Wednesday, January 16, 2013

From McClellan Vets to Monsanto - We Were Not Weeds

The CBS program 60 Minutes once called Fort McClellan the most toxic place on the planet. It is the only Chemical Warfare facility in the Army where live substances were manufactured, stored, and used in training. I was trained there. I am a disabled US Army Veteran, but am not recognized as such by my government. I have been exposed to more chemicals than most Agent Orange veterans, and over the years during my flares my sons have put more work into caring for me than the children of most Agent Orange vets, but as far as the Army, the VA and an UNGRATEFUL nation are concerned, uncounted thousands of us simply do not exist.

What Monsanto did with its sink holes leading straight into the ground water and its open pits and dumping of PCBs into West Anniston Creek sickens me, but what baffles me beyond belief is that they are still in business at all with only the lightest of slaps on the wrist and a warning to choose their hidey-holes more wisely in the future. I mean to Monsanto a $ Billion, I'm sorry, actually they paid less than that to the people of Anniston and they paid nothing at all to American service men and women. 

Studies by Monsanto began in 1966, when they tasked a University of Mississippi biologist with testing the water. He placed bluegill into one of the streams to test the water’s effect on wildlife, and the results were startling. The fish became disoriented within 10 seconds, he reported, and were dead within four minutes. Monsanto filed the report away, never raising the concerns to environmental officials. Many more tests would be done as time passed, but nothing was ever announced publicly.

What's worse is that even MONSANTO assumed the Army and VA would take care of us! It was a part of their agreement with the U.S. government. Monsanto would deal with the civilian population of Anniston and the clean up of areas outside Fort McClellan and the government would see to cleaning up the base and the health care needs of we who served; people who were just as affected as the folks in Anniston. Well, the way the Army and other services who sent people to Fort McToxic on TDY, and of course the VA, has been 1. to order us not to even use the words Agent and Orange when filing claims because the claims will automatically be denied, and 2. to simply deny cause and effect. Never mind people are getting multiple diseases in their twenties, thirties and forties (or being born with them) that people don't normally get until close to the end of their natural lives, in their seventies and eighties. THAT doesn't prove anything as far as the all-knowing VA is concerned. Never mind I was told ten years ago that the CT of my brain looked like that of an 80 year old! I didn't even have crows feet yet for God's sake! Thank goodness I started out with an ..above average IQ or I'd be drooling by now, and I'm not kidding!

As far as I'm concerned, whoever made that devil's deal with Monsanto should be taken out and shot! I don't care if William Jefferson Clinton himself made that deal, though I know he didn't. And no, just because it may have finally come to light on his watch does not me HE did it, so any of you sheep knuckle draggers out there who want to play that game, go back to Ba-a-a-arbra-a-a-a-a or whatever you call her, k?

 Ughh, the power of the lobbyist in government today! It's not only that, but now Monsanto has partnered up with Dow and they want to put one of those EXACT SAME chemicals into the HUMAN FOOD corn seeds, to make them herbicide resistant. That way farmers can buy more of their other products and spray the shit out of their crops, thus further decimating and despoiling the planet (and poisoning some MORE innocent people) but that corn will still grow. It will be poison as seven hells, but it'll grow!  Is that their anti-immigrant plan? Are they going to poison all the corn tortillas?

Below this paragraph you'll find a link to a brief, informative article exposing just how poisonous and radioactive Fort McClellan was, and for how long, and how the government TO THIS DAY persists in covering it up, and what follows is a creepy little quote from said article itself about testing Monsanto did on the water near Anniston, way back in 1966, when it had only been polluting there for about 30 years. The test and the results were hidden away, marked "secret" and "destroy" etc. and practices only got worse from then on, so imagine how much worse it got:

Fort McClellan was one of the largest Army training posts.

Other excess Monsanto chemicals also made their way into Anniston’s environment, including different kinds of dioxins and herbicides, including the infamous Agent Orange. The effects of these chemicals were far-reaching.
Service members and civilians living in the area have since developed serious health conditions, including: various cancers, autoimmune disease, heart disease and diabetes. But these health concerns weren’t limited to the soldiers that were stationed there.
According to a report in the Archives of Pediatrics Adolescent Medicine, babies born in Anniston have a higher chance to suffer from structural birth defects like missing limbs, malformed hearts and underdeveloped spinal cords.
That last little underlined bit has a special significance to me, you see, because it's not only children in ANNISTON who were born like that. So was my oldest son! Still, against reason and science, the Army and VA claim no causal relationship. They're full of shit! 

