I met my friend Susan in early 2017. At a meeting we both attended, she shared the story of her son-in-law, a member of the United States military who has served multiple tours in the Middle East. While living on base in these countries, he had been exposed to something I had never heard of - Burn Pits.
Following 9/11, when troops were deployed to these areas, a company was hired to construct covered, properly ventilated, incinerators to burn wastes of war, from chemicals, to medical waste, to garbage, to poisonous materials. Instead, they dug open pits the size of several football fields and burned these items 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in these pits located behind housing in camp.
When these soldiers returned home, they began to develop illnesses ranging from lung infections to cancers related to breathing these gases. The military refused to acknowledge these illnesses were service related and denied benefits ranging from medical care to life insurance, to caregiving to these people who were serving their country.
Here is a link to a Youtube video explaining the nightmare they have experienced. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VppHqKQyqk
Her son-in-law died from these illnesses while waiting for approval for his wife to be able to provide home care for him. His daughter was only four years old and had never known her father as a healthy man.
Susan and her daughter Danielle have continued the battle for other families who are suffering like theirs is. And have focused that activism in contacting members of congress to help advocate for military burn pit victims and these cruel policies overturned.
The reason I am telling you all this is that my friend Susan's daughter received a call today from the White House. She has been invited to be the guest of Dr. Jill Biden at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night when important information about these military victims will be shared.
A family from a small town in Ohio, everyday people doing everyday things, have taken a horrible tragedy in their own family and have turned it into activism for every other military family affected and have risen to the national stage. I am just so proud of this recognition of their efforts and so proud to know them.
Please meet Danielle on the left and her warrior mom on the right.
A Susan Fun Fact. For almost two decades my friend Susan has trained service dogs. She works with an agency in another state who assigns a puppy to her for about 18 months. She does training every day with every day activities as well as group activities on a monthly basis. These activities include everything from football games to eating in restaurants to riding in an ambulance. It is an intense program and she puts her heart and soul into this mission, too. It is a strict program and these dogs are better trained and behaved that most humans. At the end of the training period, the dog is sent to school with a person chosen to be matched with this lifeline to assist them. The person and dog are then trained together until the agency is satisfied.