The Post Deployment Health Crisis: Multimedia Spotlight on Theater Environmental Exposures

For More Information, See Videos on the Sergeant Sullivan Center YouTube Channel.

Post-Deployment Perspectives: VIDEO, SOUND, and PICTURES

Explore Filmmaker Nina Berman’s Poisoned While Deployed Video Series:
Profiles of Veterans Struggling with the Effects of Theater Environmental Exposures
Berman’s film project, which you can explore by clicking on photographs and links below, was commissioned by an advocacy group to document health problems associated with the use of open air burn pits to incinerate trash in Iraq and Afghanistan, a refuse disposal process which is prohibited by environmental protection policies and known to carry significant health risks. Despite scientific uncertainty on a causal connection between burn pit use in theater and all post-deployment diseases, continued investigation of this issue reveals war’s devastating health impacts. Recent reports have associated post-deployment diseases with dust and smoke inhalation as well as other theater exposures; much of this research began by efforts to address the unique health threats posed by burn pits use.


“We had epidemiologists look at the information and look at the different illnesses and they were saying basically the numbers [of sick Veterans] were jumping off the charts and there are problems here and even if its not burn pits there is something in Iraq and Afghanistan that appears to be causing problems.” 
Kelly Kennedy, journalist. (pictured below)


Halfway through deployment I ended up getting a cyst on my hand … Since  I’ve been home I’ve had [heart issues, kidney issues, liver issues] and over 40 surgeries to remove the cysts. The doctors get frustrated, because they don’t know what to do anymore.”  William Krawczyk, injured Veteran (pictured below) “Every civilian doctor we’ve gone to has said this is the result of some kind of exposure,” says Krawczyk’s wife.


“I’m 44 years old and I feel like I’m 80. When I left for Iraq I had 20/20 vision, I had proof of that. When I came home I was having trouble seeing. I have three lesions on the left side of my brain and one attached to my left eye. Now my head aches are starting to wrap around and I’m starting to have them all on my right side … I’ve got a softball size infection on my colon. I walk with a cane but not long distances because I’m out of breath. I don’t want to die and I didn’t do this to myself. I went over there and fought for our country and I come home and it seems like every time I turn around somebody’s turning their back on us.” 
Tim Wymore, injured Veteran (pictured above)


War Related Illness: It’s physical. It’s real. And it’s taking lives.

Post-Deployment Perspectives: DATA, WORDS, and STORIES
Where the VA and DoD report a lack of interpretable data regarding the post-deployment illnesses devastating families, grassroots efforts of those impacted have produced abundant cries for help from Veterans who served the nation in the post- 9/11 wars. Facebook and other internet sites are the primary means of connection for those suffering in diaspora and without effective public support from this health crisis. Many victims of environmental exposure associated illness found one another through survivor Jill Wilkins’ Burnpit Facebook page, which she founded in 2009 and operates in memory of her late husband Major Kevin Wilkins, as she explained in a story shared with filmmaker Nina Berman; the page provides connection to those who would otherwise suffer in isolation and is liked by 2,185 followers. The Burn Pit Action Center is a website where over 150 have told their stories. Rosie Torres, an advocate and wife of a sick Veteran, has registered 1200 Veterans with deployment exposure associated illnesses through the Burnpits360 project. On this and other websites, Veterans post stories in their own words of their experience with post-deployment heath concerns.
Explore Stories of Veterans With Exposure Associated Illness in their Own Words
These are the voices of those who are sick and have been left behind.

Personal Stories:               

I was in excellent physical condition but find my quality of life deteriorating …”

“When I returned from my last deployment my lymph nodes swelled to about the size of golf balls … My health has steadily declined over the last 3 years. I just recently found out that I have anauto-immune disorder … My symptoms range from massive headaches, fatigue, frequent urination and bowel movements, tingling in the extremities and back pain…to name a few.”
“I now have IBS, and bleeding intestines, as well as polyps and glowths in my colon.  Two of the guys that I was at Balad with have died of intestinal cancers, and I’m terrified.”“Post deployment I have … not been able to run without being … out of breath … Other issues I’ve acquired since: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, Migraines… the list goes on…”

“… research concluded I only had athletic induced asthma …  I passed out twice and was taken to the ER … I was continually told that I … needed to stop stressing out because that was causing me to pass out. I have been coughing up blood and a black substance from time to time …. Now the doctors blow me off …I just wanna be healthy again…  all I want is to be me again please anyone with advice to me help me I will do anything to feel better…”

Quotations above are from original entries by Veterans published at The Burn Pit Action Center website was created by Will Jenkins as the central information clearinghouse for burn pits with assistance from the office of Congressman Tim Bishop, Kerry Baker from the Disabled American Veterans and Kelly Kennedy from Army Times. There is no association between the Sergeant Sullivan Center, these individuals, or the Burn Pits Action Center website or other website referenced. The excerpts are being quoted here by the Sergeant Sullivan Center as a public service to promote awareness of the post-deployment health crisis and grassroots efforts to address it. The Sergeant Sullivan Center believes that theater environmental exposures are a legitimate, likely, and testable theory of causation for post-deployment illnesses that must be investigated and that open air burn pits are among several heath risks, including dust inhalation, meriting investigation.


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