They served their time in the military in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most returned in good health.

But an NBC 30 investigation has found that for some soldiers, their service has meant a long and debilitating death sentence with mysterious diseases.

"I have good days, I have bad days," said M. Sterry, of New Haven. "There were eight of us that served together. Six of my friends are dead."

She looks healthy, but Sterry is a very sick woman who has no idea how much longer she will live.

"I've had three heart attacks, two heart surgeries. I have chronic headaches, chronic upper respiratory infections. I get pneumonia two or three times a year," she said. "I have chronic fatigue, joint aches, muscle aches. I have a rash that migrates all over my body."

Sterry figures the initial symptoms began in Saudi Arabia in September of 1991 while she was serving with the National Guard. Three years later, after completing her tour of duty and coming back home, the symptoms were still there, but much more severe.

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg said one of the sources of the diseases may be depleted uranium. She was one of those who helped pass legislation last year setting up a health registry in Connecticut, strictly to keep records on our military personnel.

"We'll know where they've served, what they've done, what the scope of the job was," she said. "We'll be able to identify to some extent what they've been exposed to and what their symptoms are."

But it will come too late for David Leighton, of Naugatuck, a Marine who served in Saudi Arabia in Desert Storm. When he came home, the symptoms he had had for quite some time would not go away.

His mother, Gail Leighton, said that for the next 15 years, she saw her once vital and vibrant son slowly dying before her eyes.

"You would have had to have been there during the journey and see him in bed and sweating and in agony," she said.

She said her son was a patriot, that his dad had been a Marine. She said the federal government did not believe that those coming back became sick because of the conditions in which they served.

"That was the hardest part, I think, more than anything, to have the DOD, the Department of Defense, and the VA spending so much time and energy trying to deny and discount and discredit some of the people who were doing research."

State Veterans Commissioner Linda Schwartz told NBC 30 that making the connection between battlefield exposures and diseases has been a long, ongoing process.

She said the use of depleted uranium has to be studied because, as she put it, we're sending our best people into battle and their well-being must be the top priority.