The history of the National Guard dates back to the militias mentioned in the United States Constitution. Those militias were state organizations, but became part of a larger organization during the Civil War when the regiments for the Union Army and the Confederate Army were provided by state volunteers initially. Before it was over, both sides had initiated a draft, filling the replacement ranks with conscripts.
The National Guard remains a state-federal partnership however, with Guard units maintained by state organizations but in many cases trained by United States Army regulars. Since the end of World War II the National Guard has played a much more prominent role in the country’s military infrastructure, providing troops during periods of need while the regular army has become a smaller institution. This transition was altered somewhat during the Vietnam era when the draft was reactivated, but in recent decades the National Guard has become a higher quality military organization, in the sense that members receive excellent training and are expected to participate more often in organized drills.
History of National Guard Asbestos Exposure
The dated facilities that have characterized National Guard units for decades are examples of military facilities that have not received the upgrades found in regular Army bases and training locations. Part of that upgrade process over the last forty years has been removal of the asbestos floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roofing, siding, insulation, and cement that was used liberally in the military construction boom of the 1940s during World War II and 1950s when the Cold War took shape. Several generations of National Guardsmen have been exposed to asbestos in the tired training facilities that are often employed for Guard activity.
The use of equipment with asbestos components also has extended to National Guard units, although to a lesser extent except for those members on active duty. To the extent that Guard units inherited older Army equipment they were exposed longer to vehicles with asbestos brakes, clutches, seals, gaskets, and insulating materials. Active Guard members responsible for the motor pool were routinely exposed to the dust generated by deteriorating parts that needed replacement.
In recent years the National Guard has become the major source of troops for overseas deployment. During Vietnam, our last major war, 23,000 National Guard members were activated. In 1991 over 75,000 were called up for Desert Storm, and since 9/11 huge numbers of Guard members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. These National Guard veterans may not have been routinely exposed to asbestos in domestic quarters, but the toxins they encountered and continue to encounter on active duty have had substantial impact. For some of these soldiers that exposure included asbestos.
Domestic Asbestos Exposure
Over 50,000 National Guardsmen were deployed in Louisiana and surrounding states following Hurricane Katrina. Those that ventured into the old homes and cottages in New Orleans to rescue residents were exposed to all sorts of asbestos construction materials in various states of ruin. There have been many other deployments for similar disasters that routinely put Guardsmen in harm’s way because they are working in rescue or security operations in locations where natural disasters have created significant wreckage of old structures containing asbestos.
National Guard Veterans and Mesothelioma
Mesothelioma is a lethal form of malignant cancer for which the only known cause is asbestos exposure. It takes an average of forty to fifty years after the asbestos exposure has occurred for the disease to develop. National Guard veterans exposed to asbestos in Kuwait or Iraq may not become have become ill yet, but those that do have the option of filing suit against the asbestos companies that manufacture the products to which they were exposed, if the exposure occurred in the United States and the companies can be identified.
If you are a National Guard veteran who has developed an asbestos related disease which you believe is related to asbestos exposure during the term of your Guard membership you may be eligible for compensation. Thousands of veterans have filed suit against asbestos companies and won. Contact our offices today and one of our attorneys will review your case with you – thoroughly, in complete confidence, and at no charge.