[ RadSafe ] Tanya Boozer - Long Time Hanger On of Anti-DU Yahoo Groups Finally Makes Her Mark
rhelbig at california.com
Fri Jun 6 03:46:18 CDT 2008
As I recall, uranium is not detectable in the blood and I suspect that Ms
Boozer sent her sample to the UMRC. Am I correct about uranium in the
High-tech war taking a toll even years later
By T.J. GREANEY
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Nothing comes cheap.
That's the sentiment that sprang to mind recently when Tanya Boozer, 43, of
Fayette came to the Tribune to talk about veterans' issues.
Boozer is petite, shy and appears so frail it's hard to imagine her wielding
a butter knife, much less an M-16. But that's exactly what she once did for
In 1990, when the United States and more than 30 other countries launched an
effort to push Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, Boozer was a specialist, pay
grade E-4, in the Army National Guard. She and the rest of her unit were
called into active duty.
They were given inoculations, trained and told they would be dispatched to
Saudi Arabia, about 100 miles from the Kuwait border, to guard prisoners of
"I had no idea there was going to be war in my time," said Boozer, then
Cummings, who had previously served four years in the Air Force.
After arrival, Boozer's platoon stayed in an abandoned apartment complex
built by the Saudi government for Bedouins. After 10 days, they got marching
orders and headed to an isolated spot in a sandy wilderness.
On the way to the camp, she says, the convoy was fired on by a sniper. It
was the closest Boozer would ever get to the front lines, but it was the
beginning of an "on-edge feeling" she still can't shake. For the next weeks
she worked 12 to 16 hours daily to construct a camp that could handle a
steady stream of ragged, hungry members of Saddam's vaunted army.
Boozer's platoon took turns guarding the perimeter of the prison. She says
at night she could hear the bombs dropping and watched the planes flying
overhead. Literal and figurative sirens began to go off in her head.
"There were chemical alarms going on all the time," she said. "They said at
first there weren't any biological weapons used, but there was. We basically
stayed with our chemical suit on under our uniform and everything except our
mask. When the alarm went off, we donned our mask pretty quickly. I got
pretty good at it."
She was also uneasy about the vaccinations. She says she took pills to
protect against possible anthrax, botulism and nerve gas exposure.
"They didn't know how effective it would be," she said of the anthrax
vaccine. "We were human guinea pigs, actually."
Her stories are similar to others told by some returning veterans. A
particularly good account of these is laid out in a 1998 book by famed war
correspondent Seymour Hersh, "Against All Enemies."
Boozer showed me paperwork to prove both her current disability rating by
the Department of Veterans Affairs and her honorable discharge from the
Army, but few other details of her story could be independently verified.
Since returning, Boozer has kicked around a bit. She's held down a number of
jobs and attended several different colleges, including Central Christian
College of the Bible in Moberly. She said she almost immediately noticed a
difference in her personality and health when she returned home.
"Your brain doesn't know how to stop being alert and on guard all the time,"
she said. "The worst was the jumpiness. Loud noises just really scare me.
Fourth of July is really bad for me."
She was initially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and only last year was
the diagnosis changed to post-traumatic stress disorder. At times she has
battled suicidal thoughts.
Boozer also has trouble breathing, something she first experienced during
her time in the Persian Gulf. Over the years, she has fought hard to get a
100 percent disability rating for breathing problems, fibromyalgia and PTSD.
Today she is convinced her time at war caused incalculable damage. Boozer
suspects both Saddam's nerve agents and government-issued vaccines. She
recently sent a blood sample to a private doctor to be tested for depleted
uranium, a heavy metal used in small-arms ammunition for the first time in
the Gulf War.
To put her problems in perspective, I spoke with Stephen Gaither, the public
affairs officer at Truman Memorial Veterans' Hospital and Michael Moore, a
psychologist and clinical manager who has treated veterans locally since
During our conversation, it was clear the VA is much better equipped to
handle patients suffering from PTSD then ever before. In 2005, the VA
officially funded a local PTSD team consisting of several psychologists, a
psychiatrist and a social worker tasked with identifying and treating
warning signs of the disorder. The VA also is getting much better and more
vigilant at preventing suicide among returning service members.
But "Gulf War Syndrome," a confusing constellation of symptoms including
skin irritation and memory problems that many veterans connect to exposure
to chemicals, is not a treatable illness. Doctors can only treat individual
and wildly divergent symptoms. "You have to put that in quotations," said
Gaither when I mentioned "Gulf War Syndrome."
Gaither said willing Gulf War veterans can now enroll in a program to have
their blood tested for depleted uranium. But to date, the results of the
registry, which could make uranium exposure a service-connected illness, are
inconclusive. He noted that it took 30 years for exposure to Agent Orange to
get that classification.
The lingering effects of a war that lasted only 44 days and took the lives
of 147 U.S. soldiers are baffling, to say the least. Many people marveled at
the "smart bombs" broadcast live on CNN, and some hailed it as a "perfect
But the effect the high-tech warfare has had on both the mental and physical
well-being of service members is a black box. Up to 30 percent of returning
veterans have reported some symptoms in an American Legion database.
What this means for the hundreds of thousands of men and women toiling today
in a much harsher brand of war in the Mideast is anyone's guess. I suppose
the only thing that's certain is that Moore, Gaither and others at the VA
will be busy for years to come.
Tribune reporter T.J. Greaney's column runs on Thursdays. Reach him at (573)
815-1719 or tjgreaney at tribmail.com.
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