TEXAS — A new Burn Pit Registry in the State of Texas aims to create awareness and resources for soldiers exposed to toxins from the pits while they serve.
Two Central Texas women were part of the fight for change.
Diane Slape was married to a Soldier, SFC Fredrick Slape who served the United States Army for 20 years.
SFC Slape retired from the military in 2012, and three years later he was still facing problems from his time in service.
"Where their motor pool was, it was about 50 feet from large burn pits and so they breathed the smoke and the fumes that came from these burn pits. They breathed it in their sleep, they breathed it while they worked, they breathed it while they ate,” Slape said.
Slape’s husband was diagnosed with cancer linked to toxins from the burn pits. He died 9 weeks after his diagnosis.
"All the doctors, all the radiation, everybody, the neurologist, everybody comes in and says 'Well, there is nothing more we can do," Slape said. "He said, I want to fight until I can't fight anymore, and I said okay, that's what we are going to do and they gave him one more round of radiation and he died three days later."
The death of SFC Slape is similar to that of several other warfighters, including Yoshenobia Harris’ husband, SSG Jimmy Harris who was in the Army for 22 years.
SSG Harris was diagnosed with cancer in the years following his retirement from the military.
"We found out that it is cancerous, stage four and it's known as angiosarcoma," Harris said.
The 41-year-old was told that there were no treatment options for his lung cancer, and he needed to prepare for the inevitable.
"We decided that the next step would be hospice and Jimmy looked at the doctors and said I know she may not be prepared, but I am prepared," Harris said.
Following his death, an autopsy was performed on SSG Harris. Doctors at MD Anderson linked his death back to his time in the military.
"All they could link it to was the fact that during his military career, what he could have been exposed to,” Harris said.
Burn pits exposure has not been officially linked to cancers, which is why the two Central Texas women have teamed up with Burn Pit 360 to fight for change, starting with the State of Texas.
"They deserve so much more, they have given their lives for this country and this is how they are being treated," Slape said.
The State of Texas passed a bill during the 86th legislative session that will create a burn pit registry for Texas. It will go into effect in September.