Submission For The Record of Burn Pits 360
Honorable Chairman Jeff Miller and Honorable Members Of The Committee On Veterans’ Affairs
It is an honor to have the opportunity to submit a statement for the record regarding Bill H.R. 3337. I am the wife of Captain Leroy Torres and founder/Executive Director of Burn Pits 360. “The War That Followed Us Home” is the slogan on t-shirts worn by many service members, veterans, and families affected. They are also the 6 words that describe the health and lives stolen from thousands of soldiers who served in the OEF/OIF war campaign where they were exposed to environmental toxins.
My husband, Captain Leroy Torres served a dual role to his community as a State Trooper in the State Of Texas and a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves. He served a one-year tour at Camp Anaconda, a forward operating base that contained the largest burn pit. As he walked down the airport terminal with both arms and both legs, I sighed with relief thinking that we had accomplished a mission and our life would resume back to normal. It was his bulletproof vest in his civilian job that confirmed our biggest fear, returning from a war zone with life threatening injuries, everytime he put on the vest it restricted his breathing leaving him gasping for air. Since then he has been diagnosed with an irreversible lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, memory loss, parasitic infections, etc.… He has lost both of his careers at the age of 39 due to toxic inhalation and the effects this has had on him and on our family has been devastating. The once healthy father of 3 and husband that served on the SWAT police tactical squad and ran circles around his children is now a patient to over a dozen specialty doctors including: cardiology, neurology, pulmonary, GI, etc.…
Gasping for air and searching for answers we felt alone and confused. What was causing the coughing spasms, fatigue, memory loss, headaches, Gastric pains and were we the only ones out there experiencing these unexplained symptoms. Our prayers were answered the night that I googled the words, “ soldiers returning sick from Iraq”. It was at that moment that we discovered a community of soldiers and their families that had lost the battle to toxic exposure and many that were still fighting the battle to toxic exposure.
Like the names listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, we discovered name after name of individuals that were suffering from brain tumors, cancer, lung diseases, etc.… One of those names is SSG. Steven Ochs, 32 yrs. old, who’s story of battling cancer after 3 tours in Iraq was told at the October 8, 2009 testimony before the United States Senate Committee On Veterans’ Affairs. The lists of Fallen Soldiers that have lost the battle to toxic exposure include: Amanda Downing 24 yrs. old, Sgt. William Mc Kenna, Major Kevin Wilkins 51 yrs. old, SSG. Matthew Bumpus 31 yrs. old, Christopher Sachs 36 yrs. Old, Andy Rounds 22 yrs. Old, Jessica Sweet, SSGT Danielle Nienajadlo, and many more.
Since organizing Burn Pits 360, we are currently the only organization that manages a registry for those affected by toxic exposures from the Burn Pits In Iraq and Afghanistan. Our registry consists of over 600 self-reported entries. Over 90 % of the registries represent those suffering from pulmonary symptoms and others from Parkinson’s, low testosterone levels, skin rashes, fatigue, joint pain, memory loss, crohn’s disease, parasites, h-pylori, colon cancer, t-cell lymphoma, AML-acute myeloid leukemia, lung cancer, throat cancer, brain tumors, CML-chronic myelogenous leukemia, renal cell carcinoma, and several other illnesses.
Burn Pits 360 was developed as a pathway of advocacy by constituents and military families affected by toxic exposure. It was the only answer to avoid from becoming the next Agent Orange. This became a passion and a mission for my husband, my family, and for myself. The service members, veterans, families of the fallen, children, spouses, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives to those affected ask each and every one of you to support H.R. 3337. We have traveled to Washington at our own expense, walked the halls of Capitol Hill, visited the gravesites of those that have lost the battle, and built life long friendships with one thing in common, Burn Pits. As a military family our patriotism is shown by the American Flag that hangs over our front porch, as a caregiver to a wounded warrior, a twenty one year employee of the Department Of Veteran Affairs, and executive director to Burn Pits 360, it is my hope that each and everyone of you will show your patriotism by supporting a bill that will serve as a platform to those affected by toxic exposure.