navigation...see below for text links
paul hanson
interview
Hanson is an active duty Marine based at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.  He and his wife Connie have two children, Amy and Jayce.  Jayce has severe birth defects which Paul and Connie are convinced are related to Paul's service in  the Gulf War. In November 1995, Life magazine published a cover story on the Hansons entitled - The Tiny Victims of Desert Storm: Has Our Country Abandoned Them?

A1 = Paul Hanson
A2 = Connie Hanson
Q: Did you have any symptoms in the Gulf--acute symptoms-- that you would expect from being exposed to a chemical agent?

A1: No, if you were suffering from any type of symptoms, then they would have been really noticeable. I mean if they were going to use any type of agent,-- it would be like a nerve agent or some type of blur or blister agent, it would been -- you would have noticed it right away, so.

Q: So how do you think -- though how can you explain then that you were exposed, but you didn't have any acute symptoms?

 

A1: Well, it all depends upon how far away we were when everything, -- you know, when everything was being destroyed. I mean you could taken a small amount or what have you of a certain type of agent. I mean if I was real close to it, then obviously I would have suffered from more acute symptoms than the person that was a little further away. You know, the symptom level would decrease the further away you were, your unit was, so it's hard to tell,.

A2: And everything effects everybody differently. Nobody can react -- nobody reacts from the same exposure, the same way because their bodies are all different.

Q: How do you know that? What has brought you to that conclusion?

A2: Because a lot of the soldiers they have more severe symptoms and there's a lot of different symptoms that have effected the soldiers.

Q: And you think it's because of varying degrees of exposure.

A1: Right.

Q: Paul-- how long after Jayce was born did you start to feel ill, or did you start to feel ill before Jayce was born?

A1: Well, it took a while. You know, I mean it took a while to have any sort of effect. I'm not really seriously ill it's just things that you notice that you know before I left to go to the Gulf -- I was, physically I was fine and then upon my arrival back home in May of '91,eventually, little by little, I started noticing small things like muscle aches, you know, I walk around tired all the time. You know fatigued and, I'm in good shape, I exercise a lot and you know and I shouldn't be tired all the time. Like I say, there's varying degrees.

Q: Did you notice these symptoms before Jayce was born or after Jayce was born?

A1: Well, it was pretty much before, during and after. I'd talk to Connie about it, and you know I'd say "hey, why am I so tired all the time?" you know, and then just the joint aches, you know, like in the knees and the elbows. I mean too young for any type of arthritis or anything-- I'm 34 years old.

A2: He is very fortunate because there are soldiers that have lost their life and their families deserve some recognition and answers also.

Q: Paul, what exactly do you believe is the cause of your illness?

A1: It's a combination of all the stuff that we were exposed to. I believe it's the oil wells burning out of control for such a long period of time and us being exposed to that, taking the tablets to inhibit any type of contact with nerve agents and stuff like that. Stuff was -- it was never approved by any type of medical personnel. I mean it's just something, here just try this out on you and see what happens, and I wouldn't mind doing --you know I'm a soldier, I'm gonna do what I'm told, so.

I didn't like the idea that someone tried to sneak one in on me and the soldiers that were there with me, I thought it was something that somebody just should have been straight forward and say "look, this what we're doing, this is what this is for." You know, just bring it straight up front before we even go anywhere. very time we get sent out on deployment they say you have to get 100 shots before you go. Okay, you know, what are you sticking in me, I want to know what this is for,.

Q: Do you believe that the government knows that chemicals are responsible for your illnesses, the veterans illnesses?

A1: By sending me a letter telling me that your unit was in the certain area when bunkers were destroyed that contained weapons of a chemical nature, I mean that's telling me right now that they know. I mean if you're gonna send me a letter -- they've pretty much answered that question theirself and I believe they do know, yes.

Q: Why wouldn't they want to admit it?

A1: Because -- we're talking about soldiers -- such a large contingency of soldiers. This is the largest contingency of soldiers that have been sent to another country since Vietnam -- in excess of 400,000 soldiers in one place and so many cases of children being born with defects. Husbands and wives that were in the Gulf that are suffering from various symptoms. I mean we're talking about something on a large scale and that's what I mean by nobody's willing to take a blame for something that -- obviously, it was a huge screw up somewhere and no one's willing to take the blame.

Q: Can you tell me the exact date of Jayce's birth? What's his birthday?

A1: He was born on February the 16th, 1992.

Q: Before Jayce was born, were you informed about his birth defect?

A1: No. Connie was due to have an ultrasound while we were still stationed in Germany and before we could have that done we wound up PCS into Fort Bragg and it kinda like fell through the cracks. I mean -- and even if we had known he was gonna be born in his condition, we still would have had him anyway.

Q: So then tell me what was it like when Jayce was born?

A1: That was a shock because not knowing, you know, I expected, you know, I have a daughter, she's totally healthy I mean so our next baby, obviously, you're gonna expect him to be you know the same healthy baby that you had before and it was like, "oh, oh, something wrong here" you know.

Q: Paul has said that you didn't see your son, or he was wrapped up, and Paul had to tell you.

A2: Well, I don't think he really knew how to explain Jayce's problems at first because Paul and I had never seen a child like Jayce before and to try to explain to a person something you haven't seen before is kinda hard and you know to say "you're child doesn't have arms, you're child's legs are so twisted up that he'll probably never walk" how do you really know there's a problem, how do you come out and say that this is the problem when it's so severe, and these were the minor things. We saw the obvious physical problems, but we didn't know that he also had inner problems too.

