The following is a personal story submitted to Civilian Exposure and published as part of our new series: “Contamination Chronicles: Personal Stories of Exposure”. If you would like to submit your story, you may fill out our form here or send directly via email to [email protected]
My husband, served in the Chemical Corp at Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, from 1958 – 1961.
I am writing this because my husband has Parkinson’s and dementia. He is confined to a wheelchair and only speaks a couple of words.
About 20 years ago, I started to notice a big change in his demeanor. He would suddenly fly off the handle for no reason, started accusing me of undermining him, and this was not the man I knew of 40 years. Before that, he has suffered with kidney problems, gall bladder and various other little ailments despite his healthy lifestyle. Then 4 yrs ago, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and dementia.
I didn’t attribute any of this as service-related until I was alerted by a friend who was military for 20 years and asked where he was stationed.
I remember my husband telling me how he was gassed which brought him to his knees. His sergeant was talking to him and he couldn’t move a muscle. He mentioned times when they were told to roll up their sleeves and let mosquitoes bite them. After an A-bomb test in Nevada, he was told to take a Geiger counter and with his sergeant, go out into the desert to check the radiation. He said the Geiger counter was going crazy, when his sergeant said, “let’s get out of here!” I asked if they wore any protective clothing. He stated that they didn’t.
Since I have been delving into what went on in Dugway, and found they conducted all the secret testing, it seemed some of it wasn’t documented. There would be no way to find out when and where it took place. Since there is nothing in my husband’s Army medical records about any medical follow-ups, it’s hard to prove what actually happened. I have been told by the VA there was no Agent Orange in Dugway. However, I believe it was in ’59 that there was an aerial drop of an herbicide over Dugway known as “Purple”, with the same compound as Agent Orange.
They were also told they would be fighting a very different war than any wars prior, but never mentioned Viet Nam. After my husband was discharged, he found out they were, indeed, training for Viet Nam. As far as the mosquitoes, they were testing them to be used as biological warfare, so who knows what was in those mosquitoes.
There aren’t too many of these service men left who served there during that period. It’s hard to try and contact anybody and get further information than what my husband is able to relate at this time.
Also, because he was in service after the Korean War had ended and before Viet Nam was officially a conflict/war/police action, he is not eligible for anything. He was, however, in the Reserves for 4 years and could have been called up at any time. Yet, that doesn’t seem to count.
I feel like some of the others who have written about their stories. He, too, is invisible. The longer the VA denies claims for the older vets, the less they will eventually have to pay out.
Note from the Editor: The author currently resides in Pennsylvania. The account/editorial is verbatim from the author without edit, with only the omission of their name to preserve anonymity.