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By Debbie Gregory.

Veterans and families who lived and worked at the former Pease Air Force Base want the government to begin collecting data about their high cancer rates possibly tied to chemical exposures on the installation.

More than 200 people turned up at the 157th Air Refueling Wing for a “listening session” to share health concerns of retirees, their widows and families, along with active duty guardsmen.

Led by Doris Brock, whose husband Ken died last year from bladder cancer after serving nearly 40 years at Pease an aircraft mechanic, a group of widows and retirees have pushed the Air Force to conduct a health study because of what they believe is an unusually high number of cancers at the base. Brock tracked down other members the unit and discovered that 80 people have been diagnosed with cancer, 43 of which are dead.,

Brock believes her husband’s exposure to 12 different chemicals on the base known to be carcinogens — along with drinking contaminated water at the former air base — caused his cancer.

Like many seniors, Doris and Ken Brock looked forward to their golden years. They found a cabin in the North Woods of New Hampshire and spent several years remodeling it into a retirement home of their dreams. But rather than enjoying the fruits of their labor, Brock watched her husband of 46 years endure chemotherapy treatments during the final two years of his life.

Col. John Pogorek, wing commander at the Pease Guard base who hosted the meeting, acknowledged at the beginning of the meeting that “this is an emotional subject.”

“None of the stories we will hear today are good,” he said.

After the meeting, Pogorek said “it was more than I thought we’d hear,” when asked about the stories he heard from those in attendance. “A lot of these stories are hard to hear but are important to tell, because we need that information.”

He noted the wing has formed a working group of retirees, family members and health experts to address the health concerns.

“I think we can have a plan to move forward, I think that’s what we’re all interested in. The truth will lead us to what needs to be done and we’re all about the truth,” he said.

“I think we need that database of what they did, what years they worked, what chemicals they were exposed to and what cancers they had,” she said.