Martin C. Evans

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Burn pits expose soldiers to toxins, Congressman says

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm

The fuming trash dumps at US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan known as burn pits would be strictly limited if Long Island Congressman Tim Bishop has his way.

The pits, into which tons of plastics, medical waste, garbage and other potentially harmful stuff are swept every day, bathe soldiers living and working nearby in toxic smoke that some medical experts say may be harmful.

Sgt. Gary Richard, an Army reservist from Hauppauge who served two tours in Iraq, said smoke from burn pits at Camp Anaconda regularly filled his tent, and is responsible for the nagging cough and asthma he has endured since then.

Bishop introduced legislation his week that would prohibit the military from burning trash in a manner that would expose military personnel to dangerous toxins.

It would also require the military to create a medical registry of troops who have been exposed to chemical hazards released by burning refuse in the past.

The organization Disabled American Veterans, which has been pressing Congress for restrictions on the burn pits, says it has been contacted by more than 430 service members who attribute various illnesses to chemicals released from the pits.

Bishop’s legislation would strengthen regulations imposed by Congress in last year’s defense authorization bill.

That measure prohibited the Defense Department from disposing of medical waste and hazardous materials in burn pits in Iraq or Afghanistan unless the Secretary of Defense determined the military had no alternative.

Soldiers or their heirs have filed at least six lawsuits against defense contractor KRB, lleging that smoke from burn pits they managed in Iraq or Afghanistan was responsible for injuries or deaths.

Last month, the Defense Department announced it would again study possible long-term effects of breathing smoke from the pits.

But in the past, military officials have said burning spent uniforms and other equipment is needed to keep them from being falling into enemy hands.

And in announcing the new study, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said a prior study done at Iraq’s Balad Air Base – where the above picture was taken last March – showed no ill effects among personnel who were exposed to fumes.

“To date, we don’t have any information on any longer-term health risks that may be associated with burn pit smoke inhalation,” Whitman said.


New PTSD diagnostic accurately picks suffering soldiers

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

Scientists studying post traumatic stress disorder have developed a technique that may lead to more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment of the debilitating psychological malady that hits one in five veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Neuroscientists at the University of Minnesota have developed a technique that spots changes in the brain related to PTSD with greater than 90 percent accuracy. They did so using an imaging device that senses the firing of individual nerves in the brain, according to research published this week in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

The findings may lead to a reduction to the stigma surrounding PTSD by identifying a physical change in the brain of PTSD sufferers, who have often been accused of not being tough enough rather than acknowledged to have suffered actual injury.

The technique might some day help determine whether soldiers are healthy enough to return to the battlefield, and lead to more equitable allocations of Veterans Administration benefits in cases involving PTSD.

The findings were a result of collaboration between a team of scientists led by Apostolos P. Georgopoulo, of the University of Minnesota, and clinicians at a Minneapolis VA hospital. They used an imaging device called a magnetoencephalograph that measures changes in the electrical field inside the brain that occur when neurons fire.

Researchers asked 74 vets who had already been diagnosed with PTSD and 250 “healthy” volunteers to stare at a dot to produce a calm state while magnetic signals were collected.

They were able to detect patterns of miscommunication between neurons in the PTSD patients, and were able to distinguish PTSD victims from “healthy” patients more than 90 percent of the time.

Deployments boost emotional disorder likelihood among military wives.

In Women on January 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan boost the likelihood of emotional disorders among wives who are left behind, according to a study in the Jan. 14 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The wives of deployed soldiers report higher rates of depression, sleeplessness, stress and adjustment disorders, according to researchers with the epidemiology department at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Longer deployments resulted in a greater likelihood of mental disorders.

The findings bolster observations made by therapists at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center’s Rosen Family Wellness Center, who say worry over the safety of their spouse, loneliness and the added pressure of caring for children and maintaining a household on their own exacts a big emotional toll from military spouses.

The findings could be particularly significant to families associated with Long Island-based National Guard and Reserve units that have served combat tours, such as the 2/25th Marine the 800th Military Police Brigade, and companies of the 69th Infantry Regiment.

That is because Guard and Reserve units generally lack access to the kind of large military bases where there is an abundance of support services and social networks available to help military spouses cope – supports that are more available to families living on big military bases such as Ft. Drum, N.Y. or Ft. Hood, Texas.

