Barry Funfar: A Damaged Marine Forsaken by his own Country

USMC-II-p390b

January 1944, Marines turn the tide on New Britain.

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The US Marines are renowned for their do or die bravado.

Their motto, Semper Fidelis (“always faithful”) marks them out for their bond of loyalty to fellow Marines and – as a band of brothers – for their tenacity in battle and courage under fire.

Australia owes more than just a little debt to the hundreds of thousands of Marines that fought island, by bloody island, in the campaign to save the Pacific from Japanese Imperial aggression in WWII.

The Battle for Iwo Jima (immortalized in Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, “Flags of Our Fathers”) was just one of hundreds of monstrously difficult and costly battles won by the Marine’s fighting skill and shear doggedness.

Raising-The-Flag-On-Iwo-Jima-Joe-Rosenthal

US Marines announce their presence on Iwo Jima.

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You can judge a Nation by the way that it treats its returned soldiers.

From far flung fields of conflict – whether Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan – men (and increasingly, women) return home carrying scars inside and out.  The most damaged – in an effort to heal themselves – tend to look for peace and quiet, rarely, if ever, talking about the horrors of war.  These are people who were ready to give it all – and who are more than entitled to expect fair and decent treatment on their return.

Well, principles of common human decency are coming a distant second in Falmouth, Massachusetts – where a former decorated Marine, Barry Funfar is at war again.  This time it’s his own team that are out to destroy what’s left of him.

Here’s The Boston Globe on Barry’s latest war.

A Falmouth veteran battles wind turbines — and health woes
The Boston Globe
Bella English
24 January 2014

FALMOUTH — Barry Funfar is a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran who spent most of his waking moments since retirement a decade ago working with the hundreds of flowers and trees he planted around the Colonial-style house that he built. Gardening was his exercise, therapy, and passion, and his doctors agreed it was beneficial to combat his post traumatic stress disorder.

A Marine, Funfar flew 127 combat missions as a door gunner on Huey helicopters and was awarded seven Air Medals for meritorious service.

Years later, he is battling another enemy: two wind turbines near his home, which he says have ended his gardening, caused him unremitting health problems, and exacerbated the PTSD that has plagued him for decades.

Last spring, he and his wife, Diane, filed a complaint against the Town of Falmouth, and the Zoning Board of Appeals recently agreed with the couple that the green energy turbines create a nuisance for them. A year earlier, the board had issued a similar ruling in another turbine case.

But instead of complying with its own zoning board, the Town of Falmouth is suing the board — again.

In the earlier case, Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse issued a temporary order, while the case is pending, that the turbines run only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Dozens of other Falmouth residents have also testified before the local health board about negative health effects.

These residents are not alone.

Seeking cleaner and cheaper sources of power, governments around the world have been turning to wind power. But as the turbines increase so have complaints about health problems. There remains significant disagreement about the medical legitimacy of those claims, but there is no doubt in the minds of Funfar and others who suffer.

Funfar, who was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder in 2003 after decades of nightmares, anxiety, anger, depression, and alcoholism, was treated by doctors and counselors at the VA Medical Center in Providence, sometimes attending group and individual therapy sessions four days a week. He still goes weekly.

Funfar joined the Marine Corps in 1965, a farm boy from North Dakota. At boot camp graduation, his drill instructor handed him a military ID and said: “Here’s your license to kill.” It’s a statement that still haunts Funfar.

But by 2008, after the intensive therapy, he says, he was feeling much better.

“It took a lot of therapy to change those nightmares that I was killed,” he said on a recent day in the house he built in 1999. “In those dreams, my copter would be shot down; the enemy would chase us and kill us, and I’d be at my own funeral.”

In Falmouth, where the Funfars have lived since 1979, gardening became a big part of his life, and his doctors encouraged it as a healthy outlet for his PTSD. As the oldest of five boys growing up on an isolated farm, Funfar had always had a passion for plants.

You might call it an obsession. His lot, not quite an acre, has 128 varieties of clematis plants, 500 rhododendrons and azaleas, eight varieties of magnolias, and this year, he put in 10 Japanese maples. That doesn’t include myriad other plants; Funfar reckons he’s got “thousands of them out there.” He has given away hundreds.

In fact, he did the master plan for his garden before he even built the house.

Funfar has carved paths in what he calls his “wild woodland garden,” and built a greenhouse on the property as well as a gazebo with a wood stove and microwave, where he sits and peruses some of the dozens of gardening books he has amassed. He also has several photo albums of his plants, with notes scribbled alongside each picture. He makes his own greeting cards with pressed flowers from his garden, and his home was included on three garden tours.

“Any moment I wasn’t working, I was with those plants,” says Funfar, who in 2003 retired from his carpet-cleaning business.

But these days, the property is overgrown and neglected, the greenhouse and gazebo abandoned. In March 2010, the town installed its first wind turbine and added another the following year. The first is 1,662 feet from the Funfar home, the second 1,558 feet. Both can be seen from their roof deck.

“The first time I heard it, I couldn’t believe it could make that much noise,” he says. It’s also the inaudible low frequency and infrasound waves that he says have made him ill, with symptoms such as heart palpitations, surges in blood pressure, migraine headaches, and sleep deprivation.

“I feel a quivering in my chest,” he says. “I get panic attacks. My pulse is 180, and three hours later it’s still 130. I’m on blood pressure medication, and my pressure was down to 120 over 70. But now, I’ll get 155 over 115. I feel my life is being shortened by this.”

