Congressman Castro Announces Veteran and Burn Pit 360 Co-Founder Le Roy Torres as Guest for 2022 State of the Union Address
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) announced that Captain Le Roy Torres will be his honored guest for President Biden’s 2022 State of the Union address. Due to ongoing health measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, all guests will attend the 2022 State of the Union address virtually.
On Monday, February 28, 2022 at 3:00 PM ET, Congressman Castro, Le Roy Torres, and Major General Jeffrey Phillips, Executive Director of the Reserve Organization of America, will hold a Facebook Live conversation to discuss the need for federal action to protect veterans exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members of the press can pre-register to attend here.
“I’m deeply honored to host Captain Le Roy Torres as my guest for President Biden’s 2022 State of the Union address,” said Congressman Castro. “After serving near toxic burn pits, thousands of American servicemembers – including Captain Torres and Beau Biden – developed serious illnesses that have not been properly recognized by the federal government. Captain Torres has been a powerful advocate for veterans who were injured by burn pits, and I am proud to support his lawsuit against the state of Texas for failure to accommodate his service-connected disability. Our nation has an obligation to stand up for veterans like they stood up for us.”
“Many servicemembers have returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with a multitude of illnesses that are invisible and are associated with burn pit exposure and may remain dormant for years. As our motto says, “the war that followed us home” has become a reality and dreadful journey for many veterans. I for one, these invisible wounds from toxic exposure have taken a toll on my health and cost me my military and civilian career as a Texas state trooper. As citizen-soldiers, we deserve to keep our jobs when we return from serving our nation overseas if we return with limitations, said Captain (Ret.) Le Roy Torres, Co-founder of Burn Pits 360. “I am grateful for Congressman Castro taking a stand and supporting the presumptive bill Honoring our PACT Act of 2021. Furthermore, Congressman Castro has taken the lead in filing an amicus brief to weigh in my U.S. Supreme Court job loss case. We honored our oath to this nation; Congressman Castro has honored his. We should not have to bear the burden alone due to exposure to an instrumentality of war.”
Captain Le Roy Torres had been a member of the U.S. Army reserves for 18 years when he was deployed to Iraq in 2007. During his service, Captain Torres was exposed to toxic burn pits that left him with a debilitating respiratory condition. After returning from Iraq, Captain Le Roy Torres was forced to quit his job as a Texas state trooper when the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) would not provide accommodations for his service-connected disability. Torres sued DPS under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, but a Texas appellate court held that the law’s cause of action is unconstitutional because Congress lacks the power to authorize lawsuits against non-consenting states and that Texas has sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court granted review of the case and oral arguments will be heard this Spring. In early February, Congressman Castro and a bipartisan group of lawmakers submitted an amicus brief supporting Captain Torres’s case.
Today, Captain Torres is the co-founder and a member of the board of directors for Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group dedicated to improving post-deployment health outcomes for current and former military personnel, especially those suffering from toxic war injuries. Burn Pits 360 has advocated for the passage of the Honoring Our PACT Act, legislation that would improve health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances. Congressman Castro is a co-sponsor of the Honoring Our PACT Act, which is expected to pass the House during the week of February 28, 2022.
To download photos and read a biography of Captain Torres, click here.
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