I was exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq. Republicans turned their backs on veterans like me


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I’m a Marine who was exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq. Republicans have turned their backs on veterans like me.  

On Thursday, 41 Republicans in Washington blocked a bill that would have “expanded medical coverage for millions of combatants exposed to toxic burn pits during their service.” On Thursday, 41 Republicans in Washington made it clear that they don’t give a d*mn about veterans. 

This is personal for me. It was 2009. I was stationed at the Al Taqaddum Airbase where I was a Marine Captain leading a police training team.

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Twelve Marines and a Navy Corpsman. Running missions through Habbaniyah, Fallujah, and Ramadi. It was my first of three tours of duty during the War on Terror. And from our camp, the base’s burn pit loomed over us. 

Smoke columns filled the sky and blew through our living space. We ran through it, joking about how we should be doing gas mask runs. For three months that pit bathed us in toxic fumes. We accepted it and focused on our duty. 

For me, that was planning our routes and pouring over intel to avoid the immediate danger: IEDs on all the convoys and missions we were running outside the wire. I was so proud to bring every member of that team home safely. 

Or so I thought. Because, as it turns out, we couldn’t protect ourselves from our own country. 

SEN. PAT TOOMEY HOLDS UP FINAL APPROVAL OF BURN PIT VETERANS AID PACKAGE, CITING SPENDING CONCERNS

When I got back from Iraq, I developed a persistent tickle in my throat. Constant irritation. I never had allergies before and annoyed myself with the constant throat clearing. 

Eventually, I was so embarrassed by it that I went to the base clinic. They said it was postnasal drip and that they could give me allergy medicine. There was no formal diagnosis. But over 10 years later, it’s still there. 

Bothersome. Uncomfortable, but certainly manageable. And that’s about the best story you’ll hear about a vet who’s been exposed to burn pits. 

Many struggle with chronic respiratory issues. Migraines. Cancer. So imagine how we all felt on Thursday, watching all these Republicans, most of whom have never even worn the uniform, throw us a giant middle finger? 

BURN-PIT BILL GIVES VETERANS HEALTH CARE TO OVERCOME ONGOING CRISIS

I know that’s harsh language, but it has to be. Because what they did was about as anti-American as it gets. 

Heath Robinson (left) developed a rare form of cancer after he was exposed to burn pits during a 13-month tour of duty in Iraq.
(Susan Zeier)

Patriots don’t attack veterans who suffered injuries or illness from being around those toxic pits. And what really grinds my gears about this whole thing is that a bunch of these Republicans spent years voting to keep us in forever wars, lying to the American people about what was really going on over there, and getting rich off their defense contractor stocks that skyrocket when we’re at war. 

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These people profited off of sending us over there only to screw us when we came back messed up. It’s criminal. 

If Republicans don’t have a patriotic bone in their spine, then we need to step the heck up as Democrats and do something about it. 

FILE -- U.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a burn-pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton

FILE — U.S. Army soldiers watch garbage burn in a burn-pit at Forward Operating Base Azzizulah in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Burton
(REUTERS/Andrew Burton)

Get rid of the filibuster and pass the stuff that’s going to help us everyday Americans. Veterans shouldn’t have to wait any longer for Washington to do its job. 

We did our time. I served my country for 13 years in the United States Marine Corps. I’d give anything for this country. 

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I only wish our leaders could make an ounce of the sacrifice that our veterans have.

Our country would be a better place. 



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