After a brief stay in Costa Rica to join anti-Castro efforts headed by exile leader Manuel Artime, Ruiz-Rojas returned to Miami and enrolled in barber school under the GI Bill. By the time he married in the late '60s, he was cutting hair on Flagler Street in a shop he would eventually own.

His medical records indicate he suffers from type 2 diabetes and a low sperm count and has had more than ten cysts in his spine, hip, and liver since 1967. Before leaving the service in May 1963, Ruiz-Rojas saw an Army doctor who detected a cyst in his lower back but refused to operate. A cancerous cyst in his right breast required a radical mastectomy in 1980. Male breast cancer is rare. For every 100 cases of this disease, less than one occurs in men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"When I had my breast cancer operation, I thought it was something that happened to thousands of other people," Ruiz-Rojas says. "But when for the second time I had a tumor in my spine that disabled me, I started making inquiries. I went to the University of Miami library and read literature and reached the conclusion that my problems were related to chemical exposure."

After that, he began studying Agent Orange. The defoliant was manufactured under military contract by several companies, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.

Vietnamese advocacy groups claim there are more than 3 million Vietnamese suffering from health problems caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange.

After first denying tests existed in the United States, the Pentagon acknowledged in 2003 that 5,842 U.S. soldiers and sailors were involved in experiments between 1962 and 1973 to determine the effectiveness of biological and chemical weapons. In the past several years, the Department of Veterans Affairs has processed some 278,000 new claims for Agent Orange by U.S. veterans.

The list of diseases caused by Agent Orange compiled by the Vietnam Red Cross and recently included in a study by the Congressional Research Service includes type 2 diabetes, various forms of cancer, and reproductive abnormalities. The VA keeps a similar list.

Ruiz-Rojas says the government should have a record of the Fort Jackson experiment. This U.S. Army installation is not listed by the VA as an Agent Orange test or storage site.

In 2008, the Board of Veterans' Appeals ruled against Ruiz-Rojas's Agent Orange exposure claim, which was originally filed in 1989. "The veteran claims the U.S. Army has 'lists' that contain the names of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. He does not state where these lists are located or if he is making the generalized statement that the U.S. Army should have a list of those exposed veterans," according to the VA board ruling.

Eight years earlier, the government responded to Ruiz-Rojas's Freedom of Information Act request in a letter that alleged it had no information about Fort Jackson Agent Orange experiments. Maj. James O. Farr Jr. of the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps suggested he follow up with Susan Fugate, an official at the National Agricultural Library of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Beltsville, Maryland.

"I talked to her on the phone, and she said they had lists of soldiers who participated in Agent Orange tests and that she would get back to me later. We never talked again," Ruiz-Rojas says.

(New Times contacted Fugate, who doesn't recall the conversation but says at the time in 2000, the library was "in the middle of the digitalization of records." She said chemical companies have some copyright. A cursory search through the Alvin L. Young Collection on Agent Orange did not reveal documentation of testing or storage at Fort Jackson, she said, but added that she would have her staff look through the material.)

Ruiz-Rojas exhausted his appeals within the VA in 2008. The following year, an appeals court refused to review the case.

Rafael Lorente-Salgado, a 68-year-old retired postal worker, also signed one of the affidavits in 1998 saying he was exposed to Agent Orange. Today, he is not so sure. "It may have happened," he said in a recent phone conversation, "but I don't remember it."

Two other veterans who signed affidavits — Juan Arrue-Palma and his cousin Orlando Guilarte-Palma — did not respond to phone calls. Ruiz-Rojas also has copies of prepared affidavits for two other veterans who died before they could sign them. Enrique Baloyra said in a phone conversation that his father, Enrique Baloyra-Herp, who was a University of Miami professor after his time in the Army, passed away in 1997 of a brain aneurism in his mid-50s.

Yet Carlos Ruiz-Rojas continues his quest. He received a civilian disability award from the Social Security Administration after the removal of his spinal tumor in 1988. He currently draws a social security pension of $985 per month but spends $104 of it on Medicare. He insists with undiminished sentiment that the U.S. government exploited his and the others' youthful enthusiasm to overthrow Fidel Castro as a ruse so it could carry out illegal and inhumane experiments.

"When you join the Army, you think that you will be going into the line of combat to fight the enemy and that you could die," he says. "The one thing you can't imagine is that they are going to use you as a guinea pig to carry out a chemical experiment that is harmful to human health."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
frankcossio
frankcossio

If you believe that soldiers in the US Army were sprayed with Agent Orange specially in the US, then you are a idiot. I was in the US Army as well, put in a closed room and exposed to tear gas for only approximately 10 seconds. Am sure that blocked arteries and high cholesteral that Murias suffers from is due to the Cuban style food he has eaten all of his life.

Our government is not perfect by any means, but lets think about this. Agent Orange in a closed room???? what happens after the doors open. Did the Agent Orange disapear? How come others in the service serving at that time have not suffer from Agent Orange symptoms, nor complained. Am talking about those according to Murias directly exposed (sprayed) and those thousand of soilders at that base.

Please stop with this nonsense, what are you trying to prove? Stop spreading lies and stop trying to be a hero when your not. I was also sent out in my t shirt during very cold mornings, "so what". This is part of training, preparing you for any and all potential posibilities.

I am a Cuban American and reject the slander against the US in this article.

Francisco Cossio

frankcossio
frankcossio

If you believe that soldiers in the US Army were sprayed with Agent Orange specially in the US, then you are a idiot. I was in the US Army as well, put in a closed room and exposed to tear gas for only approximately 10 seconds. Am sure that blocked arteries and high cholesteral that Murias suffers from is due to the Cuban style food he has eaten all of his life.

Our government is not perfect by any means, but lets think about this. Agent Orange in a closed room???? what happens after the doors open. Did the Agent Orange disapear? How come others in the service serving at that time have not suffer from Agent Orange symptoms, nor complained. Am talking about those according to Murias directly exposed (sprayed) and those thousand of soilders at that base.

Please stop with this nonsense, what are you trying to prove? Stop spreading lies and stop trying to be a hero when your not. I was also sent out in my t shirt during very cold mornings, "so what". This is part of training, preparing you for any and all potential posibilities.

I am a Cuban American and reject the slander against the US in this article.

Francisco Cossio

moalta
moalta

It is interesting to note that the lifespan of Cubans living in Cuba is longer than Americans.  They must be doing something right in Cuba.  Maybe the lack of American products and fast food is not such a bad thing.

angelbronxr
angelbronxr

What year there did this because I was there 1968 plus I went to v nam too I'm 68 year old

 
Miami Concert Tickets
Loading...