Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 December 2012 There but for fortune…

Decades after a risky Cold War experiment, a scientist lives with secrets.

Vets feel abandoned after secret drug experiments
By David S. Martin, CNN
March 1, 2012 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)

Cassi Creek:  There are times when, despite your best efforts, the universe is functioning in such a manner that you can’t win.  In the cosmic competition for what we feel to be our share of the pie, the dice are always loaded, the deck is always stacked, and the house has all the advantages.  We may think we have a system, or we may think we have the games figured out.  That lack of applause is the universe inhaling in order to laugh at you. 
          I spent most of the summer of 1968 at Fort Sam Houston, training as a combat medic.  The class content included ward duty – taking care of patients who had not yet become shot, who had survived being shot, or who needed medical care of some other manner.  However, we all knew that we’d entered the pipeline and we all knew where the pipeline spilled its contents. 
          The manpower needs for the 1968, post Tet Offensive army were high.  A large number of non-English speakers had been scooped up and added to the mix.  The result of this was training companies that contained men unable to understand the training material and unable to pass even the simplest written exam, necessary to document completed training before they were assigned to save the lives of wounded. 
          From my training company, three of us were encouraged to become tutors; working after evening chow to help the non-English speakers assimilate the class material.  Our reward was a guaranteed pass every night until Taps, and every weekend.  We also escaped some of the more odious housekeeping duties. 
          I recall discussions about an assignment option that involved testing medications, antidotes, and other things beneficial to the combat troops in general.  If I recall correctly, the recruitment drive took place in the evening, while I was tutoring.  It had been presented as an altruistic thing to do that would prevent assignment to VietNam, the ever-present carrot.  Looking back, I can’t say if I would have taken the bait or if I had already lost my confidence in the benevolence of the Army.  I know that a couple of men in my rotation were assigned to the program.  Beyond that, I have no recall of any who became guinea pigs. 
          The reports surfacing now are frightening.  The use of nerve agents, while the results may be beneficial, is horrifying.  From what I know of designer drugs, it appears that some of the “volunteers” had too much, too fast, and wound up with partially fried gray matter. 
          .  I can only imagine the difficulty the victims have had; incurring Parkinson’s by 20 years of age, yet unable to obtain any VA compensation for injuries received in Army sponsored research. 
          I’m lucky, in that my “atypical Parkinson’s” most likely due to Agent Orange exposure, has only manifested in later life.  I have some chance of obtaining compensation from VA.  When, and how much, remains to be determined. 
          For which ever reason I missed selection for one of these programs, I’m extremely grateful.  I didn’t beat the house, but I may have broken more or less even. 

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