Cheryl Morris - Private First Class, Medic, U.S. Army Reserve

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Cheryl Morris was stationed at Fort McClellan for Basic Training from July 1983 to September 1983. “When I got there, I was healthy as a horse,” she says. 

She left Fort McClellan and became a Medic in the U.S. Army Reserve, in which she served for six years. By most standards, by the end of six years, she would have been at least a Sergeant or Staff Sergeant, she says that her health issues held her back and she was never promoted beyond PFC (Private First Class).  

While still at Fort McClellan, Alabama Cheryl began experiencing chronic sinus infections, bronchitis and upper respiratory issues. Those issues have followed her through her life since. In 1988, about five years, after leaving Fort McClellan, Cheryl had a sudden 30 pound weight loss in as many days. Tests did not reveal anything conclusive and there was no diagnosis offered. Soon after that she began to have early onset menopause and she says that it was suggested by physicians that her symptoms were psychosomatic. In 2013, Cheryl went to the emergency room with extreme pain in her abdomen. A CT scan showed an enlarged spleen and signs of cancer in all her lymph nodes. A few months later, an oncologist diagnosed her with Stage 4, Follicular non-Hodgkins Lymphoma - a cancer that ordinarily affects people in their 60s. This, she links back to the symptoms she began having in 1988.

Cheryl has now been treated twice for the cancer and is currently in her second remission. The first remission lasted 2 years. Her current remission has lasted 1 year and 4 months.  “I just don’t know from one day to the next - today I’m in remission, tomorrow I might be battling cancer again.”

Cheryl’s list of health issues that her civilian doctors have said they believed are linked to chemical exposures include: ulcer, hernia, degenerative bone disease, osteoarthritis, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), carpal tunnel syndrome, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, degenerative disk disease, and neuropathy. She has had one knee replaced, is currently in need of a second one, and has lost 2.25” in height over the last 3 years. She says that, due both to toxic exposure and chemotherapy she has lost almost all of her teeth and can’t afford the dental work for replacements since she lives only on Social Security disability.

Cheryl lost her husband to complications from Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam and now struggles to live each day with her health issues and limited income.

Her oldest daughter, 32 years old, experienced asthma and other breathing problems as an infant and now has allergies, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and chronic fatigue. Her youngest daughter, has experienced chronic sinus and ear infections, and pneumonia from the time she was 18 months old.

“It just goes down generation to generation. We pass this down to our kids and our grandkids.”

Cheryl says she lives with deep concern about what will happen to the children of the veterans as those children age and began having more health complications as a result of their parents’ exposure to toxins.

Memphis Barbree