In its complaint against its zoning board, the Town of Falmouth said that the wind turbines do not constitute a nuisance under either town or state law. Moreover, Falmouth called Funfar’s symptoms “a preexisting condition known as post traumatic stress disorder.”

Funfar replies that yes, he has had PTSD “but never did I have this quivering in my chest, these migraines and flashes in my eyes.”

The pro-turbine camp has spent a lot of online ink maligning patients such as Funfar, while the anti-turbine camp also uses the issue as a rallying cry. “This is a medical puzzle plopped into the middle of a very political environment,” says Dr. Steven Rauch, a hearing and balance specialist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School.

Caught in the middle of political and financial interests, he says, are patients like Funfar, who are experiencing significant symptoms. “I personally have no doubt that there is a real physiological phenomenon going on and some patients are vulnerable to it,” says Rauch, who has seen two such patients with a plethora of symptoms, but has not treated Funfar. “There’s a lot of science on it, and it’s growing.”

Humans have varying sensitivities to sound, and a subset of those exposed to wind turbines suffer from the low-frequency pressure waves that penetrate walls and homes, says Rauch.

For Funfar, the only way he can elude the turbines’ effects is to leave the area. He spends much time between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. helping out at his daughter’s or son’s homes, which aren’t near the turbines. He takes his grandsons to the library. Sometimes, he sits in church.

And a year ago, he and Diane bought a house in the Dominican Republic with mango and avocado trees where he can garden “to my heart’s content” for several months of the year.

Diane Funfar, a retired math teacher at Falmouth High School, says her husband’s PTSD had improved with treatment. “He was happy, working in the yard,” she says. “But then the turbines came and turned him into a different person. He got panic attacks and anxiety; his blood pressure went up, and his meds increased.

“The thing he loved to do most was working in the yard, but he can’t be here when the turbines are going. He can’t even put the trash out when the turbines are loud.”

As for her own health, Diane says she wore contact lenses for 42 years but since the turbines, she has had to give them up because of eye discharge that she never before experienced. “And I get headaches now and I never, ever got headaches.”

In letters included in the Funfars’ complaint, his treatment team at the VA hospital supported his claim. Psychologist Christy Capone reported that Funfar had been making great progress with his PTSD symptoms until the installation of the turbines. “His symptoms have worsened significantly. . . . His backyard, previously his ‘sanctuary’ where he spent many peaceful hours gardening, is now a place of stress and conflict,” she wrote.

In its May 2013 annual election, the Town of Falmouth put a tax initiative on the ballot for funds to decommission the turbines. But though the initiative had passed in Town Meeting, it failed 2-to-1 at the polls.

The cost of removing the turbines was estimated at $3.4 million, and the town would lose about $400,000 in revenue from the sale of electricity generated by the turbines, which is used to pay municipal electric bills.

The town borrowed nearly $5 million to build the first turbine, and received a $5 million state grant for the second one. But if the latter is taken down, the grant must be repaid.

“These financial consequences are part of the basis of the town’s decision to appeal [the ZBA ruling],” says Town Counsel Frank Duffy.

The Funfars have looked into selling the house that he hand-built “from concrete to the electrical” but say that the property value has decreased nearly 30 percent, according to appraisals done before and after the turbines came in. (The zoning board agreed with the Funfars, but the town responded that the claim is “based upon insufficient evidence.”)

The Funfars also say they’ve spent more than $20,000 on lawyers to fight the turbines.

The wind turbine issue has divided the Falmouth community into two camps. One letter to the local newspaper “told me to suck it up and do something for my country,” says Funfar, visibly upset. “Personally, I feel I did my duty for this country.”

Bella English can be reached at english@globe.com.
The Boston Globe

STT covered the decision by a Court to grant an injunction shutting the Falmouth turbines down overnight – in the Falmouth case, the Judge decided that there was more than enough evidence of “irreparable harm” to warrant an injunction before the issues in dispute could be fully tried (see our post here).

One thing’s for sure – Barry deserves a whole lot better treatment from his Country than this.

Keep at it, Barry – you didn’t put it all on the line for nothing – sanity and justice will eventually prevail – Semper Fi, soldier.

barry funfar

Decorated Marine, Barry Funfar flanked by his latest enemies.
Enemies sanctioned by the Country he was prepared to die for.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Melissa Ware says:

    Huge Hug to Barry Funfar, his wife, family and neighbours, I hope you recover and one day have your peaceful garden and lives restored to you.

    Shameful mistreatment of people from all walks of life surely has to stop. Wind factories and all impacts on wider communities must be considered; health costs and the hidden taxpayer costs to each and every one of us in the lifetime of wind turbines. ‘Suck it up’, I hope not.
    -from a land downunder-

  2. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    Barry and everyone else who is suffering around the world from these disgusting damaging torturous machines deserve better than they are receiving.
    This instance where a local authority is willing to sit back and watch one or more of their citizens suffer because of the money involved in doing something to stop the damage is a disgrace. Surely they would not have to pay the loan back if the turbines are causing harm and a court has issued a ruling.
    But then there is probably more to their decision than is being disclosed – money rules and people come last.

  3. cornwallwindwatch says:

    Reblogged this on Cornwall Wind Watch.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Ex-US Marine Barry Funfar was told to “suck it up and do something for [his] country” in response to his complaint about the fact that neighbouring fans at Falmouth have ruined his life (see our post here). […]

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