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  • Burn Pit Widower

     

    It was in 2009 when Brian Muller first met his wife, Amie.

    "We actually met at a music venue. And at the time I was playing music in a band and she had some friends there that were at the event," Muller, 45, from Woodbury, Minn., recalls in a recent interview with Fox News. "Her friends forced her to go out. I forced myself to go out and just to see some music."

    He remembers how they discussed her service with the Minnesota Air National Guard.

    "We ended up talking about what she does with the military," he says, "and at that time, she was doing a project to make video memorials for gold star families. Families that lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan or any type of war."

    "She asked me to write a song for those videos. And that's how we kind of started our relationship, as-- friends, and then it developed from there."

    Brian has never served in the military but was impressed by Amie's service -- including her two tours in Iraq.

    "She wanted to fly, and she joined the Air Force. And she got deployed and had her life kind of uprooted there for a while."

    Amie was stationed at the Iraqi air base in Balad during both of her tours in 2005 and 2007. While her active service was already behind her, the effects from her time on that base still lingered.

    "She didn't really want to talk about her time over there," Brian says. "Anytime a door would slam or a loud noise, she'd get startled very easily. She had a lot of PTSD [episodes] from just little things."

    A decade after returning from Iraq, Amie's physical health also suffered. She was diagnosed with Stage III Pancreatic Cancer.

    "I still remember Amie getting the call, and she looked at me," Muller says about the day they found out about her diagnosis back in April 2016.

    "We walked around the corner just to make sure the kids didn't see. I could tell by the look in her face how scared she was. And I just kind of listening in to the call. And we just started shaking.

    Both she and Brian believed it was related to her exposure to open-air burn pits used to destroy trash generated on the base. Nearly every U.S. military installation in Iraq during the war used the crude method of burn pit disposal, but Balad was known for having one of the largest operations, burning nearly 150 tons of waste a day.

    The smoke generated from these pits hung above Amie's barracks daily.

    "She talked about the burn pits even before she got cancer," Muller recalls, "and how the fact that they would change the filters on these ventilation systems quite frequently. And every time they'd change it would just be this black soot, so thick that you would think you'd have to change it every hour."

    "After she told me what they were burning, you know, all I thought about is all the campfires that we had in our backyard. You don't burn Styrofoam. You don't burn plastic. We all know that, but they were burning all those things. Highly toxic."

    As early as Operation Desert Storm in 1991, burn pits were used at U.S. military bases in Iraq. At the height of the Iraq War in 2005, more than 300,000 troops were stationed there and potentially exposed to the smoke and fumes from burn pits.

    Thousands of Veterans and former contractors returned from the Middle East and have developed rare cancers, respiratory problems, and blood disorders from what they claim are their exposure to toxins from the flaming pits. More than 140,000 active-service members and retirees have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    After Amie was diagnosed and her treatment began, she and her family went public with her story in the hopes that it would bring awareness to the dangers she and countless Veterans faced after what they believe was a result of burn pit exposure.

    Amie succumbed to her illness just nine months after she first diagnosed.

    In her absence, Brian continued Amie's work in raising awareness by sharing her story. He also worked closely with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., toward getting "The Helping Veterans Exposed To Burn Pits Act" -- a bipartisan bill recently presented in Washington and signed by President Trump -- passed.

    The bill will help fund a new center by the Department of Veterans Affairs that will study the effects of burn pit exposure and eventually assist with treatment plans. He also started the Amie Muller Foundation, which helps other Veterans who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

    "I just hope that our Vets are going to get the help they need," Brian says, "and it's not going bring back Amie, my wife, but it's going to get Veterans the help they need."

    But recent findings show that the Pentagon was aware of the dangers of burn pits during the height of the war in Iraq.

    Fox News recently obtained a series of memos drafted by top officials at Balad during the same years that Amie served at the base. The authors of the documents -- which include commanding officers as well as environmental officials -- stated that the operation of burn pits was a danger to those stationed there and that precautions needed to be taken urgently to improve conditions.

    "In my professional opinion, there is an acute health hazard for individuals," reads a line from one memo written by a Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight Commander and the Chief of Aeromedical Services at Balad in 2006. "There is also the possibility for chronic health hazards associated with the smoke."

    The memo also includes an assessment of the pits in Balad where one environmental inspector said that Balad's burn pit was "the worst environmental site I have personally visited."

