Military records will help doctors treat Billings veteran

by MTN News, David Jay

After 17 years, a Billings veteran will get some information that will help him and others involved in biological weapons testing as part of Project SHAD during the Vietnam war era.

The bi-partisan legislation was signed by the President on Tuesday, after passing with the help of Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

President Trump signed a bill containing the “Gary Deloney and John Olsen Toxic Exposure Declassification Act.”

“It’s very satisfying,” said John Olsen, a U.S. Navy vet. “It’s been a long haul. A long haul.”

Olsen started asking in the year 2000 for records that would help doctors treat him.

He says his 35 to 40 diseases and ailments came after exposure to biological and chemical weapons on tugboats near Johnson Island, 1,000 miles southwest of Hawaii in 1965.

“I don’t know for sure because my medical records are locked up, “he said about the causes for his health issues.

Olson said he may have been exposed to 18 biological weapons and has received limited information.

“The two on the data sheets are Serratia marcescens and Tularamia, which is rabbit fever,” he said.

After the tests, they used chemicals to clean up the biological weapons.

“Beta-Propiolactone and formaldehyde,” Olsen said. “We were using it by the gallon, When you clean something up so good that there’s nothing left in there, no living item at all, that’s the way we left it.”

While doctors can better help him if they know the weapons and chemicals, Olsen understands why they needed to keep the information classified.

“Been a lot of military secrets we wanted to keep, even those of us who were out there,” he said. “The details I don’t’ know. I doubt if I ever will. I’d like to, but it’s not going to make or break me.

Former Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., was involved with trying to pass some bi-partisan legislation as far back as 2004.

Olsen said he expects that his co-pays will be reimbursed soon.

As for the records, he says it may take as long as six months.