. We need to address it with very serious measures, and we need to do it now. Our veterans have bravely fought for us. Now it's time for us to fight for them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Many lives have been saved by a personalized vaccine for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer called BioVax ID. But inexcusably, BioVax ID, which has been around since 1994, remains unapproved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is unavailable to many patients.

The FDA says it denied a request for accelerated approval for this vaccine from the company, Biovest, because the vaccine does not fill an unmet need. But patients and patient advocates I've spoken to across the nation strongly disagree.

Betsy de Parry, a respected author, patient advocate, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor, recently wrote about the vaccine, pointing out that data from three clinical trials spanning 18 years shows the duration of response to this vaccine increased, on average, by more than a year, although some patients have remained disease free for many years. 

And importantly, she wrote, "not a single patient has experienced a serious, adverse vaccine-related event, which makes the vaccine less toxic than existing treatments."

Sounds to me like a legitimate reason for moving this product forward, and quickly. But the Feds turned down the company's request to apply for approval under the agency's Accelerated Approval Program, which allows for earlier approval of drugs that treat serious disease and fill an unmet need. The FDA told the company to conduct another clinical trial and then come back with another request for approval, which will take years. 

But now patient advocates and patients are speaking out. A petition urging the FDA to accelerate approval of BioVax ID is getting a lot of national attention. I urge readers of this blog to please sign the petition here. It will save lives.

There are many promising new cancer treatments that are delayed, often needlessly, by the FDA. Out of more than 900 new cancer drugs in the pipeline, the FDA did not approve a single new drug for lymphoma this year. The Feds are dropping the ball here and not serving the needs of cancer patients. 

Yes, part of the FDA's mandate is to keep us safe. But the other part of the FDA's charter is getting new, safe and effective drugs to the market. That means you and me. In its fears over the first, the FDA is lagging on the second part of its mission. 

The BioVax ID vaccine has 18 years of trial data and no serious vaccine-related adverse events. Considering its safety, there is absolutely no justifiable reason why the FDA can't grant this vaccine an application for accelerated approval so the company can go out and raise the millions of dollars it needs to do the phase III trial and get this approved. 

It's the right thing to do. And you can help get this moving. Let your voice be heard. Please join me in signing this petition for the benefit of cancer patients nationwide. And stay tuned to this blog for news about this vaccine and other very promising cancer treatments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

UNCENSORED! Veterans Sound Off on Gulf War Illness

The response to our exclusive story here last week on Gulf War Illness has been overwhelming. As I reported, two new scientific studies confirm that the mysterious illness that has afflicted more than 250,000 American service members was largely the result of weather patterns which, after the U.S. bombing of Iraqi chemical weapon storage facilities, carried a massive toxic chemical cloud a very long distance before these chemicals fell on U.S. troops.

As I wrote last week, this is being dubbed by some as the largest example of "friendly fire" in American history, because the so-called nerve and blister agents that dropped on our troops were supplied to Iraq by the U.S. before the Gulf War. 

Since the story ran, I've heard from hundreds of veterans. Here are just some of the responses I've gotten from the blog, in emails and text messages, on my social media pages, and in telephone conversations:

* I sit here in somewhat of a state of shock and I don't know why, this should not be a surprise to us. We knew when those alarms were going off, multiple locations at same time, it was more than just 'bad batteries', etc. Once again our gov't has let us down, it seems to happen to every Era of Vets. Yes people need to be held accountable for any cover-up, etc. but more than anything, we HAVE to stand by our comrades and fight for them, and us, so those affected are taken care of in an appropriate and respectful manner. Enough of the calling us liars or claiming no proof, its time to do whats right for our Gulf War Vets. 
  1. * Where are our Generals and Commanding Officers? Why do they continue to remain silent on this issue? Semper Fi??? I'm not so sure that means much to these moral cowards anymore.

    * You guy's are going thru the same thing the Vietnam vets have gone thru with Agent orange..Same Kind of treatment from the VA, the Government, and the chemical manufacturers.. You will probably have to wait another 10 or 15 years before anybody admits to anything, or getting any help from the VA...sorry to say that, but it starts all over again..And it's B.S.

    * I was in the Gulf War and was exposed to these chemicals. When I came home a VA doctor told me my health problems were in my head. He said they were psychological and passed me on to a shrink. 

    * I've read your coverage of veterans for the last decade. Thanks for caring about us. This story about the longtime coverup of Gulf War Syndrome should be front page news in every newspaper in the country. 

    * The info has been declassified on how our government continued to send Iraq chemicals and weapons of mass destruction up till 1992 while we were in the Gulf War which was 1990/1991. Also consider that there are many sick and have died that never deployed who received the shots to prepare to deploy, but never left the US.

    * The only time any politician in any party cares about the troops is when they can be used in a high-profile photo-op. And don't even think about prying any money loose from the tentacles of the octopus. The monster needs every dime it can get to make sure more Americans come home damaged.

