Richard Lee Amon - Private First Class, Military Police
Richard “Rick” Lee Amon, is a man of strong religious faith. An Evangelical Outreach Pastor, he employs his faith to help him in his work toward what he feels is justice for himself and other veterans who are ill and connect their illnesses to their time at Fort McClellan.
Rick enlisted in the U.S. Army as part of a personal plan for how he would manage to raise a son as a very young single parent. He set out on his path to become Army Military Police at age 17. Unfortunately, Rick says “the plan didn’t work out the way it was supposed to because of Fort McClellan.” The base in northeastern Alabama was his first stop in his Army career, for Basic Training and Military Police school from July to October 1980. Within five weeks of his arrival at Fort McClellan, he fell ill with digestive issues and missed a day of training. He was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. Prior to that Rick says he was very healthy. In fact, he was given a clean bill of health by a private physician after a full physical examination just prior to enlisting in the Army. Further into training his knees began hurting him.
He says, he wasn’t the only one. He remembers other fellow soldiers at Fort McClellan who became ill while training there. One was sick so often that they nicknamed him “sick call.” He believes the ground they trained on and in at the base was toxic and is part of what made he and his fellow soldiers ill. “We crawled through mud, through water and dirt – dug in it.”
He pushed through his health problems and made it through his training and to his first duty station at Fort Riley, Kansas. His health continued to deteriorate. “I was sick all the time.” He says that his duty at Fort Riley included working to control rioting Cuban refugee detainees. During one of the riots he sustained a back injury. “They gave me 20% [VA disability rating] because of it,” he says. In August of 1981, he was discharged from the Army with an honorable discharge for “unacceptable standards for retention, because I was sick all the time.”
Now, 27 years later, Rick lives with a list of diagnosed illnesses: fibromyalgia, COPD, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy in his legs, hips and fingers and he walks with the aid of a cane. Daily he takes a range of prescription medicines – 6 in the morning and 9 at night. He also has to use a CPAP machine for his sleep apnea. He has been unable to work for the last year because of trouble walking and his neuropathy issues. “I’m having trouble right now, just sitting here.” He expresses a great deal of frustration with his state representative – Mike Rogers-R - who he says has been blocking a bill – the Fort McClellan Health Registry Act - in the U.S. House of Representatives. Passage of such a bill is the first step necessary on the long road for Fort McClellan veterans to receive acknowledgement – and subsequent help – from the government for health issues related to their service at Fort McClellan. Rick says he is passionately committed to getting help for he and his fellow soldiers. “The storm’s just starting,” he says. “The devil told me to watch out the rain’s comin’ and I told ‘em I’m not worried about it because I am the storm.”
Listen to some of Rick's story in his own words in the audio clip above.