What we have here, is a failure to communicate….Specifically, the Federal Government and the Veterans Administration are refusing to tell the veterans of Ft. McClellan, Alabama, the former home Military Police training school, that they have been exposed to toxic chemicals. Please take a moment to think about that. People were exposed to dangerous chemicals that are known to cause serious health conditions to include cancer, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disease, neurological problems, and diabetes, but the government is refusing to inform them even though the facts are undisputed.
If you aren’t outraged yet, let me add that spouses and children were exposed as well and they have not been told either. They have illnesses, some of which are very serious, and no answers. Imagine a young child with a serious illness and parents and doctors who have no idea how this could have happened because they do not know of the exposure. Imagine a 47-year-old man with early onset dementia, tumors, and the bones of a 90-year-old man. Imagine a woman with cancer and autoimmune disorders despite no family history of this. These are some of the faces of Ft. McClellan veterans.
I am not just referring to the chemical spills from the chemical school there, although they contributed to the problem too. The veterans and their families were exposed to a toxic soup of chemicals from years and years of dumping, improper containment, and spills of dangerous toxic chemicals from Monsanto (think PCB’s, Dioxins, Roundup weed killer, Agent Orange, and genetically modified food) which turned Ft. McClellan and the neighboring town of Anniston into a disease and death causing toxic cesspool. In short, if you were stationed at Ft. McClellan between 1933 and 1999, you were exposed to these chemicals and possibly ionizing radiation if you were at the firing range. The only question is how it will affect you.
How bad is it? In 1966, a study was conducted by a University of Mississippi biologist. He placed 25 Bluegill fish into one of the streams. He reported to Monsanto that the fish became disoriented within 10 seconds and died within 3 ½ minutes. Another of the biologists reported that it was like “dunking the fish in battery acid”. The fish spurted blood and shed their skin as though being placed in boiling water.
Yet another biologist said, “The skin would literally slough off.” Sometime thereafter, a dog drank from the stream and died. For the dog lovers, he wasn’t part of the study – just an incidental occurrence that got reported. Since this was a Monsanto sponsored study, the results were not made public and Monsanto continued business as usual.
Once the EPA became actively involved, Ft. McClellan was closed down in 1999. It was declared a toxic site and was federally mandated to be decontaminated so the cleanup began. In 2009, 60 Minutes called Anniston one of the most toxic places in our country.
The childhood cancer rate in Anniston is heartbreaking and the diseases of the residents were caused by their exposure to the chemicals. In 2003, the City of Anniston sued Monsanto and obtained $700 million dollars for the residents. The veterans were never advised of the suit but worse; they were excluded from it, presumably because the V.A. would be responsible for any medical care or disability for the chemical exposure for the veterans.
We have come full circle. The government is supposed to be responsible for the medical care and any disability of these veterans, which arose from their exposure while stationed at Ft. McClellan, but they elect not to tell them that their illnesses may be caused from toxic chemical exposure. Even when the veterans apply for medical care, the government denies the care because the veterans haven’t stated a causal connection between their service and the disease.
Interesting, since the VA and the government know exactly what the cause is, and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has a duty to assist in perfecting those claims. Obviously, that isn’t happening. The only one that doesn’t know about the chemical exposure is the veteran. This is a convenient and money saving stance for the government, but a bit off course on the moral compass; I’d say by about 180 degrees, but you can make your own determination.
Several years ago, some Representatives introduced what is now HR2052, the Ft. McClellan Health Registry Act. The bill would require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create and maintain a registry of veterans that were stationed at Ft. McClellan and advise them of updates, provide medical care, and give a presumption of service connection for disability claims for any disease, which arises from chemical/toxic exposure at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. This bill has been lingering in committee and is not expected to become law because the public doesn’t know about it so no one is pushing them to make it law.
In the meantime, veterans from all four branches of the military that trained at Ft. McClellan still have no idea that they were exposed to these toxins. They have no idea why they and/or their spouses and children are ill.
While this article is meant to be thought provoking and informative, I must ask each reader to ask their fellow brothers and sisters in law enforcement if they were stationed at Ft. McClellan, and if so, to give them this information. Your support of HR2052 would also be appreciated if you are so inclined, but the main goal is getting the information to the veterans.
On a parting note, Homeland Security, some National Guard Units, and other law enforcement training is still occurring at Ft. McClellan on a short-term basis. While the base has allegedly been brought to “acceptable” safety standards, the cleanup is still ongoing and is incomplete. If you accept training there, I would consider skipping the showers and bringing bottled water.
Linked below is a link to a video produced by a veteran stationed at Ft. McClellan. Please take a minute to watch it.
Learn more about this article here:
Government environmental impact study http://www.mcclellan.army.mil/ArticlesRelate.asp?RelDoc=/Documents/Preliminary%20Assessments/Final%20EBS%20Vol%20I%20&%20II/
The Washington Post, “Monsanto Hid Decades of Pollution”: http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0101-02.htm
60 Minutes “Toxic Secret”, Nov 2009