    After inquiries by Fox News regarding the memos, Officials for the Department of Defense said that they would look into the matter and explained their procedural policy and that open-air burn pits are to be operated in a manner that prevents or minimizes risk.

    "DOD does not dispose of covered waste in open-air burn pits during contingency operations except when the combatant commander determines there are no feasible alternative methods available," reads the statement provided by a Defense Department spokeswoman. "DOD minimizes other solid waste disposal in open-air burn pits during contingency operations. Generally, open-air burn pits are a short-term solution. For the longer term, we use incinerators, engineered landfills, or other accepted solid waste management practices whenever feasible."

    Muller finds the memos troublesome.

    "I don't understand why they didn't do something," he says after being shown a copy of the memos. "These are people that volunteered to serve our country, and it just disgusts me to see memos like that, from high ranking officers that expressed this concern."

    Muller adds that the underlying issue is a lack of accountability.

    "The issue is they were doing something they shouldn't have done, that they constantly warned was an environmental hazard," he says. "And our Vets are getting sick. Our Vets are dying."

    "You know, there was a fellow that did a video--'Delay, Deny and Hope You Die.' And that's kind of what's been going on. They're delaying this as long as possible so that they won't have to deal with as many claims, because most of them will die before they do anything about it."

    Muller also believes that Amie would have never fallen ill if it wasn't for the fact that she was stationed at Balad.

    "I don't think she would have gotten cancer. I really don't. Maybe she would have later in life. Maybe it would have been some other type of cancer. I don't know," he says. "But something caused inflammation -- for something to grow in her body for a long period of time before it was ever seen and diagnosed. There was something going on with all of the Vets when they got back."

    In a recent interview with Fox News, Gen. David Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. Central Command and Multi-National Force-Iraq in 2007, offered an explanation when asked about why burn pits were used on military bases, conceding that the realities of war kept concerns about how to dispose of waste a low priority at that time.

    "At that time we weren't worried about burn pits," The general said back in September. "We were worried about just getting enough water for our troops in the really hot summer. We were looking forward to the time where we might get some real food, real rations, as opposed to MREs and so forth."

    The general also expressed that the U.S. has a commitment toward helping those Veterans.

    "It's a sacred obligation," Petraeus said. "But comparing what our VA does to any other country's care of Veterans... this is the gold standard. Certainly, a gold standard that can always improve, without question. This is an issue, though, where we have a sacred obligation, and we need to meet that obligation."

    Muller believes the general's recent comments to be a sign of a move in the right direction.

    "When you start seeing men in uniform, or women in uniform, people higher up in the military starting to voice their concerns, you know we're making progress."

    Source

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  • Joe Biden 001

     

    • The US military used burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan to get rid of waste using jet fuel
    • A growing swell of research is showing links between burn pits and cancer
    • For the first time, Joe Biden has acknowledged there could be a link between the pits and the cancer which killed his son Beau
    • A book has tracked his son's exposure to carcinogenic fumes from pits in Iraq and Kosovo
  • Burn Pits 008

     

    EXCLUSIVE – Army Gen. David Petraeus, who was instrumental in guiding U.S. troops during the Iraq War, says that America’s service members should be receiving assistance for the mounting medical issues that they fear have come as a result of being exposed to burn pits while stationed at military bases.

    Petraeus, the former commander of U.S. Central Command and Multi-National Force-Iraq, said it’s time for the service members exposed to the dangers of burn pits -- and who say they have been abandoned by the Veterans Affairs Department and Washington – to be provided with proper care.

    “It's a sacred obligation,” Petraeus, a retired four-star general, told Fox News during an exclusive interview at his Manhattan office. “And by and large, our country does an extraordinary amount for our Veterans and for those who are serving in uniform, and for their families.”

    “But comparing what our VA does to any other country's care of Veterans...this is the gold standard. Certainly, a gold standard that can always improve, without question. This is an issue, though, where we have a sacred obligation, and we need to meet that obligation.”

    The haphazard method of getting rid of trash, chemicals and even medical waste -- in open-air burn pits -- during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan generated numerous pollutants, including carbon monoxide and dioxin — the same chemical compound found in Agent Orange, the dangerous defoliant used during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971.

    As early as Operation Desert Storm in 1991, burn pits were used on U.S. military bases in Iraq. At the height of the Iraq War in 2005, more than 300,000 troops were stationed there and potentially exposed to the smoke and fumes from burn pits. Estimates place the number of burn pits around that time at 63.

