Veterans are concerned about the effects of burn pits
Fumes from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused illness. Lea Gabrielle has the story.
The Scores of US military veterans to live their lives in certain danger countless times in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
They were on the front lines of the battle, but the battle is not when they return home.
Tens of thousands of veterans are of the opinion that their health is affected by the polluting smoke expelled from the burn pits on their bases. In these wells, all kinds of waste, medical waste, and industrial chemicals were in the fire for disposal.
The burn pit method was originally a temporary measure, during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as a way to quickly get rid of garbage and trash at military installations. The vets claim that their prolonged exposure to the toxic air left tens of thousands of them, as well as private individuals, with a large number of diseases, including various forms of cancer and severe respiratory problems. Many died after succumbing to their illness, but almost everyone who are afraid that they became ill from exposure to burn pits never received the proper assistance from the country where they went to war to defend.
A registry is created by the Veterans Administration in 2011, but signing it does not guarantee that any form of assistance. Service members and their families involved in the effects of burn pit exposure say that they are struggling with the high cost of medical treatments. There are more than 140,000 names signed to the VA registry.
In the middle of the continuation of the coverage by Fox News on burn pit exposure on military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, the scores of the service for the members and their families have responded on social media with a strong reaction after seeing the reporting about the lack of help and support is made available by the VA as well as the lack of prevention during the wars themselves.
Here are just a few of the stories of those who cope with what has been called by some “the new Agent Orange.”
Jason Arnold was a Grenadier with the U. S. Army National Guard, when he first went to Iraq in 2003
Jason Arnold was a Grenadier with the U. S. Army National Guard, when he first went to Iraq in 2003 and while he was not stationed at a particular Forward Operating Base (FOB), he often spent time on many of them, as he worked security of data with a private contractor convoys from Kuwait to Iraq.
It was during these missions that he was often exposed to the heavy smoke from burn pits. He clearly remembers how it hung thick in the air.
“We have shifts in the wind and smoke would roll,” Arnold tells Fox News. “In the morning was the worst.”
The veteran had previous experience as a paramedic before he enlisted, what him to work as a doctor, while on his tour and says that at the time that he and the other soldiers afraid there was a danger behind the exposure to the smoke.
But their problems were never addressed while in the war zone.
“When we were there, there was nobody to say anything,” he recalls. “If you suck in campfire smoke, you can damage your lungs. Imagine what happens when you burn all that dangerous materials”.
“We knew it was bad, but if gives you an assignment, you do it.”
– Jason Arnold
One of the private contractors that his unit worked, Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) — formally known as Halliburton — has been accused in numerous lawsuits of the use of the controversial waste disposal method bases they used after safer methods, such as incinerators were proposed.
A statement of the contractor reads in part: “KBR has said consistently, KBR-operated burn pits on a very limited number of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and KBR personnel safely and effectively at the direction and under the control of the AMERICAN army.”
Arnold and his unit often assisted KBR employees with the disposal of waste in burn pits.
“You would be up to a Humvee and help toss garbage out,” he said. “Every time we went out, they would just hand out those cheap, paper filter masks. We knew that it was bad, but if gives you an assignment, you do it.”
Arnold often have the time to update security information with a private contractor convoys from Kuwait to Iraq. It was during these missions that he was often exposed to the heavy smoke from burn pits. He clearly remembers how it hung thick in the air
Arnold returned home after his second tour in 2004, and says that not long after that, he started seeing the symptoms.
“I got back to the united States, and the next thing I knew, I was out of breath. I had trouble breathing,” he says.
Arnold went to see numerous doctors who discovered that he had numerous respiratory ailments
“They asked me if I was a smoker,” he says. “I have COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and I never smoked a day in my life. I have sleep Apnea. Each year it gets worse and worse.”
Arnold, like many vets in his position, signed for the Veteran Administration burn pit registry in the hope that he would get help with medical coverage and treatment. Like many others, he did not.
“The VA has never rated any of us,” the Veteran says. “They never point out the fact that we were exposed.”
He adds that he often came off the registry and has to resign. He also says that he receives almost no compensation from the VA.
“I’m only allowed three inhalers each month,” Arnold says, “but I need it non-stop. I wear them everywhere with me. If I run, I have to wait for months, because the VA is so backlogged.”
Arnold says that he believes that the VA system to be flawed and that we as a country owe it to any veteran to ensure a better support.
“We all went in perfectly healthy and came back with breathing problems, or even worse,” he says. “It was not our fault. We went and did our work.”
“They use you, kill you and throw you to the side.”
Hank Burns, an E4 specialist for the U.S. Army, who had two active tours of duty. He noticed that his breathing problems during the second tour
Hank Burns was an E4 specialist for the U.S. Army when he began a 15-month deployment in Northern Iraq back in 2007. He served a 13 month tour and left active service in August of 2011. He tells Fox News that he noticed that his breathing problems during the second tour of duty.