For an idea of what a typical morning feels like for a mildly affected person, there's the don't want to know what it feels like to be profoundly affected, trust me. I will tell you that this person is going to look back at this in a few years and think wow, those were the days, because any time you have spinal cord damage that high up, it's only a matter of time before the rest goes to hell too. It's inevitable. You can delay it, but it WILL happen. Be warned, as in my blog posts, sometimes the brain fog just takes over and syntax goes out the window. You just have to kind of guess at the general intent, but s/he makes the important stuff more than clear.

Anonymous 1:
This is getting current comments which may help some, so thanks for reading this and your comments. This is just a note however, and there is A LOT of work ahead of us. EVERYONE should be writing letters to every newspaper in your area, and to individual writers. If you knew someone you saw daily that has been suffering from this exposure you would be more energized. I can tell you I pray every night for just one morning that I don’t dread waking up. It beats the alternative, but imagine a migraine, a nasty hangover, and having been beat up the day before, plus an almost drunken disorientation every moment of every day combine with shooting nerve pains throughout your arms, neck, and the base of your skull. Welcome to my world. HR 2052!


Then on the opposite side of the "human" and I use the term very loosely, spectrum, comes this incredible piece of literary poop:

Anonymous #2:

You must remember the curent administration believes us army types to be subhuman you are supprised that they do not care?

[[This was what's called class b derpitude, too dull and                                       
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             poorly constructed to really be class a derpitude.]]
  • Let’s keep the politics out of this please. This has been going on from 1935 through 1999, when McClellan was at least closed and paved over so it wouldn’t continue to be a health hazard. If you think one man, even the president, can fight the entire corrupt machine that is the military industrial complex, you have much to learn…you have much to learn indeed. I doubt Bush knew about us and I doubt Obama does either, no matter how many of us have written to them both, myself included!

    Anonymous 4:
  1. Right interesting article, but the post was closed as a result of a round of Base Reduction And Closure (BRAC) findings in the late ’90s and not the EPA. I do know for a fact that the wooded area around my old Military Working Dog section was used by the Chemical School for open air agent training in the 1950′s–freaked me out when I first read the historical file but after a time a few OFF LIMITS signs never really stopped a bunch of crazy dog handlers from froliicking in the woods with impunity

    Anonymous 5: 
    • So let me get this right. You are really trying to sell US the line that our oh so dearly beloved Uncle Sam
      “vewwy vewwwwwy quiet-weee”
      (as if he was chasing wabbits)
      tried (and failed)
      to do soil remediation (decontamination) the areas where all those nasty leaking barrels were stored,
      2.where all the open air drills were held and the areas where the ash burn-off of the improperly incinerated chemical and bio waste landed
      …as part of BRAC.
      Then, having nothing better to do, he figured he’d just have the Corps of Engineers or some local outfit (or most likely whomever could do it fastest and cheapest) do all that “pretty” paving-over of *surprise!* those EXACT, I mean PRECISE same areas –mehhh, you know, just for the fun of it! Sure, why not? Happy coincidence.
      That’s really your story? You really want to go with that, like seriously.
      Nah…I didn’t think so. But you gave it your best shot. No one can say you didn’t.
      BRAC indeed. How the military loves its innocuous sounding acronyms.
      “Noooo-uh, the place wasn’t SO far beyond repair that we had to treat it like Japan’s nuclear reactors after the tsunami …sillyyyy! It was just a routine BRAC, ya gooooof. Tsk, geez-uh!”
      And they’re NOT CHEMicals…they’re “open AIR agents. Get it RIGHT-uh.”
      Now, all we sick, dying people with every bone, tissue and nerve screaming at us with every breath and beat of our hearts…don’t we feel just ever so much better??? I’m like, so embarrassed?
      I wonder what the Powers That Be would tell our “friend” Mike to call the ionizing radiation and PCB contaminated waters? Maybe “secret night glows” and “special aquifers”?
      I don’t know about you, but I feel healthier already!
      Now, I wonder if he can explain why Monsanto was ordered to pay the good folks upstream in Anniston 7 hundred million dollars in damages for the deaths, early life cancers, auto-immune diseases, lost reproductive capacity, miscarriages, still births, birth defects, and pain and suffering (just to name a few) caused by the “magical elixir” that seeped into those handy sink holes, I mean “mystic cenotes” and open air pits, and West Anniston Creek…
To continue, the base of the "McClellan Cocktail" consisted of water with exceedingly high concentrations of PCBs, direct from the source, the Monsanto plant at nearby Anniston, as we've established. The rest was a mixture of Depleted Uranium, Sarin (nerve gas), Mustard Gas, Heavy Metals (mercury, lead, etc.), and an unknown (to me) variety of Weaponized Bacterial, Biological and Chemical agents. In addition to being a Basic Training Center for the Army, Fort McClellan was also the Chemical Warfare Headquarters, something I don't think is at all coincidental. Who better to test things on than a bunch of ignorant trainees? "Gas drills" are part of basic training, but they were never intended to be as they were at Fort McToxic.  They're only supposed to make you feel as if they're killing you. They're not supposed to really do the job! Then of course there's the gas chamber, and with everything else that went on, who knows what mixture of what shit they made us breathe? I remember vaguely that it didn't seem quite the nightmare people who'd been through it tried to make it sound, but back then I still had the constitution of not yet twenty year old. What a difference 2-3 months makes (our cycle arrived early, so we had time to adjust before the real fun started.