    * The U.S. government owes disabled vets compensation for 20 years of neglect and suffering. And a criminal investigation is in order for whoever was responsible for the 20-year delay. Many knew at the time the chemical weapons were responsible, and tests would reveal it, BUT SOMEONE COVERED IT UP.

    * Those of us that came after the war for occupation and clean up had Camp Doha, Kuwait go up in flames and explosions. These set off the melting of tanks that had depeleted armor attached. I was the FASCO S-3 ordered by BG Whaley to evacuate the 11th ACR's damaged equipment. To over see it I had to be on scene. I photographed QAASES (Kwases) personnel using Geiger counters and 11th ACR Service Company men welding depleted uranium back on to the M1-A1's for transport. CBS 60 Minutes did a piece on this some years ago. The govt denied anyone handled the DU. I called the Jackson State proffessor the next day. I sent him eight photos of the scenes. Proof positive, some of those guys died from exposure soon after. He also mentioned that he has had his life threatened over this issue being brought to light. 

    * If this story proves to be true, it will be absolute conformation that a major 21 year international cover up of the highest order has just taken place

    * Thank you for your excellent reporting. Your story was far and away the best coverage of this breaking news. 

    * There's a good body of medical evidence showing that some troops who got anthrax vaccinations (and possibly others) developed serious illness, and of those, some remained permanently debilitated. It remains a point of contention that DoD's contracted RAND study on vaccinations, written by Dr. Beatrice Golomb, was never allowed to be published.

    * Some of us got the Botulism vaccine. 9 years later I was given the choice to stay in the Guard and take the mandatory anthrax vaccine or ETS. I got out, no more experimenting on this soldier.

    * This important 2011 study shows how much Iraqi troops were also affected. Of interest to us ill U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War, those with the most symptom complaints were closest to Kuwait, adding even more credence to new evidence of the release of chemical warfare agents during the war.

    * I was a CBR Specialist in Korea in 1965 and was responsible for Nuclear prediction plotting for the army. Using available weather data and nuclear weapon tonage for ground or air burst, would plot what were called wind vector plots to show predicteded radiation levels for a given area at a given time. This is basically the same process for the chemical conditions noted in the article and the information should have been and I suspect was known within days if not hours of the incident happening. It took decades for the VA to admit coverage for Vietnam Vets for Agent Orange and then only with outside investigation and effort of others. The military and government have a reputation for not admitting cupability untill proven without a doubt that it is responsible. From one old vet to anther I hope this study and others bring good results for those vets who have suffered from Gulf War Syndrome.

    * Has an epidemiological study been done on the Saudi civilians in the same area where our troops were bivouacked? Surely they weren't in a total no-man's land.

    * There is no Mystery over GWI/GWS call it what you may, ask any Veteran who was deployed/non deployed they can tell you Exactly what the Causes are.

    * That's why the illness was called a 'syndrome' - because there appears to be multiple (possibly interacting) causes: vaccines (given too close together in time, or in untested, unsafe combinations), plumes wafting from Nasiriyah and Khamisiya (I believe there was more than just sarin stockpiled there), depleted uranium (airborne dust), insecticides, toxic smoke from burning oil wells, and pyridostigmine... very unfriendly fire, it seems...

    * Imagine that...even with the testimony of a seasoned 1st Marine Division NBC Officer in front of Congress that the FOX NBC detection vehicles and other alarm systems were tested to 99.99% reliability, multiple alarms, simultaneously from various locations gave warnings indicating sarin...Marines having similar symptoms, 22 years later with this evidence, the VA will still question the validity.

* Let's not forget two rounds exploding 400 out and 400 up and witnessed by this artillery subject matter expert (SME) (Artillery Survey, Meteorological and Radar Officer)--knowing the rounds were not smoke or high explosive--had his Marines go to MOPP Level IV. While calling in the sighting to Battalion Headquarters, (talking to the BN NBC Officer(another SME) the battalion detection alarms were going off in the background over the radio. I asked him what it was, and he stated, "Sarin...stay suited up at MOPP Level IV." Multiple times before and throughout the offensive into Kuwait, detection devices blasted the warnings. The NBC Officer was later reprimanded and given an adverse fitness report for being an alarmist during combat operations. Go figure!

    * This has been documented before though not made very public.

    * Brothers and sisters, take it from an old Navy vet – the brass always, always covers its ass, all the way up the line. 

    * The US military and government health institutes have known about depleted uranium, the biological agents which were released through bombing of Iraqi sites and the contaminated vaccines in human bodies and their effects since 1996. But they hired some psychiatrists to pretend it was otherwise, and falsely claim that it "was all in the mind". Psychiatrists have labelled and still label gulf war illness as psychiatric and "all in the mind", a somatic syndrome. I think ordinary soldiers and ex-soldiers should be given the full report on Dr. Wessely (top British and international psychiatrist used by armed forces chiefs and governments) and his disciples and how they mislead them, and ruined their lives. The soldiers are sufficiently trained to deal with this particular problem.