WASHINGTON (AP) — Nicole Leger always thought of the burn pits at military bases in Afghanistan as more like campfires than health hazards. Ordered to dispose of sensitive documents, she would toss the paperwork into the flames while catching up with fellow soldiers, moments of quiet bonding that provided a respite from her riskier work as a hastily trained medic for the U.S. Army.
“We really didn’t see that it was dangerous at the time,” she said. “It was just part of the mission. So we had to get it done.”
But then her sinus problems began, only worsening after she returned home, where she sometimes found herself gasping for breath at night. She remembered thinking, “This wasn’t who I was before I got in.”