- ORMOND BEACH, Florida -- An alarmingly high percentage of U.S. military personnel
who have served in Iraq have been afflicted by a variety of health problems
commonly known as Gulf War Syndrome. Exposure to uranium spread through
the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons is thought to be the primary cause
of the high rate of chronic ailments and mortality among Gulf War vets.
- While initial casualties from the first
U.S. invasion of Iraq were light, long-term casualties from the 1991 war
ultimately exceeded 30 percent, according to Terrell E. Arnold, former
Chairman of the Department of International Studies at the National War
College. The long-term casualty rate from the current war in Iraq, Arnold
says, is likely to be much higher.
- Official statistics of killed and wounded
from the 15-year long war against Iraq do not reflect the veterans whose
service-related injuries only become apparent after they return from Iraq.
The official death rate of those killed and wounded in Iraq does not include
these vets, many of whom suffer slow and painful deaths as a direct result
of their service. Dustin Brim was one of them.
- Lori Brim lost Dustin, her only child,
when he died at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington at the age of 22 on
Sept. 24, 2004, after a six-month battle with what was eventually diagnosed
as Non-Hodgkins Diffuse Large Cell B Type Lymphoma. When Mrs. Brim asked
the doctors how her young, healthy, strong son had contracted cancer all
they would say was ?bad luck.?
- Her caseworker and nurses at the hospital
were more forthcoming with information. At different times during the six
months nurses would take Mrs. Brim aside and urge her off the record to
do some research on DU. Asked whose idea it was for Dustin to join the
Army in summer 2002, Mrs. Brim said, ?It was mine.? As a single mother,
Mrs. Brim had approached an Army recruiter out of concern for the well-being
of her son. She thought the Army would be good for her son by giving him
some discipline and direction.
- Dustin had not wanted to join the Army,
his mother said. But Dustin was never meant to be in a war zone, she added.
The U.S. Army recruiter had promised her, that as her only child, he would
not be sent to war. Mechanically inclined, Dustin became an Army mechanic,
an E-4 specialist serving in the 1st Maintenance Company under the 541st
Maintenance Battalion from Fort Riley, Kan., and was deployed to Iraq in
- Dustin?s work in Iraq involved working
on disabled Army vehicles, including tanks, which his unit repaired and
retrieved, or if damaged beyond repair, destroyed with explosives on the
spot. Most of these vehicles, having been in the battlefield, would have
been heavily laden with DU and other toxins. Dr. Doug Rokke, former director
of the U.S. Army?s Depleted Uranium Project, said that mechanics like Dustin
are not properly prepared or protected to be working on DU contaminated
- Mrs. Brim said that her son had not even
been equipped with a pair of gloves, let alone a mask or protective garb.
The Army?s failure to inform and instruct its personnel about the dangers
of DU exposure is one of Rokke?s main concerns. At Christmas 2003, Dustin
surprised his parents with a visit home. It was the last time Mrs. Brim
would see her son in a healthy condition. A photo of Dustin taken in Iraq
in February 2004 shows him smiling and strong.
- In early March, however, Dustin began
to complain of abdominal pains. He went to the doctors on his base 11 times
during the month complaining of severe pain and constipation that lasted
for weeks. He was sent back to his job and told to ?work it out.? During
the last two weeks of March, he wrote to his mother telling her that his
pain was unbearable.
- On March 31 he passed out from pain and
breathlessness. His sergeant happened to be with him and took him to the
doctors who thought he had gall bladder problems and sent him to the hospital
in Baghdad. The next day, April 1, was Dustin?s 22nd birthday. After being
assessed and heavily drugged, the doctors allowed him to call home to tell
his mother that he had cancer.
- In Baghdad, the doctors had discovered
that Dustin had a huge cancerous tumor on his esophagus, which severely
restricted his breathing, a collapsed lung, the loss of a kidney, numerous
blood clots and a tumor progressing on his liver. The doctors could not
believe that Dustin had been turned away so many times for medical help
and still manage to endure as long as he did in his magnitude of pain while
carrying an 80-pound pack on his back, his mother said. Dustin was flown
to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and then to Walter Reed
- ?The story of Dustin Brim is just one
more avoidable tragedy of our insane use of uranium munitions,? Rokke said.
?When I lost Dustin, I lost myself,? Mrs. Brim said. ?This is something
that should not have happened. There is something going on but no one wants
to talk about it on the record. I am sharing my son?s story with you in
the hope that perhaps it will make a difference.?