Mark Cardenas, State Lawmaker, Living on the Streets of Phoenix This Week

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Pedro Ribeiro Simões via Flickr

In an effort to save a transitional-living facility for homeless female veterans, Democratic Representative Mark Cardenas will be living on the streets of Phoenix this week.

Cardenas is joining Seráh Blain, the executive director of local political-advocacy group Secular Coalition for Arizona, who's been living homeless for several weeks now, in an effort to fight homelessness with homelessness.

See also:
-Advocate for the Homeless Voluntarily Living on the Streets of Phoenix

Blain has said she's living on the streets until she's reached a fundraising goal of $56,310, or $2 per person who experienced homelessness in Arizona last year, per Arizona Department of Economic Security statistics.

According to her website, she's nearly halfway there, having raised nearly $24,000 for the women's shelter of the Madison Street Veterans Association

Now, Cardenas, an Iraq War veteran, is joining the fight to raise money for the women's facility, called MANA (Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force) House.

Cardenas made a request for Governor Jan Brewer to direct some funding to keep MANA House open in the short-term, but also to work funding into the budget as a long-term solution.

"If we let this place shut-down and turn these women back out on the street, it is just unconscionable," Cardenas says in a statement. "I can't sit by and see a program which is helping women vets get back on their feet, overcome challenges like PTSD and sexual assault, just shut down. These are women who served their country, went in to combat to protect our freedom. They deserve better."

Cardenas, who will be going homeless for several nights this week, asks that donations go through Blain's website,

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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I am a female Army vet and I have been homeless.

The VA refused to even consider my claim, despite the fact that I was poisoned in the line of duty at Fort McClellan, Alabama and was serially raped at my duty station at Fort Knox, Kentucky over several months, reported it, and have documented PTSD. I suffered several early term miscarriages and was forced to undergo an early in life hysterectomy. I became completely disabled and homeless in 2003 and the VA did nothing to help me. 

I want to THANK Mark Cardenas for what he is doing. 

I am a stateside Agent Orange vet, having been poisoned at Fort McClellan, Alabama by that chemical and many other chemical warfare agents. Fort McClellan was the Army's Chemical Warfare Headquarters and also a major training center, mainly for female basic trainees and for MP's. We were also human lab rats. It has taken decades but the documentation has finally been made public, most of the base has been closed as an environmental hazard beyond repair, yet the VA still denies our claims.

The tiny town of Anniston, Alabama which borders and shares natural resources (air, ground, water, plant life) with Fort McClellan actually WON a mass action lawsuit against super-huge super-corporation MONSANTO which operated a large chemical manufacturing plant near Fort McClellan at which Agent Orange and other chemicals, like PCB's were produced, illegally dumped into the water and air (in what was later called an air disaster) and stored in "sink holes"--huge open natural caves in which decades of chemical waste from the plant was illegally dumped into the environment and leached into the water system. 

Monsanto owns infamous Blackwater/Xe Defense Contracting, and under its many subsidiaries literally countless defense, chemical, pharmaceutical, agricultural and military-industrial corporations around the globe. Still MONSANTO, with all its money and all the people and influence that money buys, LOST a bitterly fought mass action lawsuit brought by one tiny little town in Alabama. The evidence was THAT overwhelming and undeniable. They were forced to pay BILLIONS of dollars in damages and cleanup costs to Anniston, but the military and VA have never done a thing for the other people who were exposed to far MORE toxins than the people of Anniston were...the people who volunteered to serve their country.

There are thousands of us who served and were poisoned by various toxins and radiation between 1933 and 1999 and we are dying and suffering indignity, unnecessary pain and utterly substandard medical care in the process because our doctors refuse to believe us when we tell them about Fort McClellan. We are written off as psych cases even though all the information is available to them, just as its available to congress and an utterly indifferent president (for whom I worked as hard as my broken body would allow both times he was running for election). NO ONE CARES! Most likely because such a high percentage of us are "just women" ...and the unspoken ending to that sentence is "and therefore expendable". EVERY ONE of us volunteered to serve. Women aren't drafted. At least none of us poisoned at McClellan were.

