CUDAHY — The U.S. Senate passed a billthat would expand health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits.
Brandon Sneide is one of more than three million former soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were exposed.
"To be told at 32 if you don't do this you can have cancer just weighs on you," Sneide said.
After witnessing what happened on 9/11, enlisting in the army was an easy decision for him. He joined and by 2009 he was in Iraq and Afghanistan soon after.
"When I was in Iraq, I was directly living in an area that had burn pits all around," he said.
Both the U.S. Military and locals used those burn pits to get rid of waste.
Sneide said everything from ammo, paper, rubber to metal was burned.
"We didn't think anything of it. We just said, oh there's a burn pit, it is what it is," Sneide said. "Fast forward 10 years and there's veterans suffering."
On the outside, the 32-year-old father looks healthy as he plays catch with his children.
But for the last three years, he's been in and out of the hospital dealing with extreme acid reflux and stomach pains. His doctors say if it goes untreated it can lead to cancer.
He feels the PACT act is crucial for him and former soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan exposed to burn pits during deployment. The bill expands aid for an estimated three-and-half-million soldiers.
"We don't know anything else about these burn pits. I think the PACT act will allow more research more funding," he said.
As we sat in the middle of the park, Sneide waited in anticipation for congress to pass the bill, which stalled last week.
"They're using us for their political gain which is the most frustrating battle out of all of them," Sneide said.
Back then, he said the burn pits were the last thing he thought about, but now it's the one thing that keeps him up.
He's optimistic as prepares for surgery, one that he hopes will give him the health and strength to continue doing what he loves with the ones that mean the most.