For veteran Megan Kingston, the coronavirus presented extra danger due to her exposure to the smoke that emanated day and night from the burn pits near her barracks at Camp Liberty in Iraq.
"It was quite a fight. Double pneumonia.
The fever for multiple days. The body aches.
The bloody noses. Even my eyeballs were in pain."
"The odds were not in my favor," Kingston, of Northern Virginia, says to Fox News regarding her recent exposure to COVID-19. "We were all kind of like going, how did I even pull this one off? It's a miracle for sure."
Kingston served as an Army medic from 2005 to 2009 when she was stationed in Baghdad and then joined the federal government as a counterterrorism officer and served another eight years there until she developed constrictive bronchiolitis in 2018 and was forced to retire. Like scores of other veterans who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, she draws a direct connection from burn pits to her illness. Burn pits are a crude method of incineration in which virtually every piece of waste was burned, including plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals and even human waste.
The items often were set ablaze with jet fuel as the accelerant, and the pits burned more than 1,000 different chemical compounds day and night. Most service members breathed in toxic fumes with no protection. Kingston says the pit near her barracks at Camp Liberty was the largest in the country.
"I figured something was going to happen to us eventually," she says. "As a medic, looking at all that [smoke], I knew it was toxic. A firefighter knows that you put on a breathing apparatus when you see smoke like that and you don't even go into the building unless you're on air. And we were next to that, breathing it in all the time."
Many veterans like Kingston have developed a myriad of respiratory issues and other serious ailments believed to be a result of burn pit exposure. Many are immuno-compromised and face an increased vulnerability to COVID-19.
CORONAVIRUS CAUSE FOR CONCERN AMONG BURN PIT VETERANS
“If you had burn pit-exposed lungs and you have more respiratory inflammation on a normal day, you have more vulnerability to the virus once it hits your lungs. So it's a very good time to avoid, avoid, avoid getting infected,” Dr. Nancy Klimas, director of Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University, said to Fox News in a March 25 report on the dangers burn pits veterans face with the coronavirus. “Once infected, they have a greater risk of having a more serious form of the illness."