U.S. Army apologizes for treatment of soldiers

U.S. Army apologizes for treatment of soldiers exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq

 The undersecretary of the Army apologized Wednesday for the military’s treatment of U.S. service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and announced new steps to provide medical support to those with lingering health effects and to recognize veterans who had been denied awards.

Undersecretary Brad R. Carson acknowledged that the military had not followed its own policies for caring for troops exposed to old and abandoned chemical munitions that had been scattered around Iraq, and vowed improvement. He also said that the Army had reversed a previous decision and approved a Purple Heart medal for a soldier burned by sulfur mustard agent, and Carson said he expected that more medals would be issued to other veterans after further review.

“To me, the scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater,” he said. “That was a mistake, and I apologize for that. I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward.”

Carson was appointed last fall by Chuck Hagel, then the defense secretary, to lead a Pentagon working group to identify service members who had been exposed to chemical weapons and offer them medical screening and other support. The effort was in response to an investigation in The New York Times that revealed that the U.S. military had secretly recovered thousands of old and often discarded chemical munitions in Iraq.

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