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I’m a Marine who was exposed to toxic burns 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 to millions of combatants exposed to toxic burns while on duty.” On Thursday, 41 Republicans in Washington made it clear they don’t give an opinion on veterans.
It’s personal to me. That was in 2009. I was stationed at Al Taqaddum Air Base where I was a naval captain leading a police training team.
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Twelve Marines and a Navy Corpsman. Performing missions across Habbaniyah, Fallujah and Ramadi. This was the first of my three tours of duty during the War on Terror. And from our camp, the base burning pit towered over us.
Columns of smoke filled the sky and blew through our living space. We walked through it joking about how we should be racing gas masks. For three months, this pit bathed us in toxic fumes. We accepted it and focused on our duty.
For me, that was planning our routes and providing intelligence to avoid the immediate danger: improvised explosive devices on all the convoys and missions we conducted outside the perimeter. I was so proud to bring every member of this team home safely.
Or so I thought. Because it turns out we couldn’t protect ourselves from our own country.
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When I came back from Iraq, I developed a persistent tickle in my throat. Constant irritation. I had never had allergies before and was bored with the constant throat clearing.
Eventually, I was so embarrassed that I went to the base clinic. They said it was post nasal drip and they could give me some allergy medicine. There was no formal diagnosis. But more than 10 years later, it is still there.
Boring. Uncomfortable, but certainly manageable. And that’s about the best story you’ll hear about a vet who’s been exposed to burn outbreaks.
Many struggle with chronic respiratory problems. Migraines. Cancer. So imagine how we all felt on Thursday, watching all those Republicans, most of whom have never even worn uniforms, throwing a giant middle finger at us?
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I know it’s harsh language, but it has to be. Because what they did was about as un-American as it gets.
Patriots do not attack veterans who have been injured or sickened by these toxic pits. And what really makes me cringe about all of this is that a bunch of these Republicans spent years voting to keep us in eternal wars, lying to the American people about what was really going on there and getting rich off their defense contractor stocks that skyrocket when we’re at war.
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These people took advantage of sending us there only to piss us off when we came back messed up. It is criminal.
If Republicans don’t have a patriotic bone in their back, then we need to step up as Democrats and do something about it.
Get rid of the filibuster and pass the things that will help us ordinary Americans. Veterans should no longer wait for Washington to do its job.
We have done our time. I served my country for 13 years in the United States Marine Corps. I would give anything for this country.
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I only wish that our leaders could make an ounce of the sacrifice of our veterans.
Our country would be a better place.