By Robert Fleming, Daily Guide
Oct. 27, 2000
More than 350 people attended a revival in Versailles last night, packing the Middle School gymnasium.
The preaching at this meeting had nothing to do with any particular religion - unless patriotism and love of country are considered religions.
For more than two hours, Versailles residents Joyce Riley vonKleist and her husband, Dave vonKleist, presented their case against the Army's practice of releasing a bacteria called bacillus subtillis - also known as bacillus globigii (BG) - into the air as part of training exercises at Ft. Leonard Wood.
Armed with reams of government documentation and other corroborating evidence, the couple argued against the Army's practices at Ft. Wood, and also claimed that the federal government treats its citizens like guinea pigs.
Yesterday, The Daily Guide reported that the Army supports its use of BG in training to simulate biological warfare and listed Riley's concerns about use of the bacteria in training scenarios.
"The bacterium is commonly found in soil, water and decomposing plant tissue," said Mike Warren, official spokesperson at Ft. Wood. "If you have a compost pile in your backyard, you have this in the live version. We only use the dormant version in training."
Chemical instructors use the dormant version of BG to train solders how to react in cases of biological warfare. They say they use BG because it is benign, something anthrax definitely is not.
But Joyce Riley disagrees - vehemently and passionately. To understand her opposition, look at Riley's own military past.
A Gulf War veteran, Riley, a registered nurse, was an Air Force Captain serving as a reserve flight nurse. During an appearance on the nationally syndicated Art Bell Radio Show (June 3, 1997), she explained the health problems she developed as a result of that service.
"I became ill after serving, from Jan. to July of 1991. I was originally in Houston ... went to San Antonio ... volunteered to go with Kelly Air Force Base to Saudi Arabia. I did not go, as the cease-fire came, and I simply did missions throughout the United States, Cuba and Alaska. I came in contact with troops that were returning from the Persian Gulf. From Jan. to July, I flew. From July to Dec. I became ill.
"By December I was hospitalized and had a debilitating disease, diagnosed as almost like multiple sclerosis, but not quite. I was discharged from the hospital with the diagnosis of an unknown central nervous system disease," she explains. " I had been perfectly healthy prior to the war. I had not gone into the theater of operations, and I had a lot of unanswered questions. When I began to ask these questions, there were no answers to be found. In fact, there was a stonewall.
"There was no interest at all as to why we were becoming incredibly tired and fatigued - finding it difficult to function. Almost in a debilitated fashion," Riley added.
Riley has since returned to good health, but her negative experiences left deep scars that drove her to become a champion of veterans' rights. That passion and drive continues to this day as a spokesperson for the Gulf War Veterans Association.
Fast forward to last night in Versailles, where Riley's embarked on a fast-paced, hard-hitting sermon using the government's own documents to support her thesis - a theory that states the federal government has and continues to conduct biological tests on its citizens (and has the legal right), and does so with an arrogance that totally disregards any citizen concerns.
As the meeting unfolded, Riley explained that she wanted people to be aware of the procedures on post. While no one from St. Robert or Waynesville attended the meeting, Plato resident Betty Adams was there - raising questions about deaths of livestock and the safety of some of the training aids Ft. Leonard Wood uses on post.
"Some people were concerned, but contacted the post. Their representative at public affairs said the bacteria was safe and occurred naturally in the environment," said Adams in a telephone interview this morning. "But I went to this meeting, and she has a lot of documentation to back up what she is saying."
Riley said she was disappointed, but not surprised, that military representatives from Ft. Leonard Wood or the Dept. of Defense (DoD) had chosen not to show up, but was pleased to see that several area politicians and one brave representative from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources were at the meeting last night.
Riley began her talk by citing the laws that give the federal government wide-ranging rights to conduct biological testing on the general population. She referred to the infamous Tuskeegee trials, and how in 1969 the DoD had developed a synthetic "bio agent" for which there was no natural immunity.
She eventually focused on the BG and discussed how the spores it creates can exist for extremely long periods of time, and how the BG the Army releases into the air undergoes a genetic transformation that makes it quite different from the benign compost pile material the Army references.
That is an allegation emphatically denied by the military. Dr. Jeff Mohr, chief of life sciences division at Dugway Proving Grounds and one of the Army's leading experts on biological defense systems, disputes Riley's claims of genetically altered bacteria.
"When you genetically alter a bacterium, it means you break the bug open and in some fashion alter its DNA," said Mohr in an e-mail response to questions from the Daily Guide. "The DNA in this BG has not been altered."
Mohr says the bacteria has been used at Dugway for more than 35 years, strictly because it has been deemed safe for use. He says no ill effects have been documented in Dugway during decades of testing.
Riley also talked about the government's project where they went off the California coast and blew biological materials 50 miles inland just to see what kind of effect it had on the general population.
Riley expressed her frustration with the media she feels pays little or no attention to such incidents; and has done little to follow the plight of the Gulf War veterans, many of whom have become very sick and died.
Using several other incidents to illustrate her point, Riley concluded that citizens cannot trust the government and must take a proactive stance in fighting the lies and deceit.
Video clips from a public hearing at Ft. Polk, LA., showed Riley grilling military officials about the possible use of BG at that installation. Their rationalization for it being safe was the fact that it was already being used at Ft. Leonard Wood.
Two Versailles area health care professionals - Dr. Ramona Miller, DO, and Dr. Brenda Nairin, DC - provided personal testimonies about the increases in allergies and other immune system related ailments over the past year.
The doctors both expressed their concerns about the increased dependence on antibiotics as treatments, and their decreasing effectiveness.
John Young, the DNR representative, took the floor and fielded questions. When asked if he would reconsider issuing the permits had he known about the evidence placed before him this evening, he admitted the evidence was compelling and worth a further look.
DNR officials told the Daily Guide yesterday that Ft. Leonard Wood was in compliance with its permit as of August, when officials were looking at the area.
The citizen question and answer session brought forth a wide range of questions and comments. The common theme was bitterness and distrust of the government, and a deep sense of betrayal from some veterans who expressed their thoughts.
Riley also told the group that the citizens of Los Alamos (New Mexico) had fought the military's effort to introduce chemical agents into their environment ... and won.
"So, we ended up with them in Missouri," she said.
No plans have been made to hold a similar meeting in the Waynesville-St. Robert area, says Riley. To learn more about Joyce Riley's passion and the documentation that supports her thesis, visit www.gulfwarvets.com.
Stacie Shain and Amy Clarkson contributed to this story.
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