Iraq, Afghan vets may have their own Agent Orange.
By Mark Brunswick Star Tribune
JUNE 18, 2016
While it took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link Agent Orange, the defoliant used in Vietnam, to cancer, President Obama has pledged quick action to make determinations about the effect of the burn pits on perhaps as many as 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Hundreds say goodbye to Amie Muller, who sounded alarm over toxic risks for Iraq veterans.
FEBRUARY 24, 2017
Muller, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 36, worked and lived next to one of the most toxic military burn pits in all of Iraq.
National Guard veteran Amie Muller believed deployments to Iraq caused the cancer that killed her.
She worked and lived next to burn pits that billowed toxic smoke night and day at an air base in northern Iraq. After returning to Minnesota, she began experiencing health problems usually not seen in a woman in her 30s.
Muller died a week ago, nine months after being diagnosed with Stage III pancreatic cancer. On Friday, more than 800 of her friends and family gathered at a memorial service in Woodbury to remember the life of the 36-year-old mother of three. A pastor noted her loss was both painful and seemingly incomprehensible.
“I wish there was a simple way to explain what has happened to Amie. Why Amie is gone,” said Pastor Lisa Renlund. “Life truly isn’t that simple. It can get messy. It can feel complicated. It can seem unfair.”
But others also are remembering Muller’s battle to win recognition from the U.S. government for victims of the burn pits, which have the potential of becoming the Iraq and Afghanistan wars’ equivalent of the Vietnam War’s Agent Orange. It took nearly three decades for the U.S. government to eventually link the defoliant used in Vietnam to cancer.
Veteran and whistleblower Amie Dahl Muller Leaves a Legacy
- By Mike Gainor, email@example.com Mar 3, 2017
She was a Pine City High School graduate. She was an Air Force veteran, serving two tours in Iraq. She was a wife, and a mother of three. And then, struck down with pancreatic cancer, she was a passionate advocate for veterans sickened by exposure to burn pit smoke in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Amie Marie (Dahl) Muller died at age 36 on Feb. 18, but her legacy of service to her country and her fellow veterans lives on.
Amie’s funeral was Feb. 24 in Woodbury, and she received a military burial in Fort Snelling National Cemetery on Feb. 27.
Service in Iraq
After graduating from Pine City High School in 1998 she enlisted in the Air Force, then joined the Minnesota Air National Guard at the 148th Fighter Wing in late 2001.
In 2005 and in 2007 Amie was deployed to Balad Air Force Base in Iraq. During her tours in Iraq she worked as a video specialist, studying video footage gathered by pilots in order to identify possible roadside bombs.
As reported in the Star Tribune, her assigned living quarters were near a 10-acre burn pit which burned 100 to 200 tons of waste a day, using jet fuel to keep the fire burning hot. Into those flames were thrown, Styrofoam, metals and plastics, electrical equipment and even human body parts.
Service at home
In 2009, her parents, Jon and Carole Dahl of Pine City, told the Pine City Pioneer how proud they were of their daughter. Since returning to Minnesota she had taken on a new role.
“She actually started a program to videotape the funerals of Minnesota veterans who were killed in action,” Carole Dahl explained. “She has bonded so tightly with those families. The day of the funeral is just a blur for them, but she videotapes everything and makes a disk for them. They treasure those things, and they absolutely love her.”
She also designed a series of license plates to commemorate “Gold Star” families who have lost a family member serving on active military duty, and her design was accepted. At the unveiling ceremony at the state capitol, which was attended by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty, Amie was presented with an engraved award and roses.
Serving the families of fallen veterans had a price.
“She loves what she does, but it’s very hard,” Carole said in 2009. “She’s very, very, very deep into her country.”
Illness and advocacy
But Amie, married and raising three children, was suffering from fatigue, headaches, and chronic pain. After years of consulting with doctors she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May, 2016.
In June, 2016, the Star Tribune told her story. With numerous veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan falling sick, many felt that the toxic burn pits were to blame – including Amie.
“It makes me really mad,” she told the Star Tribune. “I inhaled that stuff. It was all day, all night. Everything that they burned there, is illegal to burn in America. That tells you something.”
Burn pit response
The Veterans Administration established a Burn Pit Registry (veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry) to track service members who were exposed to burn pit smoke. As of March 1, 102,605 veterans had applied. However, a congressionally mandated report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released on Feb. 28 called that registry flawed and called for a well-designed epidemiologic study of veterans exposed to burn pit smoke.
Though lawsuits have been filed by veterans against the contractor that constructed and maintained the burn pits, the official position of the VA is that it has not been proved that burn pit smoke has caused serious health problems to the veterans exposed to it.
Passion for helping others
Amie died on Feb. 18, leavingbehind three children, ages 14 to 3, her husband Brian, and many beloved relatives and friends. The Amie Muller Foundation, dedicated to “Her fighting spirit, fierce love and passion for helping others,” will serve other military families affected by pancreatic cancer: www.youcaring.com/militaryfamiliesaffectedbypancreaticcancer-762479.
On Feb. 7, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat from Minnesota, and Sen. Tom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, introduced a bill calling for more research and resources for veterans exposed to burn pits.
If the bill passes, the “Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act” would create a “center of excellence” inside the VA to study the effect of burn pits and treat the tens of thousands of veterans who say that their health has been damaged by them.
“With an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure, it’s clear that we can’t afford to wait,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
The White Bear Press
Family advocates on behalf of late airman who blamed toxic burn pits for cancer
- By Julie Kink/Contributing Writer - Mar 22, 2017
Amie Muller’s name will forever be synonymous with veterans’ advocacy.
