Retired Sergeant Wesley Black is only 35 years of age and is on the verge of death. Black has colon cancer that has spread all over his body. He survived two combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Vermont National Guard and received several honors, including the Purple Heart.
In an interview with CNN, Black said: “I might die tomorrow. I could live another six months… it depends on my body’s reaction to chemotherapy.”
An oncologist outside the Veterans Affairs system who looked at Black’s case said that smoking trash from mass incineration pits on U.S. military bases and sometimes the size of acres is one of the reasons Black has cancer.
“Soldiers tend to produce a lot of garbage,” Black told CNN. “Metals, plastics, electronics, medical and human waste, uniforms, chemicals, paint as well as munitions and petroleum products. All of this is dumped in a landfill, then covered with diesel fuel and set on fire.”
In Ramadi, Iraq, where I served, the hole was along with several soccer fields. And at a distant combat site in eastern Afghanistan, I remember how the combustion pit was only 150 feet away from the front door. If you happen to be the gatekeeper, you’ll be up in smoke for more than 8 to 12 hours a day.”
Thousands of American soldiers inhaled the carcinogenic fumes from the combustion pits following a recent survey in the US. In Iraq and Afghanistan, 86% of veterans in both conflicts reported exposure to toxic fumes from fuel pits. And 88% of the people found had symptoms that could be linked.
Black retired medically in 2015 after being ejected from a Humvee during a roadside bomb attack, suspected of surviving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been complaining of severe symptoms to veterans for years, but he was only diagnosed with cancer in 2017. The diagnosis was stage four bowel cancer, and for him, it was the death penalty.
When he heard about it, Black had just had a child and had just begun his career as a firefighter. He retired from the fire department this past spring when the disease reached a late stage. Now Black goes to the local funeral home to choose his coffin.
The White House is well aware of the dangers of incineration pits and the resulting toxins that threaten to kill many vets. Presidential candidate Joe Biden thinks the burns may have killed his beloved son Beau, who passed away from cancer in 2015, after his return with a stage four glioblastoma. During his election campaigns, Biden committed to conducting rigorous research on the long-term effects of burn exposure.
Burn pits have been on the legislative radar of the last two presidents, including bills signed into law increasing exposure data. In 2013, President Barack Obama signed the burn pit registry into law, so that the Department of Veterans Affairs could collect data on veterans’ exposure to pit burns.
In 2019, then U.S. President Donald Trump issued a partial ordinance to phase out combustion sites and require the Department Of Defense (DOD) to specify where they are used, so that information can be accessed based on where sick veterans have served. The Department of Veterans Affairs says the Department of Defence has closed most of the combustion pits at this point and plans to close the remainder.”