The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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May 25, 2014

"If I was a dog, they’d put me to sleep"

Valley soldier poisoned on homefront

NORTHUMBERLAND — Darren Troup is 42 and feels twice his age.

The Army veteran walks with a cane and is in constant pain.

Some of his teeth have rotted and are falling out. He can’t move the fingers on his right hand. His toes are swollen and he can’t slide on his shoes most times.

He needs medical help, but has given up on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, even though he believes his ailments originate from his time served at Fort McClellan, near Anniston, Ala., in 1990.

“The VA won’t get involved because they say there has to be a direct link proven between the ailments I’m suffering from and my service time,” he said.

But there is.

Fort McClellan was a virtual toxic waste dump in the late 1980s and 1990s, its environs poisoned by ionizing radiation and polychlorinated biphenyls.

PCBs.

The Environmental Protection Agency closed the fort in 1999.

“Before my time there,” he said from his apartment in Northumberland, “I worked at Wood-Mode. I didn’t have health problems. I never knew how bad things were when I was serving at the fort. After leaving the service, I was contacted by a woman that was sick and she was reaching out to other people who were based at McClellan.”

That woman, a former sergeant, asked Troup whether he ever had joint pain or back problems, whether he was getting sick.

“And I was.”

Troup, and others around the country, form a band of brothers affected by a dark secret: They were unknowingly poisoned by the environment at Fort McClellan.

And now that Troup needs medical assistance, he says he can’t depend on the VA to help. It seems, Troup says, that the VA doesn’t want to deal with anything having to do with Fort McClellan.

Instead, he is a patient at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville.

“My girlfriend drives me,” Troup says. “But the doctors there, they don’t know what’s wrong. I keep telling them it is because of the PCBs, dioxins and other chemicals we were exposed to on the base.”

About five years after he left the service, Troup began experiencing back problems.

“They thought it was sciatica,” he said. “I’ve been living with pain since 2005 until now. I see so many doctors. ... They just give me pills, not narcotics. Things like steroids.”

“If I was a dog,” he said, “they’d put me to sleep.”

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