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International Film Crew Focuses on Combat Related Illnesses of Coastal Bend Veterans

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Posted at 2:51 PM, Aug 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 14:02:59-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Le Roy Torres sits outside his front door in Robstown, strumming his guitar. He calls it 'self-care' to help manage his scars of war.

His audience is an international film crew ready to tell his story, and stories like his, to some 84 million households in Asia.

"Having to share 11 years in a matter of three hours, it's draining ... a rollercoaster ... but grateful for the opportunity," said Torres. "I'm hopeful that with this type of visibility at an international level, that it will shed light on many other areas that there's been no light at all."

Le Roy and his wife, Rosie, started the non-profit group Burn Pits 360 more than a decade ago. They help numerous veterans, such as Torres, who suffer from illnesses believed to be caused by inhaling poisonous fumes from military burn pits while serving in combat in the Middle East.

The film crew of CNA (a Singapore news agency) interviewing Torres in his front yard is curious, and so is their audience. Their documentary, "The War Comes Home," will include personal stories about the trauma of war -- what happens to American troops after they return from battle overseas.

Film director Ben Friedman believes that the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol is a flashpoint -- the spark -- of that curiosity.

"People (overseas) saw what appeared to be a lot of veterans (at the capitol)," said Friedman. "A lot of military garb and things like that, a lot of curiosity of whether or not that sort of extremism was being born out of what was happening overseas (after combat duty). And so it opened up a broad question about what exactly is going on there, and what is being brought home. And what's going to be the long lasting legacy of these wars."

What's happening now in Afghanistan -- the Taliban government takeover after America's 20-year war -- is now proving timely for one main focus of the documentary.
It centers around tough questions that should be asked before American troops are called on to fight on future battlefields.

"It's long-lasting impact on people's health and mental well being," said Friedman. "What happened and how do we account for this, especially considering the next time the possibility of war arises in this country because, if history says anything, it's definitely gonna happen again."

For his part, Le Roy Torres and countless others continue to fight their own personal battles after returning home from war.

Torres said numerous troops have died from illnesses associated with the toxic fire pits. He said others, like him, continue to fight the same kinds of medical battles. That's why he is pushing for the approval of legislation, The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

So far, his message and the message of others like comedian Jon Stewart, has made some progress in the effort to help victims of burn pits.

"As long as that wheel continues to turn. We make noise and that's all we can do," said Torres.

But now, Torres is hoping this new documentary, will she'd even more light on this important issue.

The documentary, "The War Comes Home", is expected to be released Sept. 11 - the 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America.