Vets Declare War on Gulf Syndrome
Posted October 21, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
JACKSONVILLE — Tens of thousands of veterans came home from the Persian Gulf sick. At first, no one believed the sicknesses were related. Now, Pentagon leaders acknowledge the vets share a common set of symptoms. Officials were in Jacksonville Wednesday for a Town Hall meeting to discuss Gulf War Syndrome.
Bob James, a Fayetteville resident, says veterans are literally fighting for their lives.
"I'm here to remind you that our objective in this war -- and it is a war, for your survival, your freedom, and your liberty -- our objective is peace, peace of mind, peace from pain," James said.
Veterans talked about chronic fatigue, memory loss, severe headaches, and central nervous system problems. Almost all felt their concerns fell on deaf ears.
"They're not trying to do anything for us. It's just they have to justify their jobs to the public," Mike Ange said. "It's a waiting game. They say, 'Okay, how many of you guys are gonna die off this month?'"
Gulf War veterans and their families want action.
The Town Hall meeting was lead by the Department of Defense's Gulf War Illness team, a group most veterans say they don't trust.
Larry Perry, of Desert Storm Veterans, calls the meeting "a P.R. campaign." Perry says, "They're trying to quell the uprising of veterans that are beginning to say, 'This is not right, something's got to be done.'"
Perry says the reality is that the Department of Defense doesn't care about the veterans.
If higher-ranking officers were getting sick, Perry says, the government would be handling things differently.
"If there were 500 generals in Washington, D.C. sick, they would turn Washington upside down and dig up the sewers to find out what's wrong," Perry says. "When there's 150,000 veterans sick out here, they don't seem to care."
A forum like Wednesday's Town Hall meeting is coming to Fort Bragg the week of March 20.