Veterans of "black goo" base to appear before Congress

Julia LeDoux
February 26, 2020 - 3:33 pm

Courtesy photo


Kim Brooks can’t forget the letters her husband, former Army Lt. Col. Timothy Brooks, wrote her in 2001 while he was serving at Karshi-Khanabad, a former Soviet air base known as K2 in Uzbekistan.

“My personal story has been 18 years in the making, since Tim told me, `I’ve been exposed to some pretty bad stuff,’” she said.

Kim Brooks will share her personal story with lawmakers Thursday at a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform’s subcommittee on national security. During the hearing, lawmakers will receive testimony from service members who allege they were exposed to chemical and radiological hazards when they were deployed to the base following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the subcommittee chairman and committee chairwoman Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney launched an investigation last month  and requested information from both the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration about potential contamination at the base following a series of news reports by McClatchy. 

Tim Brooks deployed to K2 in November of 2001.

“Before I knew it, he was in Afghanistan,” Kim Brooks said. “He was not there long, but he was there long enough.”

Kim Brooks said her husband told her there was “black goo” coming up from his tent and that he would wake up with “stuff” covering his face and coming out of his pores.

Tim Brooks returned home in the spring of 2002 and learned of his exposure to radioactive uranium during a post-deployment meeting, Kim Brooks said. 

Arlington National Cemetery

“We knew early on what he was exposed to, and I never stopped telling the story of Tim’s exposure there,” she said.

Kim Brooks said life for their family went on. By May of 2003, Tim Brooks was scheduled to deploy to Iraq. The couple was together at a pre-deployment meeting when Tim Brooks collapsed and had a grand mal seizure. He was dead of stage three astrocytoma brain cancer about 18 months later.

 “May 2004 was when I buried him, and I still feel that love today,” Kim Brooks said through tears. “We’ve all missed so much.”

At the time of his death, Tim Brooks was 36. The couple have four children and because he was active duty when he was diagnosed, Kim Brooks said the family received full military benefits.

“I was supported, my family was supported in a time of great anxiety and trauma,” she said. 

Kim Brooks said she had no idea that American service members remained at K2 until 2005 until the McClatchy investigation came out.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said. “How many thousands were exposed. I knew in 2002 that Tim was exposed to some very bad stuff. It’s unconscionable that our government knowingly kept them there and has denied, denied, denied these service members there due medical benefits.”  

Brooks discovered a Facebook group of K2 veterans organized by former Master Sgt. PJ Widener, Jr. and former Staff Sgt. Derek Blumke. Widener started the K2 Facebook group in 2012. Of its 3,000 members, 341 report they have cancer. According to Widener, hundreds of others say they suffer from health issues ranging from chronic migraines to nerve conditions. 

Courtesy photo

Blumke said the group has several goals: To investigate what happened at K2, to schedule joint hearings, to identify all service members who were deployed  to the base and tell them what they've been exposed to, and to medically treat everyone whose health has been impacted by their exposure.

“We are together in concert with all of these families trying to make their voices heard,” Kim Brooks said of her attendance at Thursday’s hearing. “That’s why I’m here.”

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has acknowledged publicly that service members who deployed to the base may have been exposed to toxic substances and has urged them to come forward to get help.

To watch a livestream of the hearing, go here

Reach Julia LeDoux:

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.