“I worked next to these potholes,” Burns tells Fox News. “I noticed that while I was still there. I would walk and your breath suddenly. I would suddenly get dizzy.”
“You smell it every day that you are there. It is heavy. It smells toxic.”
Burns says that his health continued long after he returned home.
“What I’ve noticed is that I still have a lot of breathing problems,” he says. “I go to sleep and wake up. I’m fighting just to breathe.”
“Even just walk, I breathe, and must stop. These are problems I never had before.”
“It is nothing more than a list. The start and stop point in a time. We come home and we are left to be thrown to the wolves.”
Army vet Hank Burns on the VA’s Burn Pit Registry
Burns said that it was years before he knew that the VA’s registry is available to veterans like him.
“I didn’t even know that it existed,” he says. “I had to hear about it by another vet who stumbled upon.”
“I should not depend of an other soldier that accidentally.”
Brandt says that he signed up for the registry, but that is not what to do after that.
Burns said that it was years before he knew that the VA’s registry is available for veterans like him
“It is nothing more than a list,” he says. “It is a start and stop point in a time. We come home and we are left to be thrown to the wolves.”
The veteran was also troubled by the recent reports on Fox News that the bits are still used in the vicinity of military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It’s terrible,” Burns says. “I could see this was a new war, but we are there for so many years that there is no reason to use these methods.”
“It is a shame that we have of the soldiers still exposed.”
Many of the burn pits were closed on the AMERICAN bases in Iraq when the former air force Sergeant Jeremy Kitzhaber arrived at Balad AFB in 2011, but he still felt the effects of the pollution caused by them.
“I was told when I got there that there was still a lot of contamination,” Kitzhaber tells Fox News, who began to feel ill in 2013, almost a year after retiring from the air force.
“I started experiencing strange symptoms,” he says. “I had a few strange, tender feelings in my belly.”
Kitzhaber went to the doctor, and it was after a CT scam that he was immediately admitted to the emergency room, when he was discovered to have a rare form of stage 4 appendix cancer.
“It was disintegrated,” he says, adding that the cancer had spread and many chemo treatments did nothing to heal him. He was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP), which covered his whole diaphragm, intestines, bladder, stomach, and rectum. His abdominal wall and liver were also affected.
“It all came down to Iraq,” he says, to believe that the toxic substances released into the air from burn pits, contaminated soil and ultimately made him sick.
“At first, I have a request and they denied it. It took me calling my state senator to get them to expedite my claim.”
– Former Air Force Sgt. Jeremy Kitzhaber
“To be honest, I was exposed to many dust storms,” he remembers. “I remember choking on the air. I would wake up and the sky would be orange.”
“You can’t escape the dust.”
Kitzhaber, a claim with the VA, but he says that it took 400 days, more than a year to rule that his cancer was connected to his time in service.
“At first, I have a request and they denied it,” he says. “It took me calling my state senator to get them to expedite my claim.”
He, like many other veterinarians in similar positions, is of the opinion that the Ministry of Defence must admit to what the members were exposed to in Iraq.
“The DoD needs to recognize that they are unnecessarily exposed to dangerous cancer-causing substances,” he says. “They say that there is not a direct cause, because as they admit, they have more claims against them and they are not able to pay.”
Also in the air force, Technical Sergeant David J. Robinson was first deployed to Iraq in 2003, but it was not until almost a decade later, when here turned to his home in Colorado Springs, that he began to experience problems with breathing.
“I thought I with an acute problem with the height,” he says. “It was easy to blame it on something else, because who wants to admit that it’s something serious?”
But soon afterwards, Robinson began experiencing other symptoms. After the blood was found in his urine a few months later, his doctor ordered tests and it was discovered that he had a large mass in his abdomen.
“You trusted your supervisor to look after you.”
– Air Force Technical Sgt. David J. Robinson
“It was a roller-coaster ride of learning what it was,” he says of the cancer that had ravaged his body.
In 2015, Robinson underwent a more than 10 hours with the surgery. His appendix, bladder, and parts of his intestine removed.
“They couldn’t save everything,” says Robinson.
During his service, Robinson had often helped in the disposal of garbage in the fire pits of his base.
“Two to three times per week, we would load pick-up trucks,” he recalls. “Anything and everything, that had to be thrown away…it was all brought to the burn pits.”
“It was part of the mission. It was mainly about getting the job done. It was just as it was.”
Robinson says that many members at the time, including herself, do not grab the concept of the dangers behind the fires.
“You trusted your supervisor to look after you.”
Robinson the treatment of most veterans to frustrating.
“It is almost as if we are brushed aside or swept under the carpet.”
Perry Chiaramonte is a producer, Fox News Channel, Investigative Unit. Follow him on Twitter via @perrych