opinion | The monster that followed him home from the war

Within a month, the first symptoms appeared: pressure in the chest, knots in the stomach, a thickening aura, followed by a feeling like someone was scratching the base of the skull. He was quarantined over Christmas for fear he had caught a virus; Primary care physicians dismissed his concerns by saying it was the “Iraqi filth”.

When her husband returned home a year later, Ms. Torres was euphoric. “He’s fine,” she thought. “He’s not missing a limb.” But he wasn’t okay. She would find him wrapped around an ottoman, rocking back and forth, cloths tied tightly around his head to squeeze out the pain. He, too, was suffering from new, unknown ailments: rectal bleeding, fainting and, of course, that cough.

Startled, Mrs. Torres turned to the Internet. “Soldiers dying coming home from Iraq,” she typed into the search bar. This led to an electrifying discovery: Mr. Torres wasn’t the only one to come home with similar symptoms. She spent hours exchanging emails and talking to spouses, comparing symptoms and scraps of information from doctors, and soon she had built a network that became Burn Pits 360, a seedy nonprofit that after years of frustration finally got going Ride won lawmakers.

By 2012, when Mr. Torres was forced from his job, his health had deteriorated. Mrs. Torres quit her job to take care of him and do the paperwork needed to claim disability payments from the VA, was incapacitated by burn pits and began receiving disability compensation, which now totals about $3,000. dollars per month.

By this point, however, the couple had already spent their savings and begun to take out loans – loans from family members, ruinous advances from payday deals, maxed-out credit cards. creditors molested them; They were about to lose their home. It would take years to get out of debt.

“No pay, no pay, no pay,” Mr Torres said. “We kept falling behind. My depression skyrocketed. I did not know, what I should do.”

He reached a breaking point one night in 2016 when another headache gripped his skull.

He picked up a shotgun. Mrs. Torres heard him cock the gun and she lunged at him, clawing for the gun. The couple’s dog, a German shepherd named Hope, ran in circles in fear, then grabbed Mr Torres by the buttocks of his cargo pants and threw him to the ground. The gun rattled.

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