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Selected Testimonies of Gulf War Veterans Before Congressional Committees

Excerpts from the testimony of Sterling Syms,  Petty Officer First Class, U.S. Naval Reserve, before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Subcommittee on Force Requirements and Personnel, 30 June 1993: (At the time of the attack, Petty Officer First Class Syms was assigned to Naval Reserve Mobile Construction Battalion 24 at Camp 13 in Al Jubayl.)

Around 2 or 3 in the morning there was a real bad explosion overhead. The alarm went off. Everyone started hitting their bunkers. There was a high odor of ammonia in the air that burned your eyes. Whatever it was, it burnt and stung your skin bad. The skin even burned after we got into our chemical clothing.

We went to full chemical gear, and were in that situation for about 2 hours before it was passed down that there was an "all clear". But we were told it was a sonic boom. To my knowledge, you do not get a fireball from a sonic boom.

We knew that there was something wrong. We were told it was a fireball. We have had men that were ordered to shut up talking about it.

Excerpts from testimony of  Nick Roberts, U.S. Navy Reserve, before a special hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, 9 November 1993: ( At the time of the attack, Nick Roberts was assigned to Naval Reserve Mobile Construction Battalion 24 at Camp 13 in Al Jubayl.)

I was in perfect health until the night when we were hit. After coming out of the bunker, I was exposed to something. My skin began to burn and sting, my lips were numb, there was a very strange taste in my mouth, my nose ran uncontrollably, and my eyes watered quite a bit.

Chemical detectors were sounding, radio transmissions were coming in-"confirmed gas attack-go to MOPP  level 4"(the highest level of chemical protection). Marines stationed around us were also sounding their warning signals and screaming "Confirmed Gas Attack! Go to full chemical gear!" As I was feeling my own symptoms, I saw my buddies and realized that they also were experiencing the same thing that I was, some even worse.

After a long day of questions and wondering what had happened, we were informed that we had simply experienced a sonic boom. To my knowledge, sonic booms don't cause flashes and cause reactions to skin and eyes. When I spoke with the decontamination leader from our camp later on, he advised me that his test kit detected mustard gas and lewisite.

NOTE:  Lewisite vapors cause stinging and burning and irritation to the eyes and upper respiratory tract. Its smell could be confused with ammonia. The injurious effect of mustard gas is associated with its ability to inhibit many enzyme systems of the body. This, in turn, prevents the intra-cell exchange of chemicals and leads to necrosis (death) of the tissue.  Death is associated mainly with necrosis of the tissue of the central nervous system. Mustard gas has a period of latent effect ( the first signs of injury appear after 2-12 hours.)

Excerpts from the certified statement of Chief Warrant Officer 3 J. P. Cottrell, U.S. Marine Corps, Sept. 1993:

Chief Cottrell was Officer-in Charge of one of the German-made FOX Nuclear-Biological-Chemical (NBC) detection vehicles deployed in the Gulf.  The FOX accurately detects 60 known chemical agents simultaneously using a highly sophisticated, laboratory-quality mass spectrometer.

It is known to me that during the ground offensive of Operation Desert Storm, chemical agent vapors were found by Task Force Ripper ( of the 1st Marine Corps Division) in the vicinity of N28 32', E47 52'.  We detected blister agent at levels below IMMEDIATE threat to personnel.

On the evening of the first day of ground attack, we detected Lewisite blister vapors in the vicinity of N28 50' E47 50'. I reported the findings to Division Headquarters and requested directions in regards to the chemical agent print-out. I was told to forward the tape up the chain of command. (Tapes are the paper records of the exact chemical breakdown of the liquid by the mass spectrometer.) A report came back that our equipment was only activated by oil smoke. Our computer, however, had separated the petroleum compound from the chemical agent.  The computer tape has (conveniently) been lost.

Around the bunker complex in the vicinity of N29 14' E47 54' we detected chemical vapors and reported it to higher headquarters. Task Force Ripper was then ordered back to the division support area and no further detection operations were carried out.

