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Local airman crippled by Anthrax vaccine, Bonner joins fight

NBC 15

DAPHNE, Ala.) October 19 -- A local man attached to a Kentucky Air National Guard unit is confined to a wheel chair after receiving a military anthrax vaccination. The young man says Uncle Sam is now turning his back on him and many others who are having an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Friends of 23-year-old Aaron Haycraft say he was the picture of health prior to March 2003. Haycraft was a part-time college student, a triathlete and earning more than $1,000 a week working as a mechanic. That all changed when the young man's Air National Guard Unit in Kentucky activated him 19 months ago. Haycraft was scheduled to be shipped off to Iraq, but an allergic reaction to an Anthrax vaccination left him confined to a wheel chair and suffering from more than a dozen medical problems including loss of vision and paralysis.

Aaron Haycraft told NBC 15's Leon Petite, "I think that 19 months is long enough. I'm no good to the military anymore. I'd like to go on, but in the last two weeks, two colonels have decided to cut my pay off."

Haycraft says he is just one of dozens of people in the U.S. Air Force that have had an allergic reaction to the vaccine. The young man says he was on active duty when the mishap took place, but so far the military has refused to give him a disability retirement. Haycraft says he has been evaluated by dozens of military and civilian doctors who all say he is disabled, but Haycraft says all it has done is amass hundreds of pages of military paper work.

Haycraft says the Air Force has refused to hear his case. Air Force National Guard Officials in Kentucky would not comment about Haycraft's case other than to say it is a long military process and they were acting in what they felt will be in Haycraft's best interest.

At least one government official feels Haycraft is getting the run around. U.S. Congressman Joe Bonner is actively pursuing the case in Haycraft's behalf. Bonner says after only one meeting with Aaron it is obvious to him that this young man has fallen through the cracks. The Congressman says his office will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to get him the benefits he so richly deserves.

Meanwhile Haycraft's childhood friend and his fiancee have moved to Daphne from Kentucky to take care of him. His friends have to feed him, bathe him and tend to him 24 hours a day.

One of those friends, Misty Lewis, said, "So for someone now to have to do everything for him, it's heartbreaking because he was intelligent and bright now he just sits in a wheel chair and wonders what life could have been like."