In Viet Nam, it was called Agent Orange, and forty years later veterans exposed to this and other
chemicals are still fighting for treatment and answers. In Afghanistan, they are called Burn Pits. The primary difference is the first was a weapon deployed
against the environment and the second is ostensibly in defense of the environment.
In April 2011, an Army environmental engineer officer wrote a report stating that the burn pits at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan are the primary source of air pollution. This study was conducted as part of the Army’s investigation into the cause of so many soldiers seeking treatment subsequent to being stationed there. After hundreds of deaths and thousands of claims presented to the VA, some had begun to organize and get the attention of elected officials.
The most moving and unsurprising piece of news to come out of this tragedy is the support these veterans are receiving from previous generations of vets, particularly those from Viet Nam. Those veterans know all too well the challenges and difficulties these new vets will face in the years and decades to come. In the same spirit in which Viet Nam vets have spearheaded the movement to honor all those currently serving, to guarantee they are welcomed home with the respect and dignity they deserve, they are helping organize and publicize the fight of this generation for recognition of their service related illnesses. They have more than forty years of experience on the front lines of the battle with the government they swore to serve, a government that used all its resources to deny them the care they deserved.