The 36-year-old died Feb. 18, 2017 after a courageous 10-month battle with pancreatic cancer. She and her family attributed the disease to toxins from burn pits she lived near during two tours in Iraq as a member of the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Amie’s family is hoping that her story will raise awareness of the health conditions associated with exposure to open burn pits, and help other families dealing with similar tragedies. Her mother-in-law, Sandy Muller of Mahtomedi, said the story is attracting nationwide attention.
Amidst a flurry of media attention, Amie’s husband Brian Muller divides his time between his job as a financial advisor with Edward Jones, his singer/songwriter career heading up Brian David Band, and raising three children: Jace, five; Emmerson, three; and Caidyn Krause, 15. He lives in Woodbury. (Sidenote: White Bear residents may find the band name familiar as Brian David has played at many local venues, including Marketfest, Tally's and Admiral D's.)
“Jace and Emmerson come up to me frequently and say how much they miss mommy,” Muller said. “Jace is mad at cancer and says he has the cure. He talks about wishing on a falling star for a second chance to save mommy.”
Muller said he’s still trying to get the Veterans Administration to admit that Amie’s cancer was caused by environmental toxins. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, IBS and PTSD - conditions diagnosed before doctors found the cancer - are currently on her VA claim, he said. For more than a year, doctors could not pinpoint the problem. The average age of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 71, according to the American Cancer Society.
Family members and friends say that for Amie, helping others came naturally. She experienced the strong brotherhood and sisterhood of the military, and she understood the heartache of loss. As a military photojournalist, Amie covered funeral services for those who were killed in action.
According to her obituary, she spearheaded a program that creates video and photo productions as lasting memorials for military families who have suffered a loss. During her deployment to Iraq to work with the Weapon Systems Video program, she volunteered at the Balad Air Force Hospital. She also designed Minnesota’s Gold Star Family license plate, specifically for those who lost a loved one serving on active duty. Together, Amie and Brian wrote a song for fallen servicemembers, called “Fallen, But Not Forgotten” (available on iTunes).
Brian said among the many expressions of support, the introduction of the Help Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act, introduced in the House by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Thom Tillis, is monumental. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a center of excellence in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to open burn pits and other environmental exposures in Afghanistan or Iraq.
The VA acknowledges that it is studying the problem. But while the studies provide information about the health effects, the VA website states, there’s not enough information to determine the long-term impacts. The department created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for Veterans and Service members as “a tool to help participants become more aware of their health and to identify health conditions possibly related to exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards (e.g., sand, dust and particulates).”
“Amie Muller served this country with distinction and we owe her our gratitude,” Sen. Klobuchar said on her website. “There are an increasing number of our brave men and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan citing illnesses potentially caused by burn pits exposure. I am going to keep fighting so that these veterans receive the care and support they need.”
Before Amie died, she and Brian established the Amie Muller Foundation, whose mission is to support families of military members diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, through financial assistance to help them pay the costs of medical bills, childcare, travel needed for chemotherapy treatments, and so forth.
“Our goal to start off is to help five military families each year who have a loved one diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” Brian said. He anticipates the Foundation will provide up to $5,000 per family and assist with resources, education and advice. As of this writing, $5,645 of the initial $25,000 goal has been raised. A website has been created: http://www.amiemullerfoundation.org.
“Eventually I would like to raise money for the most important and vital research that needs to be done to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer early,” Brian said. “This is the most important task to increase survival odds in the future.”
To contact the Amie Muller Foundation: Amie Muller Foundation P.O. BOX 251153, WOODBURY MN 55125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sen. Klobuchar Continues Fight For Veterans Exposed To Burn Pits
April 25, 2017 9:04 PM By Jennifer Mayerle
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sen. Amy Klobuchar has proposed legislation to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
WCCO reported last month about the death of Amie Muller, a Minnesota veteran and mother of three.
The 36-year-old believed her cancer was linked to her time serving our country.
“Amie Muller’s death was such a tragedy, but then you find out it’s happened to others who’ve either gotten sick or died when they have been living or working in close proximity to these burn pits, which cropped up when we went into those wars,” Klobuchar said.
Amie Muller (credit: CBS)
Long before Muller’s death, Klobuchar was determined to find out if exposure to pits — where the military burned waste — was linked to health concerns of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The untimely loss of the Minnesota veteran and mother of three only propelled her efforts.
“She was living in close proximity to one of the most notorious burn pits, where tons of trash and garbage and things that probably should not have been incinerated were burned right next to where she was living, working, sleeping,” Klobuchar said. “Perhaps this could have been prevented. To be that young and die from pancreatic cancer, just makes no sense.”
She introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this year that would require the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a Center of Excellence to understand the health effects associated with the burn pits and to treat veterans who become sick.
“So our goal here is not to have this be the next Agent Orange, where it takes decades for people to acknowledge that this happened, and instead immediately do this research,” Klobuchar said.
The Senator believes it’s her duty to offer support and care for those who choose to serve and sacrifice for our country.
“You figure it’s our job to at least get the facts, at least give them the tools to protect themselves moving forward and figure out what course of treatment would be the best for them,” Klobuchar said.
More than 100,000 veterans have signed the national registry to document their exposures and concerns.
The VA says there is no evidence so far of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits.
Click here to learn more about the Amie Muller Foundation, which will hold its first fundraiser in her memory next month.
Survey of 28,426 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and active duty servicemembers regarding reported provider-diagnosed respiratory conditions based on reported burn pit exposure status.
Allergies to pollen, dust, or animals- 10,000
Emphysema, chronic bronchitis or COPD- 4,000
Asthma - 4,000
Chronic bronchitis - 3,500
Lung disease 2,000
COPD - 1,000
Emphysema - 500
Constrictive bronchiolitis - 200
Idopathic pulmonary fibrosis -100