Then days or maybe weeks later we had our battery of "vaccinations", and we all did the snake walk, up one line of techs and down the next, up the one after that and down the following, and so on, until we finally emerged, holding our arms, head-buzzing like crazy on alcohol fumes, into the blazing Alabama afternoon. Oh how I loved that sun! Eventually it dawned on me, looking at that sheet with us we carry from duty station to duty station, that I got FAR more shots, sprays up the nose, plus a sugar cube, some of those air injector things, an inhaler ...and I think that's when they did a second blood draw. They did one at AFEES too, but I remember the day of the vaccines so clearly because it's my last clear memory for quite a long time. I literally "lost time" between doing push ups outside the vaccination hall/building and then being in my bunk looking at my card and talking to my friend. We both had kind of "huh?" looks on our faces, with must be light red flags, I swear, to drill sergeants, because she was there in an instant, assigning us extra duty, even though I was super dizzy and felt like I'd been in bed for days. Why we were being so severely reprimanded for discussing the number of holes, snorts, cubes, etc. vs entries on our immunization records, I had no idea, but I have a suspicion now. Very shortly thereafter, my friend, my best friend, was transferred to a different platoon a few weeks behind us for just barely missing an artificially inflated score on a test after we got yelled at. Sorry Teenybelle. I was squad leader so I guess they didn't want to move me. Knowing what I know now, I honestly think we were given something like Versed but not Versed (it causes sedation and brief amnesia in a large percentage of people) but they had to have been testing something else or maybe it was a side effect of something else we were given, because Versed  has never worked on me, ever.

So in addition to being directly dosed as trainees, we not only drank buckets of toxin laced water, but showered in it a couple times a day too. Add in all the outside exposure via air transmission, drift from the Chem School, contract through ground and foliage ...OMG it was RAINING throughout Bivouac, so we were steeping in the runoff from the hillsides for over a week and those big leaves have a LOT of surface area; it's like north American jungle there.  Then we had different colors of stuff sprayed on us in "gas" drills (see above) and again during live fire exercises. 

Most horrifying of all to me medically, we received several daily doses directly into our bloodstreams in aerosolized form via hot steam inhaled into our lungs and taken directly in through capillary exchange.  Several times each day we used tap water-filled steam to "press off" (steam iron with starch) our uniforms before duty, classes, meals and other assemblies. Fort McClellan's trainees were given the nick-name "Susie Home-makers" due to the frequency with which drill sergeants forced us to iron our uniforms so that we always looked pristine and creased, even in the muggy Alabama heat...all through basic. There were no shorts and t-shirts and running shoes like now. We wore OD green fatigues, starched and pressed, with lace-up spit polished combat boots, and not nice cushy jump boots either, just those nasty flat things with wool socks that  gave me God awful blisters because I'm sensitive to wool and my boots never did wear in right. 

Those of us who had experience ironing quickly learned there was a profit to be made doing this chore for others less deft with iron and board. Now I wish I'd been one of the clumsier ones. It would have actually been safer for me to be one of the ones sneaking a smoke break...several times a day. Now that is ironic! 

Speaking of irony, maybe earning the right to spend the day at the motor pool firing (YAY!) and cleaning (not so yay, but still fun) M-60 Machine Guns wasn't such an honor. Men who qualified as Expert on the Range got to try out for Sniper School if they wanted. I got one hour of playing with big weapons...and the rest of a Saturday cleaning them. Woo. (mind out of the gutter...this is serious) It was actually pretty fun though. I thought the guys were just trying to scare me with all their stories about the badges they had to wear for radiation (I didn't get one) and the stuff they said about the leaking barrels of stuff "you do NOT want to know what that is" stored all over the place. I really didn't take them seriously until ...really until years later, when I started getting migraines, then daily headaches with more frequent migraines, then continued having them even after going through major mandibular surgery plus braces and having my jaw wired shut for months. 

