MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Michael McLaughlin is an Iraq War veteran who now works in the Blue Earth County Veterans Center.
His latest mission is working alongside politicians and advocates to pass legislation that will help to bring to light some new diseases that could be service-connected.
He is advocating on behalf of the veterans that have served since 1990.
“So down the line here, if it is passed, you are looking at future generations getting access to health care, getting access to education and getting access to disability benefits, either for the veteran themselves and their family or for their surviving loved ones,” McLaughlin said.
The bill was written as a way to protect veterans who may be feeling the after-effects of burn pits, where trash and other waste are burned and could lead to exposure of toxic chemicals for the soldiers.
The bill covers several types of cancers and other diseases that might have been caused by these burn pits.
“What had happened was those pits were filled with jet fuel, vehicle parts, munitions, medical waste, clothing, food,” McLaughlin said. “A whole pile of just a bunch of things you do not want in an open pit.”
McLaughlin says that there is strong support for this bill, which would amend legislation that was passed to support Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.
“Probably the most touching or most significant to me was being there for that was a remembrance of struggles past and that there is an awareness to not make those same mistakes going forward,” McLaughlin said.