In reaching their conclusions, researchers studied the outpatient medical records of 250,626 wives of Army soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The women had received care between 2003 and 2006.

Wives whose husbands were deployment for more than 11 months were nearly 40 percent more likely to report excess depression, about a quarter more likely to report sleeplessness and almost 20 percent more likely to show extreme anxiety.

106th Air Guard at Gitmo to help Haiti

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Members of the NY Air National Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing, based at Westhampton Beach, have been diverted from a scheduled training mission in Cuba to help with the Haiti relief effort.

The 37 members of the Guard’s Civil Engineer Squad had planned to spend two weeks helping with construction upgrades at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.

Instead, they have been providing engineering and logistical support from Cuba for Guantanamo’s Haiti relief operations, since arriving at the naval station Jan. 16.

The 7.0 magnitude quake killed an estimated 200,000 Haitians and left millions homeless.

“One of our members is Haitian and still has family there,” Major David Carrick said in an e-mail sent from Guantanamo.

Guantanamo Bay is serving as a hub for U.S. personnel bound into and out of Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response, the Pentagon’s rescue and relief mission for Haiti.

Coast Guard medivac helicopters began ferrying wounded individuals from the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince to Guantanamo at dawn the morning after the earthquake.

69th Infantry Regiment honors one of its 7 Medal of Honor Recipients

In Uncategorized on January 20, 2010 at 12:59 am

Alejandro Ruiz, with his blue-ribboned Medal of Honor. (Photo: LA Times)

One desperate day in the final months of World War II, a soldier affiliated with the “Fighting 69th” twice charged an array of enemy pillboxes in an Okinawa battle, earning him the nation’s highest military honor.

Now, members of the New York National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment are honoring the solder, Alejandro R. Ruiz, who died of congestive heart failure Nov. 23 in Napa, California. A Washington Post obituary appears here.

Ruiz’s Medal of Honor is one of seven held by members of 69th Infantry Regiment, a storied unit once dubbed “The Irish Brigade” that has served in every major U.S. conflict dating back to the Civil War.

Lieutenant Colonel John Andonie, from Clifton Park, N.Y., and his senior enlisted soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Vasquez from Jackson Heights, N.Y. will travel to Calif. this weekend to meet with the Ruiz family and present honors at Ruiz’ grave, according to a National Guard release.

The ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Veterans Home at Yountville, California, a Napa Valley facility where Ruiz lived his final years.

Ruiz, the son of a Mexican immigrant, joined the army in 1944 after being accused of stealing a cow in his native New Mexico. A judge offered the choice of jail or the Army.

Ruiz chose the Army. He was assigned to the 165th Infantry Regiment, the wartime designation of the 69th Infantry.

On April 28, 1945, Pfc. Ruiz was with a patrol seeking remnants of a Japanese battalion hiding in fortified emplacements on steep ridges near the Okinawan  village of Gasukuma.

During an ambush that killed all but himself and his squad leader, Ruiz charged at a row of pillboxes that had his squad pinned down, eventually reaching the bunkers and silencing their gunfire.

He stayed in the Army after the war, retiring as a Master Sergeant in 1964.

VA promise of swift GI Bill student payments put to the test

In GI Bill, Uncategorized on January 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

The VA told Congress that tuition claims under the new GI bill will be paid by Feb. 1, as long as the claim was filed by Jan. 15.

So the clock is running.

The VA has had nothing but trouble with processing post-9/11 GI Bill claims thus far, according to this Associated Press article. The giant agency fell so far behind last semester that many Iraq and Afghan veterans who enrolled in college had to borrow for rent and school supplies, move in with parents, or drop out altogether.

USOC to host first Wounded Warrior games

In Uncategorized on January 18, 2010 at 10:50 am

200 active-duty and vets will compete in the inaugural Wounded Warrior games organized by the US Olympic Committee this May in Colorado Springs.

The games will parallel sports in the regular Olympics, including shooting, swimming, archery, track, discus, shot put, cycling, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball, according to the Defense Department.

Army Sgt. Jerrod Jones won 100-meter gold at the Endeavor Games last June. The Chicagoan was injured by an IED in 2005.

