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Gulf War Veterans Talk About Bunker Demolition

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FORT BRAGG — July 15, 1996 - 2:10 p.m. EDT

Some gulf war veterans say they were surprised to learn the Iraqi bunkers they blew up may have contained chemicals.

The Pentagon is now trying to determine if there's any link between the demolition work and the mysterious illnesses experienced by some vets.

In an interview with WRAL-TV5's Rick Gall, some of those closest to the explosions say they haven't experienced Gulf War Syndrome.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Carney has an audio tape and photographs to remember the gulf war by. Carney and Staff Sgt. Heath Kuestermeyer were with the 37th Engineer Battalion based at Fort Bragg. Their assignment in the weeks following desert storm: blow up Iraqi bunkers. "There was no protest on anybody's part doing it," Carney said. "Everybody enjoyed doing it. It's what we trained to do."

Part of their training was to inspect each bunker for hazardous chemicals before sending it up in smoke.

"We were careful, looking for yellow stripes or anything that said toxic or gas on it," he said. "And now to hear that there were chemical weapons there really surprised us."

Last month, the Pentagon announced there was evidence that one ammunition depot contained rockets armed with chemical agents, and U.S. troops may have been exposed when they destroyed it.

But Carney and Kuestermeyer say if that's true, then they would have been among the first to feel the ill effects.

"Other than old age, I'm fine," Kuestermeyer said. "Since I got back, "I have had a 2 1/2 year old daughter that was born after I came back, and she's a good, healthy kid."

But in all the smoke, no one can say for sure whether or not some chemicals may have slipped inspection. It just adds to the mystery surrounding Gulf War Syndrome

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