    Thousands of Veterans and former contractors returned from the Middle East and have developed cancer, respiratory problems and blood disorders from what they claim is their exposure to toxins from the flaming pits. More than 140,000 active-service members and retirees have put their names on a Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration.

    Petraeus offered an explanation when asked about why burn pits were used on military bases, conceding that the realities of war kept concerns about how to dispose of waste a low priority at that time.

    "At that time we weren't worried about burn pits. We were worried about just getting enough water for our troops in the really hot summer," he says. "We were looking forward to the time where we might get some real food, real rations, as opposed to MREs and so forth."

    The general explained how the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure and the troop surge in 2007 were the high priorities at that time, but that the potential danger of burn pits was undeniable.

    “They obviously fought us back. But over time, in that tour, in particular, you start noticing other issues,” Petraeus said. “So, yes, there is serious combat going on. But you’re noticing that there’s this massive burn pit that is up-wind of us. So it blows over this huge base, Camp Victory, where we had 25,000 or more soldiers based and stationed.”

    “We had a number of other locations, again, where we had these burn pits. And you start to notice it more and more. And I got more and more concerned during that time -- I mean, it'd been something I'd noticed previously,” he said. “But now I realize that we've got all these soldiers who are, on really bad days, inhaling whatever it is that's being burned in these pits.”

    Petraeus recalled during the sit-down that requests to install incinerators were made during the time of the surge and followed up when he moved to Central Command, but that it presented issues of its own.

    “Well, it was something that had to be done for a long period of time,” he said of burn-pit disposal. “But at a certain point, it set in that perhaps there’s a better way of doing it.”

    “Incinerators were actually brought in in some cases. And then there were even problems just getting incinerators to work. Unfortunately, sometimes it was easier still just to put it in a hole and burn it.”

    Petraeus points out that our troops during that time were at what he calls a “survival stage” and many options did not exist to dispose of the massive amounts of waste generated on our military operations.

    “You have to do something with that. And now it's way beyond just human waste,” he says. “It's also all of the byproducts of just daily life. And a lot of that gets dumped into a hole in the ground, and gasoline, or whatever it is -- poured on it, and someone -- torches it. And it's the way of disposing of what otherwise can no longer be buried.”

    The general conceded that this crude method had persisted for a long time and that as bases grew in certain areas, burn pits also grew significantly.

    “The results of those, this enormous plume of black smoke and so forth was very, very noticeable,” Petraeus recalled. “[W]hen the wind was blowing and the burn pit was in operation at a number of these different bases.”

    “Needless to say, you'd try to put it so the wind wouldn't blow it over there. But the winds vary. And they changed. And there was never any perfect method to that.”

    Since 2013, Petraeus has been with global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts [KKR], where he serves as chair of their KKR Global Institute. He has also thrown his support behind efforts made in Washington to bring reform to the complicated process many Veterans go through when they file a claim through the Veterans Administration.

    In July, Petraeus sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to consider backing the Burn Pits Accountability Act – a recent bill brought before Capitol Hill by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Brian Mast, R-Fla.

    “I know that you share the sense of obligation that virtually all Americans have to those who have stepped forward at a time of war,” he wrote in the open letter.

    While steps toward reform are underway, there still is cause for concern for our troops who are currently in Iraq.

    A recent report from Fox News shows that burn pits are still being used in at least one military base in Iraq.

    In a series of images obtained exclusively by Fox News, a burn pit near Camp Taji, Iraq, is seen spewing thick clouds of black smoke into the air on a near-daily basis. According to one soldier stationed at the base, the pits are set ablaze as many as five times a week. The images were taken on and around June 3.

    The pits, seen in the pictures originally provided, are situated in a part of Camp Taji known as an “amber zone” — an area adjacent to U.S. Military operations where Iraqi National Forces operate. The soldier told Fox News that while the unit’s part of the camp is not using burn pits for trash disposal, it’s not exactly clear where their trash ends up.

    When asked about his thoughts on the burning still going on so close to where U.S. troops are stationed, General Petraeus expressed trepidation when seeing photos of the pits being operated in Taji’s amber zone.

    “It's actually the Iraqis who are using those now. But that still is a concern for us. And it should be,” he says. “I think as time has gone by we have come to realize that this is a bigger issue than clearly it was in the earlier years of these two wars.”

    “And with that awareness, obviously we can certainly do a better job.”

    Source

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