Rep. Sibilia: Veteran’s Day 2021

Thank you to all who have served our country in the Armed Forcers. In a free society, we have obligations to each other and our country to each do our part to protect our democracy. Most of us do this by voting, volunteering, running for school boards, teaching our kids, patrolling our neighborhoods taking care of the sick and protesting injustice. Those who serve our country in the Armed Forces have agreed to serve under circumstances that are often more difficult and dangerous then the jobs most of us do to protect our country. I believe we have an obligation to take care of them when they come home.

At the urging of June Heston a military widow whose husband became sick and died from the burn pits and Staff SGT Wesley Black who, sick with cancer, began his legislative testimony, “You are looking at a dead man…” the Vermont Legislature has taken a number of steps to draw attention to illness and death of veterans who have served overseas in the vicinity of burn pits including promoting the burn pit registry. Burn pits were used to incinerate human and medical waste, plastic water bottles, ammunition and chemicals on military bases. This registry is a means of connecting individuals and health conditions together in order to better identify health risks and possible treatments from exposure.

If you are a veteran or you love a veteran, particularly ones that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, encourage them to sign up for the Burn Pit Registry. https://www.ngfamily.vt.gov/Resources/Burn-Pit-Registry/

From the Vermont Department of Health:

VETERANS AFFAIRS AIRBORNE HAZARDS AND OPEN BURN PIT REGISTRY

As described in Act 68 (2019) the Vermont Department of Health provides links and contact information relevant to the Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the registry is a tool to help service members and veterans become more aware of their own health and to help the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify health conditions possibly related to burn pit exposure or other airborne hazards during military service.

Participation in the registry is voluntary. Active-duty service members and veterans can participate in the registry by completing a web-based health questionnaire about their health and exposures to airborne hazards. Information reported by participants is maintained in a secure database, and may be used in future research studies.

ELIGIBILITY FOR PARTICIPATION IN THE REGISTRY

Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel veterans and service members who have deployed to the Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990 as well as those who have deployed to Afghanistan or Djibouti after September 11, 2001 can use the registry questionnaire to report exposures to airborne hazards (such as smoke from burn pits, oil-well fires, or pollution during deployment), as well as other exposures and health concerns.

RESOURCES Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits Registry

CONTACT INFORMATION Find contact information for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry

White River Junction Veteran’s Administration Medical Center
215 North Main Street
White River Junction, VT 05009

Audrey Osgood, Vermont Environmental Health Coordinator
(802) 295-9363 x5909
Audrey.Osgood@va.gov
Fax: (802) 296-6335

In honor of Staff SGT Black who lost his battle with cancer this week, consider donations to Hunter Seven https://hunterseven.org a nonprofit medical research group studying the effects of burn pits on veterans.

From Adjutant General Greg Knight: Army National Guard, Wesley Black deployed to Ramadi, Iraq with Task Force Saber in 2005, and again with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) to Afghanistan in 2010 as an Infantry Soldier. He loved serving in our Guard and in his community – Wes was an outstanding Soldier, Veteran and Firefighter. In 2015, Wes was medically retired due to injuries sustained in an IED attack. In 2017, following a long period of working through aberrant, serious symptoms with the VA, Wes was diagnosed with colon cancer. While we had all hoped for a different outcome, we lost Wes on 07NOV21 at around 1530. He is survived by his wife Laura, and his son Ronan, age five.

Wes was a fighter, and testified to our Legislature on passing burn pit legislation, requiring the VTNG to work with all interested agencies in advocating to enroll more Veterans in the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry – https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/burnpits/registry.asp.

Laura and Wes also both testified at the national level, working diligently to ensure Veterans have a voice, and to highlight the impact of open air burn pits on the health of our Veterans. I encourage any of our Guard members and Veterans, currently serving or separated from the service, to register. I can easily give you a dozen names of Veterans, in Vermont and other states we deployed with, who are currently suffering from acute ailments and aberrant cancers, or have died far too early. Having more Veterans enroll in the registry helps us to gather the information and research needed to provide required care. I also encourage you to sign a medical release from your primary care provider to the VA. In the future, our Veterans may develop a disease much later that may be related to burn pit exposure during deployments. The least we can do is to get them the treatment they need as early as possible, and allow medical professionals to determine if there is a link to burn pit exposure

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