Undiagnosed War-Related Illnesses Target of New Veterans’ Nonprofit

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May 25, 2014; Washington Post

What would you do if your illness were inexplicable, not fitting into any known categories? Remember the 1976 outbreak of what eventually became known as “Legionnaires Disease” due to a previously unknown strain of bacteria causing a deadly version of pneumonia? It must be much worse for military veterans returning from overseas engagements with diseases that simply defy current medical knowledge.

In Falls Church, Virginia, Dan Sullivan’s brother, a Marine sergeant who had been ill the four years since he had returned from Iraq, died one day, sitting in his chair, his medical records at his side. Tom Sullivan hadn’t committed suicide or imagined a list of ailments, but succumbed at the age of 30 to a pneumonia that couldn’t be explained, other than having had something to do with his deployment in Iraq.

Five years after Tom Sullivan’s death, his family has established the nonprofit Sergeant Sullivan Center for the study of “undiagnosed post-deployment illnesses.”

After the 1991 Gulf War, some veterans returned with “Gulf War syndrome,” an ailment with such symptoms as respiratory, heart, and bowel problems accompanied by chronic pain. (Doctors called it “chronic multisymptom illness.”) Tom Sullivan’s disease might have been similar, with a host of real but unexplained symptoms.

“I saw him suffer in terrible pain, terrible fear, because no one was explaining what was happening to him,” Tom Sullivan’s mother, Jeanne, said. “He thought he was alone.”

The new organization might not be the source of scientific cures, but it might help the ailing veterans’ complaints get the serious treatment they deserve. “What we’re really concerned with…is not so much what he died of,” Peter Sullivan, Tom’s father, said, “but how he was treated when he was alive.”

The Sullivan Center has already raised $250,000 for research into the causes of some undiagnosed illnesses, but Craig Postlewaite, the director of force readiness and health assurance at the Defense Health Agency, emphasizes the need to focus on treatment for these long-suffering veterans rather than getting “too hung up on the cause.” Dan Sullivan concurs, saying, “The target of our grants thus far has been on diagnosis over cause — i.e., you can diagnose cancer even if you do not know the cause. There has been very little funding on diagnosis of the unexplained, which is why we focused on this issue.”

It’s actually a mix of the two. Remember how Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder sort of sneaked up on the public? The challenge was twofold: exploring what was really behind PTSD while also getting PTSD-sufferers the treatment they needed. That will be the challenge for the Sergeant Sullivan Center.—Rick Cohen


This article has been altered from its initial release. Tom Sullivan’s father’s name is Peter, not Dan.

  • lemonfoundation

    – Dr. Lorraine Day on Cptn. Joyce Riley’s military show THE POWER HOUR (09/12): “…HIV-Negative AIDS cases falsely reported and treated as CFS cases may be one of the biggest cover-ups we’ve ever seen…”

    – In 1992 (i.e., after Gulf War 1) “…Newsweek made an even more shocking announcement: …CFS patients who had the same immune system deficiencies as the NON-HIV AIDS cases…”

    – Dr. Judy Mikovits stated on In Short Order (11/12) about CFS & Myalgic Encephalopathy (ME): “…consider this as NON HIV AIDS.”

    – Neenyah Ostrom’s book “America’s Biggest Cover-up: 50 More Things…CFS & Its Link To AIDS” cites: “Some CFS Patients May Be Non-HIV AIDS Cases.”

    My case goes up through the NIH, CDC, White House, WHO, to the UN. I testified federally in Washington-DC, and am published 27 times on 4 continents (including People’s Voice, FROM THE TRENCHES WORLD REPORT, RealNews24, PFLAG, ProHealth, UK Progressive, & Black Men’s Magazine).

    E.g., http://www.ukprogressive.co.uk/the-aids-like-disease-seldom-mentioned/article20891.html

    I hope that you’ll spread-the-news too (e.g., post on Facebook/Twitter, write story, add to e*News).

    In the fight for humanity,

    11+ years of perfectly-cited research (books, documentaries, interviews w/scientists, etc.) including my federal testimony –>


    Or simply google “NON HIV AIDS”

  • lemonfoundation

    Cptn Joyce Riley’s THE POWER HOUR:

    “A medical cover-up? GASP! Surely neither government nor our trusted doctors and pharmaceutical companies would never cover-up the truth regarding a contagious disease – right?

    Wrong. Many believe that HIV-Negative AIDS cases falsely reported and treated as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome cases may be one of the biggest cover-ups we have ever seen…”