Season 1
Episode 1

Burn pits were standard military practice during the wars we waged in the Middle East and now tens of thousands of our veterans are suffering from respiratory diseases, cancers, and other illnesses caused by exposure to the toxic black smoke the pits emitted. That is awful enough, but the Department of Veterans Affairs was also routinely refusing to acknowledge that these illnesses were connected to veterans’ service and was denying them benefits.

Scroll down to learn more about how the veterans we had on our episode and other advocacy groups worked tirelessly to pass legislation that expands access to care for veterans exposed to toxins during service.

Learn about Wes' fight

If I can prevent just one family from going through what I'm going through right now, I can kneel before my maker and say, 'I did a lot of bad shit in my life. But I did one good thing, and I advocated for those that didn't know.'

We first met Wes when he appeared as a panelist on our show and spoke so powerfully about his battle with stage 4 colon cancer, which is believed to be a result of his exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. His struggle to get proper care from the VA cost him critical time, and he devoted himself to fighting to fix this broken system.

Wes often said that if he was able to prevent even one person from having to go through what he did, then he would have succeeded. And, boy, did he ever. His story immediately struck a chord and the effects rippled out so strongly that it led to renewed energy on Capitol Hill to pass presumption legislation for those who served near burn pits.

We were extremely lucky to have Wes on our Veterans Day podcast, and we were heartbroken to learn that he died several days after we recorded the interview. He spoke at length about his love for his wife, Laura, and their son, Ronan, who told us they feel a tremendous loss. You can read his full obituary here.

We'll leave you with something Wes said when Jon asked what he’d want to say to the politicians in Washington:

"I hope that we can always strive to be better. If we genuinely push ourselves to be better, we can always be better. And I want politicians to know that they have the opportunity right now to be better. Push yourselves to support those who willingly, willingly went and defended this country. Do not forget their sacrifices."