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The Plight of Our Veterans
How Service Members Continue to Live With the Nightmare of Burn Pits
In July, we sponsored the second annual Texas Patriot Ruck March that was held in Robstown. This event was established to bring attention to the issue of burn pits — a subject I want to talk about this month. The burn pits have been exposed as another dark side of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Burn pits were used by the military as a way to dispose of trash. However, they turned into health nightmares for many of our men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The pits were used to burn all kinds of material — plastic, medical waste, batteries, and appliances. In some instances, they even burned dead animals and human body parts. That last one often catches people off guard, but that’s the reality. To get the fire started, they would often douse the material in jet fuel, so these pits would burn for long periods of time. Part of the problem was the lack of oversight about what was being burned, and much of the materials in these pits put off toxic fumes. The health risks of inhaling these fumes are very serious, and it’s been compared to the air quality first responders breathed in on 9/11, which has resulted in numerous health issues for those brave men and women, including cancer. Similar side effects are being experienced by service members who breathed in burn pit smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan. In many cases, burn pits were raging within 100 yards of where these soldiers slept. People were breathing these toxic fumes day and night.
their options for help are limited. So far, the Veterans Administration
(VA) won’t recognize these issues, and neither will the Pentagon. One company, KBR, Inc. (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root) was part of a class- action lawsuit involving
soldiers who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This company played a significant role in facilitating the burn pits.
The Supreme Court came back to say that KBR has immunity. They were serving as a government contractor and therefore fall under the jurisdiction of the U.S. government — and you can’t sue the government. It was another roadblock for veterans who just wanted to move on with their lives. This decision was devastating for a lot of people. Veterans who were exposed to the “black smoke” of the burn pits are losing their jobs due to the health issues. Some can’t get jobs because they can’t pass a physical. Even worse, these service members can’t get any compensation, because no one will recognize the root of their problems. Thankfully, we’re working hard to change this. We’ve actually been in contact with Jon Stewart, the former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” He’s been doing a lot of good work helping get 9/11 first responders the help they need after
Now, more and more service members are reporting that they’ve developed all kinds of respiratory issues, some very severe. And
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