Army Says US Soldier In
Iraq Dies Of 'Acute Leukemia'
Families Seek Answers About Soldiers' Deaths

By Deborah Funk

At least one family, and possibly two, want independent opinions on what caused the deaths of their loved ones after they became ill in Iraq.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Bellville, Texas, family of Army Spc. Zeferino Colunga requested medical records, personal effects and blood and tissue samples of the 20-year-old soldier.
Colunga, of the 4th Squadron, 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment, died Aug. 6 at Homburg Hospital in Germany, after he fell ill in Iraq. The family was told he had pneumonia and acute leukemia, his 19-year-old sister, Teresa Colunga, said.
"We gave the military my brother alive," she said. "They gave him back to us dead. I want to find out what happened."
The family is concerned that the Defense Department lacks the expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is not providing them with information they request, according to the letter.
"We as a family are concerned that we are not being told the truth," the letter states. The family wants "immediate access" to all personal effects and property, medical records, medical evacuation reports, staff journal reports, disease and nonbattle injury reports, pre-deployment screening reports, predeployment serum and blood, postmortem tissue and blood samples, postmortem medical reports, cause-of-death reports, epidemiological survey reports, endemic disease reports, vaccine injury reports and any other similar reports "that will assist us in understanding the cause of death."
The letter was drafted on the family's behalf by the National Gulf War Resource Center. The group sent a virtually identical letter to Rumsfeld in the name of the family of Spc. Joshua Neusche, 20, of Montreal, Mo., who died in Germany on July 12 of pneumonia. Neusche was with the 203rd Engineer Battalion. His family could not be reached for comment.
Since March, 18 U.S. service members in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have suffered severe cases of pneumonia and needed ventilation. Two have died, although defense officials said Colunga's case was not related to the recent pneumonia cases in Southwest Asia.
In all, defense officials say roughly 100 service members in U.S. Central Command have been diagnosed with pneumonia. The Army sent two teams, one to Germany and the other to Iraq, to investigate the causes.
"Currently, we have identified no infectious agent common to all the cases," the Army surgeon generalís office said in a statement. "Additionally, there is no evidence that any of the 18 serious pneumonia cases under review have been caused by exposure to chemical or biological weapons, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or environmental toxins. The review of the cases is being done in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
Defense health officials can't release data on the deaths without the next of kin's written permission. Officials say they have one unsigned letter that seems to be from the Neusche family but have not seen the letter from the Colungas. Copies provided by the National Gulf War Resource Center show both lack a signature and list the center as the point of contact.
Each family has been contacted by a doctor "to give them a conduit to ask medical questions," said Lyn Kukral, spokeswoman for the Army surgeon general. One family had been contacted before the letters were sent; the other had not.
Copyright © 2003
From S. F.
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) cancer of the lymph cells, a type of white blood cell
...ALL is thought to have many causes, including:
- exposure to radiation
- exposure to toxins
- gene or chromosome abnormalities that are passed on
from parent to child
- a poorly working immune system
- viruses that affect the immune system
Acute Nonlymphocytic Leukemia (ANLL) a kind of cancer that occurs in a specialized white blood cell
called a myelocyte.
... ANLL is thought to have many causes, including:
- certain chemicals, such as benzene and toluene
- certain genetic defects, such as Down syndrome
- cigarette smoke
- exposure to large doses of radiation
- some unusual viruses
From CM Ross
Hi Jeff,
Marie Curie and her daughters also died of leukemia, thought to have been induced by their work on researching radium. Many of scientific researchers who worked on radioactive materials later died of radiation induced cancer.
Take care,
Christine Ross




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