Thousands of Vets to Meet in Dallas
Resource center fights to help snubbed vets; media indifferent
By Mark Anderson
Jim Bunker—a soldier in his own right who’s fighting to get the mainstream press to even acknowledge a major event he’s sponsoring in early August to assist U.S. war veterans—is determined to have a successful conference for veterans from both the current and past Southwest Asian theaters.
Gulf war veterans from the early 1990s Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield, as well as veterans from the 10-year-old Afghanistan conflict and seven-year-old Iraqi conflagration—essentially all vets from 1990 to the present—will come together to share concerns and seek solutions to their problems under the auspices of the National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC).
Its Health and Educational Fair for all veterans who served in those conflicts will be held in Dallas—Thursday, Aug. 5, through Sunday, Aug. 8. A number of notable speakers will attend.The guest of honor will be H. Ross Perot, the distinguished American businessman who, as a former presidential candidate, sternly criticized America’s adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A veteran himself, Perot has remained a staunch supporter of the U.S. military and veterans’ causes.
During the event, Perot will be honored with the National Gulf War Resource Center’s 20th Anniversary Desert Storm Patriot Award. AMERICAN FREE PRESS has also learned that Doug Rokke (U.S. Army, retired) will speak on the Saturday portion of the event. He’s a well-known critic of the use of depleted uranium by the U.S. military. This radioactive metal, a byproduct of uranium processing, is used as both a munitions component for penetrating hardened targets and as armor against enemy fire. But when it’s fragmented or aerosolized during conflict, it gets into food, water and wounds and respiratory systems of soldiers and civilians. It causes cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems.
Rokke also is a critic of America’s interventionist foreign policy, arguing that a string of unjustified wars has produced massive casualties that U.S. authorities barely acknowledge, let alone seek to remedy. This outspoken Vietnam and Desert Storm vet has accused those whose duty it is to help veterans of a constant “delay and deny” stance. The result is a war of attrition against vets who fight to get financial benefits and healthcare, but end up dying or deteriorating beyond help.
Citing Gulf War Veterans Information Systems data, Rokke also points out that war-death statistics commonly reported to the American people are dramatically lower than the real, complete figures. This is because deaths that more or less immediately take place (killed in action) comprise most of the fatalities reported, whereas those soldiers who die later from injuries, illnesses and suicides stemming from their military service are not included in those fatality reports. This, he says, enables the government to hide the real “blood cost” of the current wars.
Other speakers will include Dr. Lea Steele, a researcher and panelist of the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans Illnesses, and noted Gulf War Illness (GWI) researcher Dr. Robert Haley of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, which, as AFP has reported, recently had much of its GWI research funding pulled by the federal government. The status and future of that funding likely will be a hot topic at the conference. Perot has donated large sums to that institution. At this school, at other Dallas locations and in Washington, D.C., this AFP editor has covered Advisory Committee meetings and interviewed Haley and Steele, as well as Bunker.
The Advisory Committee’s official recognition of GWI as a genuine multi-symptom illness took place in November 2008 at the Department of Veterans Affairs headquarters in Washington, which AFP covered.
“The Department of Veterans Affair’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Clinic (WRIISC), on the request of the NGWRC, will present information to the veterans about their program. The NGWRC has also set it up for them to visit the Dallas/FortWorth-areaVA [facility] and put on classes for the staff about Gulf War Illness,” Bunker noted in a news release.
He stressed that veterans from the current overseas military operations are in need of help, as are those from previous wars.
“Many thousands of veterans have been afflicted with an array of chronic illnesses directly resulting from their service,” wrote Bunker. “Now with the Veterans Administration opening up those covered under Gulf War Illness to veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, there will be a lot of information given out [at the conference] to help them.”
Department of Veterans Affairs Chief of Staff John R. Gingrich also will speak, as will Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton, psychologist Dr. Peter Maves and several more.
The Health and Educational Fair will take place at the Wyndham DFW Airport North Hotel, 4441 W. John Carpenter Freeway, in Irving, a suburb of Dallas. For more information, including the tentative schedule and registration information, visit ngwrc.org or feel free to contact Bunker by phone at (866) 531-7183, or email [email protected].
Mark Anderson is a longtime newsman now working as the editor for AFP. He and his wife Angie provide photographs and video of the events they cover for AFP. Listen to Mark’s radio show at republicbroadcasting.org, Sundays at 7pm central. Email him at at [email protected].
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(Issue # 29 & 30, July 19 & 26, 2010)