Staff Sgt. Moses Scarberry was a former high-school football player who could easily run seven-minute miles when he joined the military in 2001.
After convoys through sandstorms and exposure to trash burning in open pits during a tour each in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has changed. In a recent physical-fitness test, he couldn't complete a mile run without stopping to walk. "I felt like I was breathing through a plastic bag," said the 30-year-old military policeman with the West Virginia Army National Guard.
As another Veterans Day nears, lung problems have proved to be a persistent concern for those who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the military is struggling with how to address the phenomenon. Now, the Department of Defense is reviewing its policy of not requiring mandatory lung tests for troops amid growing outside pressure to take a harder look at what two wars in perennially dusty, sometimes toxic climates have done to soldiers' lungs and how to better handle these issues in the future.
Staff Sgt. Scarberry will get some disability compensation for below-average performance on lung-health tests. But because he was never tested before his deployments, it is impossible to know how much his lungs have actually deteriorated.
He also has also been diagnosed with constrictive bronchiolitis, an ailment known to afflict unprotected chemical workers, which most likely will get worse over time.
Other service members are in similar situations, because unlike many fire...
[Click here to see the rest of this post]