I still have metal plates in my jaw and chin and some permanent swelling that's NOT good for my vanity ...and I still have daily headaches and migraines, unless I'm very, oh so very careful about ...absolutely everything from sleep hygiene, to when and what I eat and drink to when and how I take supplements and how much water I drink and the frequency and intensity of stretching and exercising I do. 

Then eventually, after more surgeries and more diagnoses, I became disabled. And even then I blamed it on something else. I should have realized something was wrong so much sooner, but you want to believe the country you served in good faith is going to treat you in good faith in return, you know? That's how I was raised. You do the right thing. Americans do that. That first shock of reality can be a harsh thing. I wish I could say it gets easier after that, but it doesn' doesn't ever get easier.

So far veterans of Fort McClellan, male and female alike, are not even being officially notified of their exposure, much less being treated or compensated for it; and they are sick, dying or already dead, having passed the genetic damage on to future generations without so much as a warning to have precautionary genetic counseling. Neither the Army nor the VA nor certainly Monsanto (though in fairness it's not their job to inform people in the military about military matters) can pretend ignorance at this point. They're even talking about compensating the Vietnamese! Yet here we we are, trying, through the effluvium of purposely obtuse military bureaucracy and red tape and our own brain fog to make our way through a medical system that already sees women with complex symptomology as either depressed (the great circular file of the medical profession) malingerers or pre, peri or post menopausal! 

Male vets do have a leg up on the women. And you can take that any way you wish. Thanks to the tirelessly dogged and heroic (yes, he deserves that title for what he did) efforts of Tom Daschle, Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange (dioxin, 2,4 D ...the stuff I'll be talking about with the corn seeds below) finally got the care and compensation they deserve, at least a great many of them did. He didn't win the war completely, but he helped a lot of people who deserved it. I wish we could get someone like him to help US! 

Way too MANY of us lost out because Monsanto played a better game of semantics, because although were were exposed to Agent Orange, which was one of the many things spilled along with so many others from that plant in Anniston, Monsanto's lawyers earned their money and got Uncle Sam to agree that only people exposed IN Vietnam were poisoned by Agent Orange. Whether that's the TRUTH or not has no legal standing what so ever. That's not how our great and mighty judicial system works in this country...Harrump, Harrumph. 

Oh, and obviously far too many of us were simply not the correct gender to even be considered for benefits! So we were swept under the very center of a HUGE rug for that reason alone. But let's not fool ourselves here,  MP's are not beloved. Female soldiers are not beloved. People who work in Chemical/Bio Warfare are not beloved. Ancillary staff are overlooked. We are all easy to fuck over because no one gives a rat's ass about us  in general. ALL of us. As a rule we don't fly fancy jets. We don't parachute from planes, we don't go out on special ops missions they make ethically questionable films about, and if we do, we can't talk about it anyway. It's gonna be a helluva job getting anyone, much less someone "major" to stand up and speak for us. 

Now the U.S. Army, the VA, Congress, and even this President of the United States, who initially inspired so much hope for a new way of doing things, are continuing the "sweeping" policy Monsanto started, and have kept Fort McClellan all wrapped up after making the GRAND GESTURE with Camp Lejueune. I guess Marines are in style this war. Well, they deserve a turn I guess, though I wish I did't have to die for their little opportunity. 

So Mc Toxic is paved over because it was beyond salvaging or reclamation, just like the nuclear reactors in Japan after their environmental holocaust. In their way they have paved US, the survivors, over too, but instead of concrete or cement they have used denied VA claims and "lost" medical records. Thousands upon thousands of service records "lost in fires" bury us in their ashes. 

In my case alone early promotions with waivers, gone. Letters and commendations, medals, scores and personal letters of recommendation, gone. A paper trail documenting symptoms beginning with a rash a few weeks into basic training, recurring during AIT, then frequent sick calls (but almost NO lost duty days out of sheer determination despite severe headaches and dizziness)  ...all "gone." PROOF of what happened to us beginning at the beginning, not just of our time in the military, but what should have been the beginning of our lives, but instead what turned out to be the beginning of our slow decline without ever having reached the full flower of our adulthood. We were like Spring blossoms blasted by herbicide. We were exactly like that...except we were not weeds.

Sweet Home Alabama! I'll never hold it against ya, 
Clay and gravel, hill and holler, creek and river, 
Field and forest piece of heaven that you are. 
The devil just had to leave his mark on you, 
     And it begins with Monsanto