Tuesday, May 25, 2010

War Veteran Says Military Burn Pits Caused His Cancer

War Veteran Says Military Burn Pits Caused His Cancer

Posted: May 17, 2010 12:27 AM EDT

Yuma, AZ May 16 - Iraqi war veterans know the risks associated with combat, but one local soldier never thought he would be put at risk for cancer.

He says government contractors are to blame. He thought Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were deadly but it turned out, that was the least of his worries.

Burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, hundreds are speaking out saying they're sick because of toxins in the air from what's getting burned.

Yuma resident Rigo Gonzalez says, "I brought these tents, large all purpose tents that are petroleum base and when you burn these tents, they release a toxin called benzene."

Benzene is a probable cause for the type of leukemia Rigo Gonzalez has been diagnosed with. And he's not the only American hero with these problems.

"The symptoms were exactly the same as mine: leukemia's, cancers, respiratory problems, all kinds of symptoms and diseases that these burn pits were causing."

And now there's a class action lawsuit against KBR, the government contractor in charge of the burn pits.

Gonzalez says, "when you take shortcuts and you don't take into consideration safety and human life, then you have to be held accountable for it."

Hundreds are involved in the lawsuit and Gonzalez says the number is growing everyday. He says concern over the burn pits was never a consideration.

"Your main concern is just to survive that day. You think it'd be things related to the enemy, but when it comes from people that supposedly are on your side, it's hard to take."

Gonzalez says a physical saved his life and he's encouraging all war veterans to protect themselves.

"You need a thorough physical with blood work and everything and I stress that for people coming back from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan."

KBR denies the allegations they are being negligent. On June 4th, a judge will rule whether the case will go to trial. Until then, hundreds of people like Gonzalez and several widows and their families wait.


I sympathize with this veterans and the tens of thousands others that have been exposed to these toxic materials due to the burn pits since the war began, but I fear as other military contractors of the past have been protected by the DOD and the federal courts as the work the companies were doing were under the rules established by the DOD and that the Feres Doctrine will prevent these injured soldiers, marines and air men and any other military personnel harmed by the toxic environment. KBR will claim they were doing what the military asked them to do, the governemnt supplied them with the JP4 that was used as the accelerants to make everything burn, and that KBR itself is not responsible for what the Generals were asking them to do. Just as DOW and other makers of Agent Orange escaped large financial liability, I forsee KBR escaping financial harm in this case.

I am sorry for feeling this way, and I wish all of the sick veterans a vetter outcome but like the Agent Orange victims the only real financial liability will come from the Veterans Adminsitration for what can be proved as medical problems caused by exposures to the toxic substances, I will give the government credit that this is the first time in history that the VA has recognized the issues emanating from the toxic fumes of the burn pits while the wars are still being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan where the burn pits are still in use in some places. Normally the government will fight for 10-40 years before admitiing any type of liability thru the VA, so in that aspect these veterans are better off than veterans of past wars, look at the veterans of Gulf War One they still have not "found" the cause of the 25% disability rates of that era's veterans.

I wish these veterans well in court but I will not be shocked when the court system rules in favor of the contractor.

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