ROBSTOWN, Texas — Le Roy Torres sat at his desk on Wednesday feeling bittersweet, his oxygen concentrator by his side.
He scrolled through pictures of veterans who have died due to health issues linked to the toxicity of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They can experience a range of conditions, such as neurological disorders and even can be linked to cancer.
Torres founded Burn Pits 360 about 13 years ago with his wife and has been helping to connect veterans exposed to burn pits with healthcare services.
He smiled when talking about the 86-11 vote in the Senate that approved the Pact Act on Tuesday, which would provide healthcare services to veterans who were exposed to burn pits.
Torres called the win “monumental.”
“We went overseas defending our nation, but yet we came back and we’re still having to come and fight for healthcare,” Torres said.
Torres has health issues linked to being exposed to burn pits when he fought in Iraq from 2007-08.
His oxygen concentrator helps him breathe because he has a toxic brain injury that doesn’t allow the proper amount of oxygen to be pumped to his brain.
Even though the act passed, Torres is fighting for veterans access to medicare. He’s also fighting for veterans who need machines like a hyperbaric chamber or an oxygen concentrator like his.
Machines he said are not provided by veterans affairs offices.
“To remain present for veterans and their families to know that they’re not alone in this fight — because some have even given up and taken their lives,” he said.
His wife Rosie Torres has seen his struggles and because of that, always fights alongside him.
This past week, she went to the U.S. Capitol building to protest some of the Senate flipping their votes, which did not allow the act to pass until Tuesday.
Le Roy was not able to go because of his health issues.
“When it’s something that affects your family and you personally, you’re going to fight harder than anyone else so that’s what these families did, that’s what we did,” Rosie Torres said.
The Torres family said President Biden is planning on signing the PACT Act into law on Monday, and they will be there in attendance when he does.
Le Roy Torres planned on fighting with the Army for 30 years, but his time was cut short by his health issues. Now he’s fighting a different fight.
“It is not the end (of the fight). As our motto says, it’s the war that followed us home. For many of us, the fight may never be over. For me, it’s not over,” Torres said.