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Burned Pit Allegedly Claimed Another Life

In a rather saddening incident, a National Guard veteran Amie Muller died after 9 months of her struggle against stage III pancreatic cancer. Before moving to Minnesota Amie was posted in, Iraq and the nature of her job forced her to live and work at an air base in northern Iraq, which had several burns, pits billowing toxic gasses every second.

Amie, the mother of three, told her story to Star Tribune soon after she was diagnosed. Her frustration was evident the way she explained the harassment she had to experience during her chemotherapy sessions and the side effects of related medical procedures. However, her major concern was for others who were still not focusing on the problems they were experiencing due to their proximity to burning pits.

In a memorial service held in Woodbury, Pastor Lisa Renlund expressed her pain over the sad demise of Muller.People are also remembering the efforts Muller was putting for US government to recognize the victims of Burn pits. These burn pit had the potential to become Agent Orange of Vietnam war.

Brutal truth of Balad’s Burn pit

 Muller was posted to Balad, Iraq, with the Minnesota Air National Guard in 2005 as well as in 2007. Her living quarter was close to one of the notorious burn pits. Without taking the effects of the burn pit into account, items such as Styrofoam, metals, plastics, electrical equipment, human body parts were cremated within the flames stoked with jet fuel.

The burn pit was operated non-stop. According to the estimates, it consumed around 100 to 200 tons of waste per day. The 25000 troops stationed there, were under the continuous cover of the hazardous fumes resulted from the burn pit.

When Muller came back, she started keeping sick and guessed about various ailments from migraines to fibromyalgia. But she would have never imagined that she has brought cancer from Balad which she was diagnosed with last May.

Muller was not the only one who suffered. Julie Tomaska was deployed with Muller at the same time was diagnosed with fatigue, headaches and digestive problems. Her VA also approved “Environmental exposures.”Tomaska and Muller became close after Muller was diagnosed, she not only helped her with the paperwork involved for Muller’s disability claims but also attended treatments with her at Mayo clinic.

Tomaska now aims to set up a foundation for others like Amie.

Increasing trend of Veterans coming home with Illness

Though the department of Veteran’s affairs stands by the research claims which have failed to find evidence of long-term health concerns caused by burn pits, but service members who were stationed there have filed a registry which now includes 100,000 people.

There have been few positive moves. One such step was taken earlier this month when TU.S. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced bipartisan legislation.It seeks to create a center of excellence within the VA and will work towards understanding the health effects because of burn pits. It will also treat veterans.

As Klobuchar praises the efforts done at Minneapolis VA she also says “What’s important to me is that we keep doing this research and we don’t close our eyes and pretend that it’s just a coincidence that these veterans came home with these illnesses.” Comparing this with agent Orange and gulf war syndrome She emphasized “It’s a sad chapter, whether it was Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome, that people had to wait this long. We don’t want this to happen again with burn pits.”

Joseph Hickman, A veteran and author of “The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers,” expresses his concerns over the delay in claims of Veterans.

Last Goodbye to Muller

On Friday, at Muller’s memorial, honor guards and other mourners said their last goodbye to Muller. The memorial happened at Crossroads Church in Woodbury where the Patriot Guard stood outside in a growing snowstorm as mourners entered.

The department projected the Photos of Muller’s life.The journey they showed included Caribbean family vacations and military deployments and training.

Retired Lt. Col. Audra Flanagan talked about the interests of Muller and noted that she was trained as a military photojournalist. Her accomplishments included a video and photographic record for family members of fallen service members as an honor to their service. She was also a great graphic artist.

Flanagan said, “No one could have honored our fallen service members with the same heart and grace as Amie,”.

The burial of Muller will happen at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

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