Honor the Contract
This article was reprinted with permission from Widesmiles.org.
GULF WAR HELL
by: Diane Gates Dulka approx March, 1995
Let me begin at
the beginning so you can better understand why I feel
compelled to write. Five years ago yesterday my hell
began. That was the day the Gulf War began. My husband
Joe was a National Guardsman with the 143rd MP Company
here in Connecticut. His unit was activated and sent to
Saudi to guard Iraq POW's.
He was gone 4 months. I was left home with our then
4-year-old daughter, Lindsay. I did well when Joe was
away. I held down the fort and managed to get through
the long days and nights by forming support groups and
networking with other wives. When Joe returned he
received a hero's welcome.
We had been trying
to have another baby since my daughter was two, but we
had not been successful. I had one blocked tube and my
ovulation time and uterus were not working on the same
clock. I got pregnant one month after my husband's
return from the Gulf. I was so happy. This child was a
miracle. A gift from God.
When Joey III was born, he was born with a cleft lip
and palate. I had never seen a child with a cleft,
but I had heard of it and knew it could be repaired. The
cleft never really bothered me. This child was a gift
from God. Who was I to question what God had sent me?
When Joey was first born I was visited by a
representative from a local cleft palate team. She was
just wonderful. I connected with her instantly. She
explained everything that would be done and left me with
a complete feeling of confidence and ease to handle the
Unfortunately, Joey's cleft became the least of my
concerns. I have a bleeding disorder called ITP. Joey
was born with this disorder. He was born with 11,000,000
platelets. Normal range is between 150,000,000
and 300,000,000 platelets. He was treated with steroids
and blood transfusions. After 40 days, children born
with this condition return to normal. Those first 40
days with Joey were touch and go.
During this time I discovered that my husband didn't
have a clue as to how to handle my son's cleft. He
blamed himself and suspected that something had caused
this that he had been exposed to in the Gulf.
I never understood this self-blame. I never placed blame
on anyone, including myself. I believed that God had
sent me this child because He knew I could handle it,
and I considered it a challenge. When Joey gained weight
and thrived I was on a cloud!
I soon learned that my husband was so self-absorbed in
guilt and shame that he couldn't bring himself to even
feed his son. I had to take total control of Joey's care
and feedings. I learned to be even more independent than
I had been when my husband was away at the Gulf. Little
did I know this was God's way of prepping me for more
After my son's second surgery, my marriage began to hit
rocky points. I grew tired of doing it all with no
support from my husband. My husband was slowly becoming
a stranger. He was turning into a depressed, miserable
man. Where did my husband go?
I soon found out. After 8 months of deteriorating health
my husband was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic
cancer. He was given 3 to 6 months to live. He was
37 years old.
The day this happened, the light came on for me. All my
questions were answered. This explained why my husband
was acting so strange. When Joey learned his fate,
everything became clear to him - - why he couldn't be
who he was and why he would feel like he had no control
over the way he was acting. In a strange way, it was a
relief to know that our marriage was as good as I
remember and there really was a "why". It wasn't us to
blame, it was the cancer that changed this man and
strained our relationship.
I brought my husband home in June 1994 and cared for him
in our home. He died on August 28, 1994. We were blessed
with some time to say the things to each other that
people never get to and regret it later. The time that
we had gave us all time to absorb what was happening.
After Joe died I began to investigate the rumors I had
been hearing about the Gulf Veterans. In a very short
time I learned that 85% of the
veterans were sick. Cancer rates were way too high and
according to the Association of Birth Defects in
Florida, Clefts and other birth defects were higher than
normal among Gulf Veterans.
I quickly became a Veteran Activist. The Veteran
Administration has denied my survivor's benefits three
times and continues to turn away its Gulf Veterans and
their families. I have become very outspoken on this
issue. Over the past year and a half since Joe's death I
have been to Washington twice to speak before the
Presidential Committee on Gulf War Syndrome, and the
Scientific Committee on Gulf War Syndrome, and became
President of the Gulf War Veterans of New England, CT
chapter. I am also trying to raise funds for a program
designed to eliminate from the body the toxins and
chemicals these veterans were exposed to. They have had
great success in treating many Vietnam Veterans and
others who were exposed to pesticides and job related
No, I have not buried my grief in a cause. I have turned
my anger into motivation. I have used this situation to
try to do something good. It would serve no purpose to
allow myself to sink into a deep depression. I have
grown and learned more during the past few years than
most people have in a lifetime.
I returned to school last summer. During my class I met
the Director of the School. After I completed my class,
the Director asked me to become the assistant of the
school. It is a great opportunity for me. I usually
worked part-time when my children were born so I could
devote my time to my family. I am starting to feel
comfortable being alone and I know now that God was
preparing me slowly over the last 5 years for this new
I have now learned to look at whatever comes my way as a
new challenge. My daughter Lindsay, now nine, keeps me
running with her activities. My son keeps me going with
the sparkle in his eyes. Each new sound he tries in
speech therapy he tries with gusto and quite often I
look to him for my inspiration. He is now almost four
years old and in nursery school and doing well.
When I read WIDE SMILES I usually wind up in tears
reading about these children. These are not tears of
sorrow, they are tears of joy. All of these children are
truly gifts from God. They bring us tears and joy. I
consider it an honor to have been chosen to be the
recipient of such a beautiful child.
Permission granted to
JoSmiles@aol.com I am most certain
Diane would not have a problem with you using
her story. Nor would i. Joanne