April 26, 2006
The Unspoken Casualties Of Iraq War
Last week R.B., reporting from Walter Reed Hospital, told the story of her sister, Captain Chaplain Fran E. Stuart who was stricken with cancer while serving in Iraq. This is the second installment.
|May 2003: Captain Chaplain Fran E. Stuart of the 101st Airborne, visiting an Iraqi school in Mosul. She stands here with a teacher and student. (click for larger version)|
A new kind of battle wound is emerging from the war in Iraq: Cancer. Since the Gulf War and most recently the War in Iraq, thousands of soldiers are being diagnosed with tumors, malignant and benign. U.S. troops have been diagnosed with cancers ranging from Dysgerminoma to Semanoma and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC is receiving medical evacuations daily. The culprit, stricken soldiers say, is a combination of four factors: the Anthrax vaccine, exposure to depleted uranium, the radioactive drenched soil in Iraq from past battles, and the contaminated water soldiers were bathing, washing their clothes with, and ingesting.
The company responsible for treating and purifying the water is a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown and Root.
Army Sergeant First Class, Charles Frenzel, with over 30 years in the military, was on assignment in Iraq when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in October, 2005. He was medevaced to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where an 8.5 by 4.5-inch non-malignant Meningioma was removed only six months after he was deployed to Iraq.
"I think Saddam had a lot more advanced chemical programs than what was originally suspected," Frenzel said. "I was exposed to daily oil smog. Iraq burns straight non-processed, crude oil, and the smog was horrific. The water was contaminated, and the contractor (KBR) the US had hired to clean the soldier's water is suspected of not having done their jobs. We were bathing in contaminated water and having our clothes washed in the same."
"I have no idea [how widespread the cancer is]," he said. "I was stationed in only the one area and did not see much of the rest of Iraq. I feel that there are many soldiers returning with cancer/tumors. This is based on the amount of soldiers that I ran into at Walter Reed with those illnesses."
Army Sergeant Charles E. Lewis of the 101st Airborne Division has been stationed over the last four years in a number of areas, including Mosul, Iraq; Kuwait; and Iraq where he is today. Lewis was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer, Semanoma in April, 2005. After CT scans were examined, there was also a mass discovered in his sperm tract.
Lewis, like many other victims, has no idea how he contracted the illness. "We're unsure. There was no family history. We asked the doctors if being in Iraq had anything to do with it, but most weren't sure," he said. The Veterans Administration refused his request to find out exactly how many soldiers have been similarly stricken. "Four different people we know and who have been in combat with me have either had tumors removed or have been tested for cancer. We have often questioned if Iraq or vaccinations could have played a part in his cancer," Lewis related.
Army Captain Tonya Fagan (retired) was stationed in 2003 for six months in Baghdad and Mosul, Iraq. A year and a half ago, her pap test came back abnormal and she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She underwent three months of radiation and is clear of the cancer.
The fear of most soldiers with a disease or illness is that the military won't acknowledge they are service related and thus withhold benefits and treatment. Since cancer isn't considered a "war wound," those stricken are frequently denied benefits. Some, even veterans with 20 year service records, are being medically discharged and deemed unfit for duty as opposed to being granted medical retirement.
DU has a half life of 4.5 billion years. Depleted Uranium on the ground will eventually sink into the soil penetrating the ground water. Possible causes of exposure include: "Gulf War Syndrome," birth defects, lung cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and kidney damage.
Many soldiers who were administered an experimental anthrax vaccine also became ill, many with rare forms of cancer. Stuart noted there was a court ordered injunction in 2004 against forced use of the Anthrax vaccine she and others were forced to take. But last year, the Food and Drug Administration reaffirmed its earlier finding that the anthrax vaccine used by the military is safe so the Department of Defense is seeking to reinstate it.
Nevertheless, the vaccine has been dogged by concerns about alleged side effects. Hundreds of service members have refused the shots, and some have been punished or forced out of the military.
The bottom line, Stuart and others pointed out, is the horrors of war — suicide attacks, missile attacks, sniper fire, and hidden bombs are killing our troops, over 3000 so far in Iraq. But many more are gravely ill, afflicted with illnesses and diseases while proudly serving their country.