Athletes will be chosen from each of the military services, with the Army sending the largest contingent. Athletes will train under Olympic coaches at the U.S. Olympic training facilities in Colorado for about a month before the competition begins.

The Games will run May 10-14.

Garden City Marine helping with Haiti

In Uncategorized on January 16, 2010 at 1:47 pm

A member of a Marine unit based in Garden City is helping the Uniondale Fire Department organize a relief drive for Haiti.

The fire department is collecting bottled water, blankets, medical supplies such as medical tape, alcohol pads and hydrogen peroxide, toiletries and hygienic supplies, diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, pre-paid phone cards, and canned and dried goods, said Jason Ferris, who is an active-duty sergeant with the 1st Marine Corps District Headquarters.

Ferris, a volunteer firefighter with the Uniondale department, said members are particularly eager to rush aid to the stricken country because of Uniondale’s large Haitian-American population.

Members of the fire department, including Assistant First Chief Jean Laurent, were born in Haiti.

“We want to do anything we can to help those in need, from collecting donations to being ready to go and assist in the rescue and recovery effort,” Laurent said in a press release.

People who want to donate may drop off supplies at the Sherman Van Ness Fire Station, 154 Uniondale Ave., between noon and 6 pm today and tomorrow.

Ham radio helping with Haiti rescue

In Uncategorized on January 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Did the work of a Coast Guard Auxiliary who moonlights as a ham radio operator help rush aid to a local woman injured in Haiti’s earthquake?

(UPDATED SATURDAY, JAN. 17: Apparently his efforts were not a factor in this particular rescue. The victim’s brother was able to drive her to safety)

On Thursday, Ronald A. Tomo, the COMMs officer with Coast Guard Aux. Division 13 1SR, put out information to guide rescuers to the Haitian village where the woman – Jocelyne Sannon, of Westbury – had been visiting relatives.

But on Saturday, the woman’s husband, Lionel Sannon, said he received word that a brother-in-law had managed to drive her to U.S. officials in Port-au-Prince, and that she had been evacuated to a hospital in Jamaica.

But he said he appreciated Tomo’s effort.

Tomo, a vice president in the IT department at Nassau University Medical Center, had offered to broadcast rescue information on behalf of staff members at the medical center, where Sannon works. He said six NCMC staffers asked for his help.

“The ability to use technology to save lives is a very rewarding feeling,” Tomo said.

“They might not have even known to look for her there,” he said. “Its always nice in a disaster situation when you can put someone’s mind at ease.”

Tomo, whose call sign is KE2UK, said the message was relayed though a ham further out on Long Island, who relayed it to an operator in Portugal. The message was passed on from there.

Ham operators often do not make direct contact with the intended target, instead relaying messages through networks of volunteers. That is because radio communications are influenced by variations in the ionic field that flows past Earth, meaning indirect paths are often the best.

The AARL, an association of amateur radio operators, posted a message on its website encouraging ham volunteers who want to assist with the Haitian relief effort to be aware of the emergency operations on the following frequencies: 7.045 and 3.720 MHz (IARU Region 2 nets), 14.265, 7.265 and 3.977 MHz (SATERN nets), and 14.300 MHz (Intercontinental Assistance and Traffic Net); the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition (IRESC) is also active on EchoLink node 278173.

Early morphine curbs PTSD in trauma victims, study shows

In Uncategorized on January 13, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Morphine may be the magic bullet that kills post traumatic stress disorder before it develops, a study of troops gravely-injured in Iraq revealed.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the records of 696 severely injured Marines. It found that those who were given morphine during the early moments of their resuscitation were significantly less likely to later display the anxiety and depression associated with PTSD than those who were not administered the powerful painkilling opiate.

Researchers believe morphine’s effectiveness in curbing PTSD stems from blocking a patient’s memory formation following injury-causing traumatic events, and the fear response associated with them.

Their conclusions were based on the experiences of troops injured in combat and treated at forward medical facilities in Iraq between January, 2004 and December, 2006.

The researchers said their findings were similar to those obtained during a study of child burn victims published in 2001. That study also showed lower rates of PTSD symptoms among patients who got morphine early.