Veterans, family members and dependents who lived at the now-closed George Air Force Base in California will hold a silent protest and memorial at the former base’s hospital Sunday morning to remember miscarriages and stillbirths caused by the facility’s extreme contamination.
The survivors plan to place hundreds of baby shoes and a plaque in the parking lot of the former medical facility to honor the children lost after their mothers were exposed to highly toxic substances at the base.
“We were unknowingly exposed to numerous toxins that have had devastating health outcomes,” the Military Accountability and Transparency Alliance, a group which includes and advocates for former residents of the base, said in a release. “The Air Force has yet to respond to these very serious issues concerning veterans and family members of the base. Despite their deafening silence, the families are holding the memorial ceremony in order to bring healing and closure to the thousands that suffered losses through the years of operation.”
George, located near Victorville, California, was declared a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1990, and closed in 1992. Efforts are still under way to clean up 33 hazardous wastes there, including old jet fuel in the water supply and excessive amounts of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOS and PFOAs. Trichloroethylyn, which attacks the nervous system, blood, kidneys, heart and immune system, also remains in the water and soil due to industrial solvents used to de-grease and clean jets there.
For decades, female service members stationed at George suffered medical complications, including fertility problems, birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages. Women were told — including, in some cases, by their doctors — “don’t get pregnant” at the base.
George joins Pease, Patrick, Wright-Patterson and Wurtsmith Air Force bases with communities now coming forward.
The alliance said that rates of reproductive issues with women stationed at George is far higher than the national average, and that it has submitted claims against the Air Force for what happened there.
The group says the Air Force covered up the full extent of the contamination at George and its effect on people there, and is withholding medical records. One former airman, Kate Kelly, told Military Times in 2018 that when she obtained her medical records from the Air Force, her pregnancy at George — which ended in a miscarriage — was not recorded there. Some pages of her own medical records had sentences redacted with a black marker, which is unusual.
The alliance asked people who would like to donate baby or preemie shoes for the memorial, or who wish to attend, email GAFBbabyshoes@gmail.com.