Thousands of South Carolina’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans carry the weight of war on their lungs.
They suffer from shortness of breath, cancer and disease, and blame toxic smoke inhalation from smoldering trash burned in the desert at the request of the government.
After the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11, America’s sons and daughters were jettisoned into wars in two foreign countries. The military, in a hurry, propped up forward operating bases in the middle of the desert and asked for assistance from private contractors for basic needs, such as waste removal.
Contractors had a simple solution: Burn the trash. Despite warnings from military officials on the ground about possible harm, the Department of Defense went ahead with the burn pits.
About 3,700 Palmetto State veterans have put their stories on a registry claiming they have severe health ailments as a result of the decision to burn waste. The smoke has affected their skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs through multiple diseases and cancers.
As these Iraq and Afghanistan survivors wait on legislation to push through the cogs of Congress, time is running out for some.
The issue of burn pits became a nearly decade long legal battle that would stretch from the smallest state courtrooms to the U.S. Supreme Court. Overall, more than 3.5 million veterans reported to the Department of Veterans Affairs they may have been exposed to airborne toxins since the War on Terror started.
“The military recognized that there were certain health risks associated with the use of burn pits, but balanced those risks against the greater risk of harm to military and other personnel should other methods of waste management be utilized,” Roger W. Titus, a U.S. district judge in Maryland, wrote in a July 2017 ruling.