Air Compassion for Veterans has been a critical link in providing victims of what is called “the new Agent Orange” with access to medical care. The problem is toxic waste from open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan that cause serious respiratory disorders.
Leroy T., a captain in the Army Reserves for 21 years, returned home to Robstown, Texas, in 2008 after spending a year overseas. Within the first 30 days of his deployment to Camp Anaconda, Iraq, he complained of sinus problems and flu-like symptoms that continued until he went back home. “I was getting upper respiratory infections frequently. I had to start going to the doctor. I ended up in the emergency room…the week after I got back,” Leroy said. The 38-year-old worked as a highway patrolman—his dream career since childhood—but had to hang up his uniform because of debilitating illness.
The burn pits “are a constant presence,” Leroy said, and burn waste 24 hours a day. They are an expedient solution in combat zones for disposal of anything and everything: batteries, chemicals, plastics, medicine, animal carcasses. The pile is soaked with jet fuel and ignited. A New York Times article from Aug. 6, 2010 notes that hundreds of veterans have complained of “illnesses that they believe were caused by exposure to the pits, forcing the Pentagon to restrict their use and the Department of Veterans Affairs to begin an investigation.”
The Defense Department shut down most open-air burn pits in Iraq in 2010 and is beginning to make respirators and gas masks available to troops working near the toxic sites. Leroy’s wife, Rosie, has vigorously lobbied federal legislators to develop a national burn pit registry and says the bill has been drafted and is moving forward. Further information can be obtained at a site she developed, www.burnpits360.org.
After two years of unsatisfactory diagnosis and treatment under federal medical agencies, Leroy and his wife, Rosie, sought specialized medical care at their own expense from doctors at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Tennessee. “After an exhausting 24 months seeking answers, in less than one week, doctors at Vanderbilt were able to test and confirm a diagnosis of Constrictive Bronchiolitis due to toxic inhalation from the burn pit,” Rosie wrote in a blog posted on Nov. 23, 2010. Constrictive bronchiolitis causes the lung’s smallest airways to narrow and is irreversible.
To date, the couple has spent over $50,000 on medical bills.
Rosie, who works for the Veterans Administration, learned about ACV online. To date, the charity, through partner American Airlines, has provided 24 medical flights for Leroy, Rosie, and their three teenaged children. “The service has been amazing,” she said. “It exceeded our expectations. It’s less stress for us and process is so easy. I thank God for organizations like ACV.”
ACV Flights for Burn Pit Exposure Exceeded Couple’s Expectations