My cousin shared his story with me today. I knew he was a hero. I had no idea how much he had suffered.
To Whom It May Concern,
My name is Robert S—. I’m a medically retired Army veteran. I spent 12 long years on active duty serving my country. I joined at 18 years old, as have thousands of other young service men and women. I was an ignorant young man to say the least, when I joined. I knew nothing about the military, government, or pharmaceutical companies.
As I grew up, I was given a multitude of “shots” from different doctors throughout my childhood and on into my teenage years. By 1987, at age 8, I was diagnosed with ADD. I was unaware, as were my parents, what this diagnosis would mean for me. I struggled to stay on task more than other children in my classes, focus was difficult, and my parents and I fought frequently to keep me at passing levels. This pattern continued throughout my teenage years, as did my “vaccination schedule.” I was given a diagnosis of depression by age 13. I was withdrawn and sought attention in ways that were not healthy. I attempted suicide for the first time at 15, feeling that my only way out was death. I was able to overcome that episode and move past it but was still always searching for a way to stop my racing mind. I dropped out of school at 17 and decided to get my GED.
I was uninterested in most jobs and blew through several until I turned 18. I was intelligent, despite my lack of focus in school, and when I was approached by an Army recruiter, I decided to take the ASVAB with several friends of mine. I was the only one who passed the test. So, in September 1998, I shipped out to basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. During reception we were stripped of all tobacco and contraband. We were herded like cattle, no shirts, into a medical bay and administered several shots per arm. (By this time, we’d been awake for over 24 hours; sleep deprivation was part of the process.) I didn’t think anything of it because I’d always been told vaccines keep us healthy. After the injections, we were rushed outside and drilled. That was Day One. Day Two began at 0400, woken not by the drill Sergeant, but by the cold sweat that came after the fever that gripped me in the night. I tossed and turned until we were roused from our bunks at 0500. I was charged with KP duty (kitchen duty) that day. I felt like death but I was a Soldier in training, no fever was going to get me down. Twenty five minutes into my duty, I collapsed. I was brought back to the barracks to my bunk and given bed rest after being looked at by someone, I can’t remember whom. The next thing I remember it was Day Four. Still, I thought nothing of my multitude of shots, I assumed it must be a bug or something.
I made it through basic, graduated, and moved on to my AIT (advanced individual training) at Fort Lee Virginia, where I received more vaccines. This time the fever wasn’t nearly as bad and I was back on my feet the next day, with light duty. The flu shot had given me the flu but I was told that’s normal. I advanced through AIT and was assigned to my permanant duty station, which was right down the street in Fort Lee. I was assigned to the 54th QM company (Mortuary Affairs). By this time in my life, I was much stronger and mature yet still very ignorant to many things (I was still only 19). Inprocessing meant more shots, boosters to previous shots. I was accustomed to it by now. I knew I might have a reaction and even told the medical personnel such. Regardless, I was jabbed several more times. I followed orders and soldiered on. Within three months, I was preparing to go to war for the first time. The Bosnian/Kosovo conflict was in full swing and morticians were in high demand. Outprocessing meant several more shots I hadn’t gotten yet. I was hesitant but took them, as I was not permitted to reject them anyway. My anxiety had grown pretty bad by then. Each shot combination affected me in ways I was unaware of. I was never an anxious person, so I told myself it was because I was going to war and nothing else. My joints ached. I remember thinking, at 19 years old, why do my joints ache so much? Oh well, it’s because I’m very active, I told myself. I was given the flu shot again while overseas and again had contracted the flu. Then, I dislocated my left shoulder somehow, but shook it off and was back at PT (physical training) two days later. After my first tour I returned to my unit and was debriefed and inprocessed back into garrison life. More booster shots awaited. I was still very early in my career, not even a full two years yet. I was 20. My body hurt, my head hurt, all the time. I told myself it must be dehydration. Then, I was diagnosed with acid reflux disease, but have no clue how that happened. I was at my apartment off post, playing touch football with the young neighborhood kids and dislocated my left hip. The fall relocated it and I limped home and went to the Army hospital. Motrin and water, like usual. This one side-lined me for two weeks, but then I was running again, every day. Between 1998 and 2003, I was given more shots than I can remember and I contracted the flu every year after getting the flu shot. I was a young spec-4, soon to be Sergeant. The war in the middle east was in full swing, and I outprocessed to go to Afghanistan. By that time, even though I was strong and young, I had somehow dislocated both my shoulders several times and my ankles were always in pain, but I never stopped.
