Mr. David K. Winnett, Jr.
Dear Chairman Miller and Distinguished Members of the Committee,
Today, almost twenty-two years after the 1991 Persian Gulf War (PGW) more than 250,000 Veterans of that war continue to suffer from very debilitating medical symptoms directly related to their wartime service.
As a four-time "Consumer Reviewer" panelist on the "Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs” (CDMRP) for Gulf War Illness Research, the consensus among the scientific and medical communities now points to the strong likelihood that PGW Veterans sustained neurological damage to the part of the brain that regulates the autonomic nervous system. This seems a quite viable explanation given the myriad of symptoms that have destroyed the quality of life for so many PGW Veterans and their families. Unfortunately, researchers who for years have valiantly searched for effective treatments for the numerous symptoms associated with Gulf War Illness have been greatly handicapped by not knowing precisely what caused these illnesses.
Today there are many thousands of documents that remain classified concerning events that occurred before, during, and after the PGW. Former Senator Donald Riegle's 1994 report on Gulf War Illness made public a number of disturbing revelations concerning weapons technologies that were authorized for sale by the United States government to the Iraqis during the late 1980's. The Senator's report inferred that some of those same weapons technologies, chemical and biological weapons among them, may have been the cause of Gulf War Illness. His report also recommended a Justice Department investigation into these questionable weapons sales to Iraq; an investigation that the Justice Department has never deemed important enough to pursue.
Not surprisingly, compelling evidence to explain Gulf War Illness now points to confirmed widespread battlefield exposures to chemical warfare agents, including Sarin Gas that were inadvertently released into the atmosphere by pre-ground war American/Allied aerial bombing of Iraqi ammo storage areas within the theater of operations, and/or administration of medicines (i.e., Pyridostigmine Bromide pills) that were prescribed to all ground forces, despite the fact that at the time they were not yet FDA approved, and/or tainted vaccinations - i.e., excessive Squalene utilized in the adjuvant (booster) of mandatory vaccines administered to our troops without their informed consent.
Also suspect as a possible cause of Gulf War Illness, now referred to as “Chronic Multisymptom Illness” was widespread ingestion of micro-particulates of post-impact Depleted Uranium (DU), a heavy weapons technology first used on a large scale during the 1991 PGW. Despite the fact that DU has been proven by DOD and others to cause extremely long-term environmental damage as well as posing considerable health risks to anyone exposed to it, DU is still in use in America’s arsenal today. Perhaps that might explain why many of today's Warriors are coming home with symptoms eerily similar to Gulf War Illness?
There is little dispute now that Gulf War Illnesses are real, but for reasons that continue to confound the Veteran community, the majority of Persian Gulf War Veterans who have submitted claims for Veterans disability compensation related to their wartime service have had their claims denied. This prevents the chronically ill Veteran from receiving financial compensation that would help to offset their loss of earning capacity and denies them the priority medical care status that the VA extends to Veterans with service-connected disabilities.
The disenfranchisement of the over 250,000 men and women who carried out one of the most effective military operations in our country's history is a tragedy of the highest order. These are American heroes whose life-altering chronic medical problems have been largely ignored by their fellow countrymen for over twenty years, a human tragedy far beyond anything that I am aware of in our country's history where American War Veterans are concerned.
Despite numerous setbacks that our Persian Gulf War Veteran community has experienced over the last two decades, I remain extremely confident that sooner or later, the truth will be known. The question I have for the Chairman, and for the Honorable Members of your Committee is - which side of history will you be on? Will you choose the side that the vast majority of our Colonels, Generals, and the Politicians who presided over the Persian Gulf War have chosen? Like them, will you remain loyally silent to your last breath – will you sleep soundly at night under the morally misguided perception that “matters of national security” or the release of “sensitive information” trumps the health and welfare of America’s sick Gulf War Veterans? Like them will you be deafened to the cries for help that continue to echo from the battlefield – pleas for help from the same brave and selfless Warriors who did the dirty work that made so many of our Generals overnight celebrities? Like them, will you continue to turn your back on this magnificent group of American heroes who carried out one of the most resounding wartime victories in our country’s history? Or, will you be on the side of moral justice - the side that advocates for complete truth and transparency, no matter its cost, when it comes to once and for all declassifying and disclosing the precise reason(s) why so many Persian Gulf War Veterans fell ill after the war, no matter whose military or political legacies may suffer, and no matter the potential for embarrassment and/or civil liability that certain defense contractors may face?
I am very close to completing a book that describes what I believe to be the largest disenfranchisement of American military personnel in the history of this country. The working title of the book is "To Fight for Right and Freedom" (A Marine Corps "Mustang’s” battle with Gulf War Illness, and the War Machine that created it). The book, now over 400 pages in length does not paint a kind picture of those within our government and defense establishment whom I believe to be complicit in this unconscionable act of betrayal against our troops. I’ve paid an enormous personal price as a direct result of my public outspokenness over this often controversial issue, the details of which are explicitly outlined in my book. But there is no penalty that anyone can possibly levy on me that will succeed in deterring me from continuing to exercise the moral leadership that I was so blessed to assimilate as a United States Marine. This mission will be accomplished, and I plan to be around when that day comes. I very much hope to see you all there.
And so, in closing I would respectfully ask only two things from each of you when it comes to making decisions about how best to deal with the issue of Gulf War Illnesses - and they are, BE HONEST and DO THE HONORABLE THING. Do what you were elected to do - represent the interests of the American citizens; the citizen Warriors who put their lives on the line twenty-two years ago, serving you, so that you could one day have the privilege of serving them. So please, serve them. They may not have paid for your political campaigns, but they have paid dearly for your freedoms. It is up to each of you to decide which holds the most value.
It's been twenty-two years. That’s quite long enough. Too many have died, too many have suffered with constant pain, profound fatigue, and other debilitating symptoms too numerous to list. More importantly, far too many continue to have their disability claims denied by the Department of Veterans Affairs, despite voluminous regulations that your honorable body created; laws that were supposed to give the benefit of the doubt ("Presumption of service connection) to the symptomatic Persian Gulf War Veteran. With great respect, please trust me; by in large the very laws (the Direct Orders!) that you issued to the VA to take care of these Veterans are being summarily ignored at the vast majority of VA Regional Offices across this country. That is beyond unconscionable.
History is watching.
David K. Winnett, Jr.
Captain, United States Marine Corps (Retired)
100% Disabled Persian Gulf War Veteran