21 June 2011

National Press Coverage - Stars & Stripes plus many more papers!

On 23 May, John Harris and I participated in a conference call w
ith the Mr Tom Philpott,  nationally syndicated writer specializing in military issues. He liked this blog and had noticed the surfacing of our concerns about flying contaminated aircraft without the Air Force notifying us, even after the fact. He has his article being publishing throughout the country Thursday night and into Friday (click here for download). He is no muckraker, but he does feel comfortable covering issues where military leadership might have let the troops down...like our situation!

What he wrote was up to him, of course. We offered our perspectives, with John representing the 731st and Wes Carter (me) the 74th AES plus the background of how we got momentum on this issue.

We told Mr Philpott our goals are:
1. notify former C-123K Provider crewmembers that the aircraft we flew were contaminated, especially guys from Pittsburgh and the 355th TAS at Rickebacker, and the maintenance troops
2. identify our folks who've passed from Agent-Orange issues over the years and get their families updated (if they wish to be)
3. turn to the VA and obtain recognition for having been exposed to AO contamination, and thereby, perhaps gain service-connection for the various AO disabilities. Service connection means the VA will treat it, and will compensate the veteran with a disability percentage which could mean over $3000 a month, tax free. But more importantly...we have friends who didn't retire and get TriCare coverage, or who aren't otherwise qualified for VA care...and this can mean everything to them, to their health, and to their families!
4. we want to understand from the Air Force why, after determining our aircraft were contaminated over 30 years after their last spray mission, was no notice made of the aircrews and maintenance personnel whose duty it was to serve that weapon system!

Background of Tom Philpott:
1. Coast Guard veteran
2. Decades of excellent coverage of a broad range of military issues...perhaps the most comprehensive understanding of the length and breadth of DoD issues of any journalist
3. Very concerned about the issue of Stolen Valor...where phonies claim medals they didn't earn, amaze their bar friends with vapor stories about their heroism as Rangers or Seals...the dishonorable men and women (some of them actual veterans) who steal the valor of others to inflate their own egos
4. When we called, he answered. How much more responsive and caring can a reporter be, reserving of course his privilege of telling the story as the sees fit.

So now you can easily Google C-123K cancer, Westover, aircrew, contaminated aircraft, John Harris, Wes Carter, Agent Orange, etc...you should see quite a bit of press coverage which the reporter tells us will continue to spread as other outlets pick up and flesh out in greater detail his brief columns. 

FYI: The Narrative with Cover link now provides an updated version of our basic position. Some typos have been corrected, a little different slant here and there, thanks to other veterans' groups for useful phrasing of an issue, and links within the text as well as in the Summary to better connect to source documents. The next set of documents will be from Hill AFB, whose FOIA package included the last survey of the Davis-Monthan collection, as well as some additional VA21-4138 support letter examples and Form 5s.

Finally, after the conference call I received another message from a scientist with the state of Oregon. He has looked over Patches' site survey showing "heavily contaminated", and responded with a very forceful and detailed letter using those results plus our hours aboard the 3 spray birds in the 731st to construct an argument for us to give the VA that we actually HAVE been exposed. HEY OUT THERE...go find your own scientists and ask them to look our data over. Your cities, counties and states have professionals in this field...tell them this is their chance to do something regarding Memorial Day other than head to the beach or check out the sale at JC Penny's! We need help...ask for it in the form of their support letters!

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