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Service Before Self Podcast

Oct 16, 2020

Colonel (Ret.) Sam Whitehurst, your host, is joined today by Rosie Torres, the executive director of Burn Pits 360, a nonprofit organization that gives voice to veterans and their families that are dealing with the effects of exposure to burn pits while deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. Rosie, and her husband, Captain (Ret.) Le Roy Torres, know firsthand the effects of burn pits to your health and they also know the challenges of trying to find treatment and support from the VA. Le Roy deployed to Balad, Iraq from 2007-2008 where he was daily exposed to the toxic, noxious smoke produced by one of the largest burn pits in Iraq. He began showing symptoms of respiratory disease while deployed and subsequently has been diagnosed with Constrictive Bronchiolitis and Toxic Brain Injury. After experiencing delay, denial of benefits, and ineffective treatment from his physicians, Le Roy alongside his wife, Rosie, founded Burn Pits 360.


Veterans across the country are struggling to get the VA to recognize that the debilitating and sometimes deadly illnesses caused by their exposure to burn pits is connected to their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just like our Vietnam Veterans, who were denied benefits from their exposure to Agent Orange, history, unfortunately, is repeating itself.  


Rosie shares her and her husband’s struggle to get the VA to recognize and treat his illnesses and the illnesses and diseases of other veterans who were exposed to the smoke produced by burn pits. She also discusses and shares key advice on starting a nonprofit to support veterans and provides information on how you can help Congress and the VA to finally address this very serious and pressing issue. 


Key Takeaways:

[1:09] The terrible consequences of the exposure to Agent Orange for veterans in service during the Vietnam War.

[4:11] History is about to repeat itself: Burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan created a smoked filled with dioxin.

[6:45] Rosie shares about creating Burn Pits 360.

[10:58] Rosie talks about the challenges that her husband and her encounter in this process with the VA after his return from Iraq.

[14:26] Rosie talks about the process of proving that her husband’s lung disease was connected to exposure.

[19:05] The scientific evidence vs the VA’s will to grant presumption.

[22:35] Rosie talks about the effects of combustion burning.

[25:13] Rosie shares about the work she was doing with Jon Stewart

[27:44] How can you help in moving the legislation along?

[30:07] Rosie shares the lessons learned just by standing up with Burn Pits 360.

[34:01] Burn Pits 360: A passion and purpose-driven organization.

[35:30] Meet veterans on November 11th at Washington to encourage the members of Congress to hold accountable and support their constituency. 


Mentioned in this episode:


Dixon Center: Reaching America

At Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services, we believe our veterans and military families can succeed where they live.

Dixon Center is named after Staff Sergeant Donnie Dixon, who was killed in action on September 29, 2007, in Iraq. Staff Sergeant Dixon was a father, husband, and Soldier who always placed the mission first and the safety of his fellow Soldiers above his own. Dixon Center for Military and Veterans Services stands as a testament to his example and leadership.

Dixon Center on Facebook

Dixon Center on Twitter

Dixon Center on Instagram


Burn Pits 360

Jon Stewart, Kirsten Gillibrand Press Conference Transcript: Burn Pit Relief for Veterans


Tweetables and quotes:


“There is no way that we can look away and allow this to happen”


“Access to specialized healthcare in regard to toxic exposure continues to be the biggest challenge for veterans:”


“The smell and look of the smoke that was produced by the burn pits was enough to know it was not right, not normal.”


“Burn Pits 360 Is a passion-driven organization, led by personal experience.”