David Rodriguez's symptoms started with muscular back pain last summer. By the end of his seven-month stint in Iraq in August, the Army specialist had dizziness, diarrhea and blurred vision.
On Friday, Rodriguez, one of nine soldiers to become sick from the National Guard's 442nd Military Police Company based in Rockland County, said the symptoms persist.
Sen. Charles Schumer , D-N.Y. listens to Sgt. Herbert Reed as he speaks to the press Friday, April 9, 2004, in Queens, New York. Reed, one of the six soldiers who have fallen ill since their return from Iraq said Friday that the Army ignored their complaints about uranium poisoning from U.S. weapons fired during combat. (AP Photo/Zack Seckler)
"Right now," said Rodriguez, 31, a firefighter at Engine Co. 6 in Manhattan, "I have a headache, chest pains. I've had them for about three months straight."
Rodriguez joined five soldiers from his unit and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to draw attention to medical problems experienced by those who may have been exposed to depleted uranium in Iraq and to ask the Army to improve its testing and treatment policies.
The United States uses depleted uranium in weapons and tank armor. It is dense, and when shells containing it strike a target, radioactive dust is formed.
"According to the doctor, we inhaled it," Sgt. Agustin Matos said. "It was in the air."
Soldiers from the company, who include New York firefighters, police officers and corrections officers, said they began having symptoms while they were stationed in Samawah last summer.
Nine of the soldiers, after growing frustrated with the Army's testing process and treatment, were later examined by an independent uranium expert. Some of the soldiers said they asked the Army to test them and were refused.
The independent expert's tests showed four of the soldiers had high levels of depleted uranium in their systems. The others also remain sick, said the soldiers at the news conference in Fresh Meadows.
The story was first reported in the Daily News, and the Army this week began testing all of the soldiers in the unit.
Army spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told The Associated Press on Friday that the military would do "the right thing," and test any soldier concerned about uranium exposure.
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