Excerpts from the statement of Sergeant Robert S. Maison, U.S. Marine Corps, 22 Sept.1993:

On the second night of the ground war, while I was attached to Task Force Ripper as a Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Reconnaissance Team member, our team observed an artillery attack to our northwest, at a distance of approximately four kilometers.  About five to six minutes later an alarm was sounded by our detection equipment (a mass spectrometer) which is used specifically for that purpose. Taking into account the wind speeds that we were encountering(approx. 40 to 50 knots steady), the reading would not be expected to last a long duration, as it did not (approx. 3 minutes). The specific agent detected was Lewisite in a concentration considered to produce casualties but not death.

Excerpts from the testimony of Willie Hicks, Staff Sergeant E-6, U.S. Army, before the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Subcommittee on Force Requirements and Personnel, 30 June 1993:

At the time of the attack, SSG. Hicks was serving as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of ammunition movement, 644th Ordinance Company.

It was around 2:30 in the morning. The chemical alarms went off. As we were running to the bunker we started burning. Our faces were burning. Some guy just dropped. We went inside the bunkers. About 10 minutes later the first Sergeant  came around and told us to go to the highest level (of chemical protection) you can go.

We stayed at that level for 24 hours. About 2 or 3 days later a couple of guys started gettting sick. I got sick myself. I had discharge with my urine with blood in it. Some guys had problems with their rectums.

The Commanding Officer put out an order that nobody would discuss it. We were discussing it anyway because I was in charge of ammunition movements and the guys there, they knew it had to be chemical.

85 of the 110 guys who came back with the unit were sick.

We also had one guy that died by the name of Staff Sergeant Bell. And in his case he was in good physical shape. He did not smoke or drink. He came home one day feeling good, walked up the street, and came back, and dropped dead.

We have a Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Neal that is now nothing more than a vegetable.

I carry notebooks all the time now because my memory is gone. I used to teach school. I had to quit my job because I kept passing out or getting lost going to work.

Weight loss: I went from 170 down to 126 last month. I'm now up to 150.

I have no income. I lost my car. I was getiing desperate for funds to support my family. The VA tried to charge me $169 a day for being in the hospital. I went up and questioned it. I said this is service-connected. The lady said you have not proven it to be service-connected, therefore, we are charging you $169 a  day. I said, I have no income. She said, it makes no difference.

I am also a veteran from the Vietnam War. I think this is Vietnam all over again because I know how I was treated when I came back from there.

I have been completely forgotten. And I am sick and unable to work because I served my country.

Excerpts from testimony of Mrs. Hester Adcock, before a special hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, 9 Nov. 1993. Mrs. Adcock's son, Army Specialist Michael Adcock, died at the age of 22 of multiple cancers. He was stationed at Al-Jubayl on 20 Jan. 1991, when his unit was chemically attacked.

I am the mother of Army Specialist Michael C. Adcock, 22 year old Gulf War Veteran. Michael served in Desert Storm from Jan. 18, 1991 until May 19, 1991. Exactly eleven months after returning from the Gulf, Micharl died of multiple cancers.

Prior to the Gulf War, Michael was physically fit, very healthy, a four year letterman in high school football, broke a weightlifting record, worked out daily, and while serving in Germany, was a boxer and wrestler.

Michael became ill as early as January 21, 1991 after being near Al-Jubayl on the night of Jan. 20, 1991, where three attacks occurred and chemical alarms sounded. Michael reported to the Battalion Evacuation hospital on Jan. 25, 1991 only to be told he probably had hemorrhoids. He was given motrin. My son was never referred to a surgeon. He had repeated rectal bleeding, rash, servere headaches, raspy voice, and pain in his joints.

Upon return to the States, he, along with many in his unit, was given a very limited physical examination with no chest x-ray, no blood work, and sent on his way. He was told "if you need further medical attention, go to your local VA hospital". Had Michael been given proper diagnostic testing in the Gulf, my son would possibly be alive today.

My son was a very patriotic young man. He loved his country, family, and God. I ask you today: How much did my country appreciate my son. He felt it his patriotic duty to serve in the military. He wore his Army uniform proudly. He was a brave and courageous soldier.

My son died a senseless and very painful death. When will I ever get an answer? My jewel is gone forever. Michael's death bed wish was for me to fight for him and fight for all of his comrades. After this request, a few short hours later, Michael slipped into a coma. He died seven days later.

Our own military and Government failed my son and are failing his comrades.

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