Poisoned Veterans is a national organization with a mission to help veterans contaminated by various chemicals like dioxins, PCB’s, TCE, ionizing radiation, banned rainbow herbicides (Agent White, Agent Blue, Agent Orange), asbestos, lead, and more while in service. The sad thing is that veterans were contaminated on US bases and within US boarders during training not in any combat role. It is often decades before symptoms of exposure show and the VA refuses to inform, test, and compensate those who have lost their health, their jobs, their homes and their families due to exposure.
Fort McClellan in Anniston Alabama was the premier training base in the US. Thousands of men and women were stationed there for Basic, Combat for Vietnam Era, Military Police, and Chemical Corps. Nearby, was a manufacturing plant owned by the chemical company giant, Monsanto. Monsanto is the manufacturer of Agent Orange, Roundup, and PCBs. The town of Anniston was awarded a 700 million dollar settlement from Monsanto due to PCB poisoning the environment. Veterans stationed at Fort McClellan in Anniston were not included. They assumed, possibly, that the Veterans Administration would take care of their own. Unfortunately, that never happened.
Fort McClellan was the Chemical Corps training base. It was the only place on earth where live agents, tabun, sarin, VX, VG, phosgene, mustard gas, and etc. were used to train troops, federal agents, and representatives from allied nations in detection and decontamination. The chemicals used for decontamination were often as deadly as the contaminant itself. Radiation training included detection, exposure precautions, and decontamination. Sources of radiation were buried outdoors and include the same types of radiation released during Chernobyl, Fukushima, and the Atomic Bomb tests. The radiation sources contaminated barracks and soil. It wasn’t until 1985 that these training exercises were moved indoors to a multi-million dollar facility. Radioactive Cobalt 60 and Cesium 137 were found buried as late as 2001 after an aerial survey ordered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In May 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers reported that they removed 6 tons of radiation contaminated soil from former Fort McClellan.
In addition to Monsanto and the Chemical Corps training agents, TCE, the same chemical that is causing cancer in Camp Lejeune veterans, and vinyl chloride were used in large quantities. They are highly toxic, cancer causing chemicals. Plumes of these two chemicals are present underground and are leeching into the drinking water supply. In 2005, the Army provided nearly $1.6 million, half the cost, to install the six packed column air stripper treatment train designed to remove TCE at Anniston Water Works’ Paul B. Krebs Water Treatment Plant (p. 5). Anniston Water Works provides drinking water to the towns of Anniston and Oxford, Alabama as well as to Fort McClellan. Prior to its installation, TCE spikes in the drinking water were common. These chemicals were in the environment first to have migrated into the pools formed by the shale present under Fort McClellan. Troops breathed and ingested the toxins while training outdoors lying belly down at firing ranges and crawling through confidence courses, sleeping on the ground during bivouac, eating outdoors, and running in formation; they polished their boots touching the chemical laden soles. Inside the barracks was no safer. The barracks and mess halls were contaminated with friable asbestos and lead paint. There was no feasible way to escape toxic exposure at Fort McClellan.
The cleanup of Fort McClellan is entering its 18th year and is expected to continue for decades. The cost will approach 1 billion dollars and, despite the efforts of multiple companies involved, some areas will be fenced off from the public for several generations while veterans are ignored. Where’s the justice? If it’s too dangerous now, two decades after the base formally closed, imagine what it was like before. Veterans who have been affected by these environmental toxins are not being recognized by the VA. Please take a moment to think about that. Soldiers serving the United States were exposed to chemicals that are known to cause serious health conditions to include cancer, endocrine disorders, autoimmune disease, neurological problems, and diabetes, have never been informed that they were exposed through the air, water, soil, and by eating locally sourced food. Children and spouses of veterans living on and off base were affected too.
Sal Caiozzo, Founder
I am a Fort McClellan veteran. I enlisted in the Army in 1982 for MP School, B10. That’s me on the right in the picture below. Platoon leader, always pushing to be the best I could be… until a run on Cardiac Hill at Fort Mac. I thought I’d pulled a groin muscle. I fell out and fell down. Noble Army Hospital said it was some kind of fiberous mass and medically discharged me with a small disability rating. I had to have surgery to remove the mass through the VA. Later, doctors said it may have been a vericocele and that kind of surgery usually doesn’t leave scars in the same place as mine.