The anthrax scare was big and we were forced to take the newly redistributed anthrax vaccine, along with the smallpox vaccine. I was scared for the first time about shots. I was assured by the medical personnel that they were 100% safe and harmless, so I felt better. We were all given a series of 4 anthrax shots and 1 smallpox before we left, on top of all the other booster shots. I, along with many of my brothers had reactions to the anthrax shots. High fevers, constant night sweats, high blood pressure, and sexual disfuction. We were Soldiers, we marched on and did our duty because that’s what Soldiers do. Once we deployed, we were given two more anthrax shots. More of the same, fevers and swollen arms, one older guy developed a huge cystic lump under his arm where he had been given the shot, but was assured it wasn’t from the shot. Five months into my tour, it was time for anthrax number 7. I went to the medical tent and that was that. Another swollen arm and pain for a day or so. Three more months went by and it was time for some more boosters so I went to the medical tent and was informed that I’d be getting my anthrax number 7. I told them I had already had it and it should be in my records because I got it from the same tent. Well, it wasn’t in my record, and I was forced to get it again, along with several other shots. This time I was made to wait 10 minutes before I was allowed to leave and it was a good thing because I had a bad reaction to whatever combination of shots they had given me along with the anthrax. I passed out in the tent and woke up in the sick bay portion of the field hospital. I had IV’s in my arm and was feverish. I spent two full days there until my fever finally broke and I was allowed to go back to my post. By this point in my career I was fully aware that vaccines could cause side effects and weren’t as harmless as I was being told they were. My anxiety had grown considerably. I told no one about how my heart felt, how my mind raced constantly. I finished my tour in Afghanistan and returned to my unit at Fort Lee in 2004. Of course, debriefing and inprocessing wouldn’t be complete without flu shots! Guess who got the flu again? Shortly after my tour, I was promoted to E-5, Sergeant, and I spent my time doing lots of running and combat training. In 2006, I was promoted an E-6, Staff Sergeant. I was known for being a hard charger and great leader, thus I was selected to lead a team in Iraq. Outprocessing was no different than before, except that they had stopped giving us all anthrax shots. I didn’t know why, it wasn’t my business.
My body had started to get some pretty bad wear and tear, but by this time, I was only 26. My unit was deployed to Iraq and I was sent to Baghdad. I spent three months working with a SFC (Sergeant First Class) until an opening in Mosul called for a compitent SSG to run it. I was transfered to Mosul and flew in. I met my team and began mortuary operations. My sleep had become so poor that I was put on sleep medication. The constant shelling and threat of suicide bombers got to me and I was forced to seek counseling and started medication treatment. I did not waiver in my duties. I was given my flu shot and multiple others but did not care. I was in the grip of PTSD and had been numbed, so the side effects didn’t matter anymore. We finished our tour and got shipped back stateside in 2007, and that’s when I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. I was 5’7” and weighed only 145lb. The doctors couldn’t give me an explaination as to why I was so sick and in so much pain all the time. I was deployed again in 2008 and it was my turn to lead another team into Iraq; we were ordered to go to Balad that time. We were given more shots, which caused me more anxiety, more pain. I was four months into my tour as NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) when my body and mind failed me. I seemed physically fit, mentally capable but I was unable to carry the burden of my physical pain and mental anguish any longer. I was relieved of my position and flown back to Kuwait to finish out my last seven months of deployment there. When I got back stateside again in 2009, I was barely able to pass my PT test. At 28, my shoulders were locked up, my ankles were blown, and my hips hurt every time I walked,but yet I had never been blown up, taken any long falls, or engaged in hand to hand combat. Over the next year, I stayed in the garrison environment training Soldiers, but I was not the same. I could barely keep up with the slowest of us now. I was referred to the Army wounded warrior program, then transferred from Fort Lee Virginia to Fort Bragg, NC. I spent my last year there, a broken man at 30. My father can out work me and he’s 62. I have no predisposition of any illnesses in my family. My acid reflux, sleep apnea, joint pain and degradation, degenerative disk disease and mental illness can all be coincidental, sure. Or they can be part of the issue you can clearly see written in this statement. Thank you for the opportunity to express these words and I hope they help shed a bit of light on just how damaging forcing multiple vaccinations on small humans can be.
Robert S— (SSG Retired)