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Mother of deceased veteran concerned about burn pits

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GONZALES - The mother of a deceased veteran said a military procedure took the life of her son.

Alice Daniel was the special speaker at the Ascension Parish Memorial Day Service. Daniel's son Austin was a Staff Sergeant in the Louisiana National Guard who served a tour in Iraq in 2004, but became ill after his return home.

"Came back in 2005, married his sweetheart. Praise God, he had a beautiful little girl. And then the bottom dropped out," Daniel said about her son.

Austin Daniel was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease in 2008 and died the next year. After his death, Alice learned of a military practice that she believes caused her son's illness. In Iraq the military would sometimes dispose of waste using burn pits. According to Daniel human wastes, plastics, jet fuel, and other toxic materials would be set on fire.

"If you did that kind of thing here, they would put you under the jail," she said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has conducted studies on burn pits and associated health affects. It encourages veterans to contact the agency if they believe they were exposed.

In Louisiana the state legislature enacted a law in Austin Daniel's name to create a registry where Louisiana veterans can add their name to receive updated information on burn pit studies. The law is called the "Staff Sergeant William Austin Daniel Military Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry Act of 2014."

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