As injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans come home, veterans of an earlier conflict are still suffering, and now a new study is recommending an increase in funding for research into Gulf War illness.
Gulf War veteran Anthony Hardie of Madison says the just released study confirms what he and his fellow veterans have maintained for years: "that Gulf War veterans are ill, that Gulf War veterans are ill far above and beyond the level of illnesses amongst their counterparts, that the illnesses have continued to plague them, and that between 175,000 and 210,000 of the 697,000 veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War remain ill." Hardie is National Secretary and Legislative Chair for the group Veterans of Modern Warfare , which held a press conference in Washington D.C. on Monday, just after the study findings were presented to Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake.
The study from a medical advisory panel suggests pyridostigmine bromide pills, given to protect service members from nerve agents, combined with common pesticides to produce their symptoms. "That's one of the most significant pieces," to come out of the report, says Hardie. "One fourth to one third of all Gulf War veterans from the 1991 war are suffering from chronic multi-symptom illness," he says. "It's been debilitating for the vast majority of us." Hardie says his symptoms began with respiratory issues before he even left the Gulf. He eventually suffered from chronic fatigue, a complaint of many Gulf War vets: "I'm far from unique here."
The study recommends an increase of money for research into Gulf War illness, from five million to sixty million dollars annually. Hardie calls the report a "bittersweet victory" for Gulf War vets from the U.S. and other countries. "We are aware of significant numbers of ill Gulf War veterans in the coalition countries," such as the U.K., Australia and the Czech Republic, Hardie says, noting that Lord Morris of Britain's House of Lords, who participated in the Washington press conference, called the findings of the study definitive, clear and comprehensive.