For 15 years, I was employed by the government and attached to the US Navy. I lived in the Mediterranean covering North Africa and the Middle East. Part of my job included working for US Embassies as well as Consulates, taking care of US citizens and military personnel abroad. It was during that time that I met my wife. Then our son was born, a beautiful baby boy. He was diagnosed with cancer at age 6. Ewing sarcoma, a bone cancer, in his jaw. At the time, I thought nothing of what the doctor said, “An unusual place for this type of cancer.” He survived but lost part of his jaw and is still awaiting the reconstructive surgery they couldn’t do while he was still growing. We have two more children, all of them are nearly grown now. Each has had unexplainable medical issues, issues that don’t run in my wife’s or my family. It’s a story I have heard from many veterans of Fort McClellan.
My own medical issues didn’t become apparent until 3-4 years ago. I brushed it off until I couldn’t. I couldn’t walk without pain. The fatigue was unbearable. When you’re the breadwinner of the family, and you can’t work, it changes you. Lost my business, lost my house, my wife and kids went to live with her family for awhile. I went with her for awhile and came back to try to rebuild what I had lost. Thankfully, in 2015, I was able to once again put a roof over our heads and get my family back together.
Now, my cane is my right leg. The scar tissue from the surgery at the VA is extensive. I have been told that removing the scar tissue would create more scar tissue later on. My diagnoses from the VA Hospital are: Fibromyalgia, IBS, peripheral neuropathy, dermatitis, tinnitus, parathyroid symptoms, liver steatosis, high triglycerides. Fatigue and pain were my constant companion. They still are.
In October of 2014, I was told I had nodules in my thyroid. My thyroidectomy was the following month. The nodules were pre-cancerous. I will be taking thyroid medication the rest of my life.
But that’s the least of it. I didn’t recover well after the surgery. I was sent to the The War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) clinic for answers last year (2015) where they diagnosed several things that were not true such as pre-diabetes. Further testing at home on the outside showed that it is hyperinsulinemia. WRIISC biopsied my muscles due to blood test results showing that I was rapidly losing non-cardiac muscle tissue. The diagnosis on this is small fiber neuropathy. It is another one of those diseases without a cure and it will take away my ability to move.
Finally, a doctor really looked at my blood work. I have had too many red blood cells for several years, slowly but surely climbing. Why didn’t the VA notice? Why wasn’t it flagged? How could years of high red cell counts go unnoticed? The new diagnosis: Polycythemia vera. The cure? No cure. I now have not only the synthroid daily, I have to give a pint of blood 2x per week, still have the cane, the pain, and the fatigue.
Early in this “What the heck is wrong with me?” mess, I was reading “Law Enforcement Today” and came across an article written by a former MP, Elizabeth Dilts, who trained at Fort McClellan. In it, she wrote, “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.”
I went online and found several social media Fort McClellan groups and web pages with other people discussing very similar health issues. Could they be related to toxins in the environment? Could our children’s medical issues be related to our exposure? Why didn’t anyone tell us? More importantly, what can I do?
That’s how Poisoned Veterans came to be. I also started Veterans News Radio (see the accomplishments tab). I am a registered lobbyist which allows me access to people in the government. I have experience dealing with sensitive matters with the government. I know how things work and how to get the job done and frankly, I am honored to be able to work on behalf of other veterans. No veteran deserves to be pushed out on the street due to medical issues caused by their time in service.
Poisoned Veterans is dedicated to helping veterans and families of all military related toxic exposures on all military installations and from any branch of service.
More Information about Toxic Bases
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), there are over 130 toxic military installations in the United States alone. Many of these contaminated military installations have been labeled by the EPA as Superfund Sites, which is defined as an uncontrolled or abandoned place where hazardous waste is located, possibly affecting local ecosystems or people. Anniston Alabama’s Fort McClellan home of Military Police Training, US Army Chemical School and Women’s Army Corps is a prime example of a Superfund site, where the water supply and the ground were highly contaminated for decades. It is believed to be the largest contamination site in US history to date. In 2002 CBS 60 Minutes called Anniston one of the most toxic places in our country.
How You Can Help
The simplest and easiest way for you to help is to donate. If you can’t donate, there are other ways to help such as calling or writing your Congressperson or Senator to support The Fort McClellan Health Registry Act or by volunteering at one of our fund-raising events.