A1: Jayce almost died a couple of times. I mean you know he had such a bad blood disorder that he spent a month in the hospital. I mean he went through so much more pain in two or three months than I'll probably go through in a lifetime. I mean you know, so that's probably why he's still so strong now, you know, but see -- you know that's all past, fine, you know we made it through that, but what people have to understand is that there's still a long way to go with him. I mean he's only five years old, you know, so I mean later on when he realizes you know what -- you know that he -- he's starting to realize that now I think that he's different and I'm pretty sure that later on he's gonna say "why am I different" and we're gonna have to come up with an answer, and what I want before that time, before that question ever comes up I want to be able to tell him the truth at least, not saying "well, hey buddy I don't know" you know, 'cause that's not right. You know that's not right for anybody that you know -- just because some individual or some group or whatever wasn't honest for me doesn't mean I have to be that way, so.

Q: Could you explain to me exactly what Jayce's birth defects are?

A2: When Jayce was born, he was born with no upper or lower arm bone and his wrists connect at his shoulders. Before he had his legs amputated, his legs were bent and twisted up like if you can imagine sitting indian style most of the time, this is how his legs were. They were the obvious birth defects that we knew about at first. He had been home about three weeks and he wasn't eating right, he was throwing up and everything, and he wouldn't keep his formula down and we -- he had a -- he started bleeding and his bleeding wouldn't stop, and he had diarrhea and that's how his blood kept coming and coming and he had to go and be medivac'd to a hospital where he received some transfusions and to get his blood all straight again and we didn't realize that this was a problem also.

A1: He had an extremely low platelet level. You know a certain amount of platelets you're supposed to have in order for your blood to cauterize. You know, people that are hemophiliacs have such a low platelet level that you know what I mean, when you cut 'em, then they just keep bleeding and keep bleeding and they're not -- so that was what he was suffering from, and if it drops down below 13,000, then it's a major concern, so.

A2: It's very dangerous.

Q: When Jayce was born how did the doctor explain the cause of his birth defects?

A2: There was no cause that he knew of right at the moment. We went and did genetic testing and the testing didn't show anything that would be a problem.

A1: Well, what they asked -- naturally thought it could have been a chemical imbalance in one of the two of us, then the obvious question came up-- the drug that they used back in the 1950s, thalidomide, they had all those children who were born with similar birth defects, but she didn't take it -- it was hard to get her to take an aspirin while she was pregnant with Jayce let alone, you know, something that would be so devastating to a child. I mean she doesn't drink, doesn't smoke...very careful with whatever she ate, but -- that was the obvious question and she got tired of being asked, did you take any drugs.

Q: When did you make the connection that Jayce's birth defects were caused by your service in the Gulf?

A1: Well, all of the stuff that we went through during my time spent there and he being conceived nine months to the day, pretty much,that I return, I started thinking, maybe this had something to do with it and then all the questions were being asked were we exposed to anything, and then the news coming up that we were and you know then it started -- the pieces of the puzzle started.... I'd say "hey, look, this had to be what happened."

A2: And the doctors ask also about exposed to chemicals, even with the electrical type devices that sometimes -- being close to power plants and things like that, did we live near anything like that and I said "no, we didn't" and what about chemicals and things like that, and, of course, "ding", in our mind - chemicals. My husband was exposed to chemicals in the Gulf War and he knew that and I knew that, but we can't say that's what happened, but it was a factor.

Q: Connie, what do you think should be done for all the veterans and their families who are suffering?

A2: I hope that they will receive the medical care that they need, I hope that research will be done where soldiers and service members won't have to be put in this position again where they'll have to wonder about their families and they'll have to wonder why won't the government help me with my problems, why won't they believe me, why won't they take me at my word and say "yeah, something is wrong with you and you do need help, and we're here to help you."

A1: I believe that there was a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering due to this. It was just totally unnecessary. I mean we saw guys that were in such bad shape you had to feel sorry for them, or their children and they're like oh, this -- my problem is not nearly as bad as this person's and they really need help and we were more than willing -- I mean I've done this more than once. I spent ten months in Bosnia as well -- You know, I put the uniform on, that's my job, I'm a soldier, okay this is what I'm supposed to do, but if something's wrong, and I know something's wrong, and I tell you, then I expect you to believe me and I don't expect to be you know pushed aside, you know. I think we should be taken care of a lot better than what we are. You know, granted everything -- being a soldier is good, it is. I like what I do and I've already expressed that, but I believe that there are better ways of handling things than the way they've been handled in the past, you know, as far as this situation goes.

Connie and I kinda parallel each other on our thoughts on this, and -- I believe the same would apply to her. I mean she'd probably want something a little more, but that basically it right there. You know, just to be able to tell somebody "hey, this is what happened" and feel good about it, feel good that I told you the truth, okay. So that's pretty much it.

Q: So you're waiting for an answer to tell your son ...

A1: Right. Right, absolutely.

 

 
home . join the discussion . analyzing the major theories . five interviews . the veterans . a closer look . examining the media's role . a guide to the site . comparing gulf veterans' health with other veterans . tapes & transcripts . press reaction

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

PBS Online

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

Prison StateApril 29th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS