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How did I ever hear about burns? There is no doubt that these open fires, spread all over Iraq and Afghanistan during the conflicts in those countries, had been the subject of writing, had been the subject of legal proceedings and were alleged by dozens of doctors, even to hundreds of veterans.

Still, I had managed to miss out on the story – like a big part of the nation, I guess.

I've taken a new pace, Veterans Affairs, at the end of last year. It interested me because it combined many of my past stories (health care, the West, politics and Congress) while making me discover a culture I know little.

So, this often goes with veterans, a population that our country worships but often forgets. We understand that they have high rates of suicide, post-traumatic stress and opioid use. But we are less aware of their daily challenges, including predatory lenders and for-profit colleges, which specifically target them.

Many things are probably contributing to the deficit of attention. We may think that journalists sometimes lose sight of information outside our expertise. We often isolate ourselves in our coverage areas. In this sense, we are diligent readers. We gravitate towards our pre-existing interests.

My interest in covering veterans' issues began when I was working as a live event publisher for Good Medical, scheduling panels with Times reporters across the country alongside our At War team. . Whether it is in Washington, with Senator Tammy Duckworth in front of a packed house, or in an intimate setting in San Diego with the writer of "American Sniper," I saw that the Times had it. opportunity to create an audience in the veterans community that we did not see during other events.

That's what attracted me, especially my curiosity for those who served in the post-9/11 conflicts. Together with my colleague Dave Philipps, who covered veterans and others. military issues in Colorado Springs., and with our journalists on the beat of the Pentagon, I would have a chance to go farther and wider.

When I was establishing new sources, there were many veterans services organizations that I could turn to. When I wrote about the veterans, I found that they and those who cared for them came quickly to you via email and Twitter, eager to share their experiences and get involved.

One theme immediately struck me: the differing views and needs of this generation of veterans, many of whom are now House representatives, and part of the population older veterans. For example, many younger veterans are much more interested in education and employment issues than in health care policies and in giving back to their communities – to continue serving, they say – that as advocacy work.

I've encountered the problem of burning toxic waste – and how it could have affected the health of people deployed after the 9/11 wars – by talking to veterans' lawyers. Pits have been a frequent occurrence in conversations with Veterans Services organizations and Capitol Hill; there is even a bipartite caucus for burns. However, health care data on burn injuries remain inconclusive and anecdotal, making it a difficult subject to report and court judgment.

It was difficult to talk to veterans who thought they had been injured by garbage containing burning garbage. They thought they had entered into conflict knowing that they might not survive the deployment, but they were generally unprepared for diseases that appeared years after their service.

It is somewhat analogous to the views of many veterans on the cultural cleavage between civilians and the 1% of Americans in the military.

They feel forgotten and frustrated, and many health professionals feel the same, even when there is conflict over what the evidence tells us about exposure to burning pits. Nevertheless, these personal stories have touched many members of Congress, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, who subscribed to the legislation largely because of one or two veterans sick or dead in their community.

"I was just trying to be a good sailor," said Ryne Robinson, a veteran with a brain tumor, that he and others think he was caused by his exposure to a burning well in Iraq. "The day you sign this paper and go to the training camp, you do what you are told." Suck it up, buttercup. "

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