U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) holds a copy of the lawsuit. Molly Ingram | WSHU

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. D-Conn., the Stronghold Freedom Foundation, the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center and the Yale Veterans Legal Services have filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

The lawsuit claims that the DOD is withholding information about toxic chemicals on military bases from Afghanistan veterans.

Veterans who were stationed at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan were exposed to toxic chemicals and hazards during their deployment, resulting in numerous health issues.

According to the lawsuit, veterans were not told which chemicals they had ingested or given medical care to address the exposure.

Blumenthal said the Department of Defense needs to provide that information immediately.

“The disclosure here is a national obligation, not Democratic or Republican,” Blumenthal said. “It is a national imperative that veterans receive the information they need to get diagnosis, treatment and justice.”

American troops were stationed at K2 during the war in Afghanistan. They arrived weeks after the 9/11 attacks and stayed until 2005.

Veteran Mark Jackson had planned to speak at the press conference but was instead admitted to the hospital for an illness that likely stems from his time at K2. Steve Nelson from the Freedom Foundation shared Jackson’s story.

“We went willingly, whether to fight or die, and many of us did both,” Jackson wrote. “We’re dying still. The government knows what poisons lurked in the air we breathed, in the water in which we bathed and drank, in the earth upon which we slept.”

“All of us would willingly do it again. We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution until death,” Jackson continued. “But we also entered into a contract with the U.S. government that sent us to K2: we took the bullets abroad, so that the battle never again reached U.S. shores. And those bullets, slow, toxic and deadly, are still moving through our bodies.”

According to a U.S. Army study, 75% of K2 vets will develop an illness related to their time on base. Their chances of developing cancer are 500% higher than those who did not stay at K2.

Veterans organizations have submitted Freedom of Information Requests to the DOD to find out what chemicals were present at K2. Those requests have been denied.

Advocates have said information about the specific toxins would help them get health and disability benefits from the VA.

(L-R)Kim Brooks, SFF Board Member and widow of Connecticut K2 veteran, Matt Erpelding, SFF Executive Director and K2 Veteran, Alison Weir, CVLC Executive Director, Steve Nelson, SFF Director of Government Affairs, Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Senator. Molly Ingram photo.

Blumenthal said he will personally deliver the lawsuit to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — and President Joe Biden, if necessary.

“Joe Biden knows better than most people how insidious toxins can cause brain cancer and other deadly ailments,” Blumenthal said. “I’ve talked to him about this issue. And I believe he is deeply sympathetic.”

Biden’s son, Bo, died of brain cancer. Biden has said he believes the cancer was caused by exposure to burn pits in Iraq.

This story was originally published April 3, 2023, by WSHU News.