The VA tells us we cannot even use the words "Agent Orange" in our claims because that has all been settled, meaning Monsanto has too much power to be touched. There are no more Tom Daschles left in the world. It is also well documented that we were exposed to high doses of PCB's on a daily basis. What they do to the human body and reproductive system is well documented. We were exposed to several hundred times the toxic "dose" on a daily basis from the water we trained in, drank, and far worse, used to steam iron our uniforms to creased perfection before every meal and class. Imagine 40-woman bays full of steam--the water full of toxins such as Agent Orange, PCB's, Sarin, VX, and Mustard gas (which we were also directly exposed to in live gas drills and the gas chamber). That steam inhaled into our lungs is the same as mainlining those toxins into our veins. 

Documents also show we were used as live human test subjects for chemical weapons then given atropine/antidotes to prevent death. Many of us, myself included, went on to suffer physical symptoms immediately after basic training, such as headaches and extreme photo-sensitivity--all documented in medical records later "lost" or "misfiled" by the VA. I was once   threatened with an Article 15 (disciplinary action) for "destruction of government property"  for blisters I got on my thighs while outside polishing my boots at EIGHT in the MORNING. I was outside for no more than ten to fifteen minutes and got a blistering sunburn! 

Yet they claim we weren't exposed to chemicals. Yes, I am fair skinned, but no one is that fair skinned! That is also when my chin and jaw area became scarred from the blistering that occurred after our trip to the "gas chamber." I have since smelled real tear gas. What they said was tear gas that day was NOT tear gas. I don't know what it was, but my chin and face still bear the scars and I've had sun and stress related treatment resistant blistering break-outs ever since. Once it was so bad I could barely open my mouth to eat for a week. But the VA denies, denies, denies.

We females also suffered a very high rate of miscarriages and our children (like those of other Agent Orange vets) had neural tube birth defects like Spina Bifida and others, and many of us were forced to undergo early life hysterectomy, losing our ability to even bear children at all. Yet despite that and the court order provided in Anniston vs Monsanto to provide us care and compensation, the VA and the do nothing congress controlled by the party that is supposedly SO pro-military (and by that they  mean pro military CONTRACTS) denies our claims and the media ignores our cause...or has been ordered to. The only reason that Marine base got its toxicity claims approved is because they'd lost so many guys in Iraq and Afghanistan and it was a good PR move. It's SO transparent.

This issue wreaked havoc on the lives of women, men and their families who served at Fort McClellan (McToxic) between 1933 and 1999.

In addition, unrelated to Fort McClellan, many females in the military, myself included, suffered repeated brutal rape at our duty stations in a time when speaking to the media was an offense, they told us, that would get us sent straight to Fort Leonard Wood, the Federal Detention Center for the Army, and we believed it! Those. like me, who reported these crimes up the chain of command suffered even greater brutality while those who we reported suffered...nothing. In many cases the people engaging in the assaults were the people in the chain of command we were supposed to report to. Going directly to JAG (the legal arm of the military)...well let's just say it's not like in the movies or on TV. No one bravely takes you under their wing and champions your cause. They "lose" documents, change the wording on statements and make you sign things you didn't say (because they are officers and you're not) and basically do all they can to cover the "assets" of their fellow officers. At least that's how it was when I was in. I hope it's better now, but I rather doubt it.

That is why Mark Cardenas is such a hero to me. He is standing up for us when so few people EVER have. Please support HR 411 (for the current session of congress) in support of Fort McClellan Veterans. We really need your help.


Rep. Mark Cardenas, an Army Vet of the Iraq War, knows the value of leadership and teamwork.  He fought for his country and now he fights for his sisters in arms who need a hand opportunity for success.

Please click on the website above and donate makes no difference how much you give, just that you give something to make life a bit easier for some of those who are suffering after they sacrificed.

Sgt. Mark Cardenas, I salute you.  Drive on!


I love how we "rah rah" for our armed forces until they need something from us.  It is a sad thought that we still have homeless veterans.  In fact, it is a national tragedy.

valleynative topcommenter

Those of you who claim that there are no atheist charities might want to take note.

valleynative topcommenter


Part of the problem is that the "rah rah" mentality has made everybody think that "veteran" is pretty much synonymous with "Eagle Scout".   We've been assured that they've been taught personal discipline and respect for authority and have been trained to Be All They Can Be.

The idea that All They Can Be might be homeless, out of work, and possibly on drugs creates dissonance that's easiest to handle by ignoring the reality.

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