Former U.S. Army Reservist Ryan Campell says he knew at an early age he wanted to serve his country.
He remembers being very impressed as a young boy when his mom took him to meet a Gulf War Veteran as the soldier returned from the battlefront.ﾠ
That experience, combined with his family’s history of military service, led him to deploy with the U.S. Army 94th Military Police Company to Iraq in 2010.
Now, 13 years later, he’s taking the next step in his journey. Campbell has signed up for the PACT Act. The federal law expands and extends eligibility for Veterans Affairs health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange and other toxic substances.
VA says if a Veteran served overseas since 1955, there’s a good chance the Vet is eligible for benefits under the PACT Act.
Campbell says he’s certainly dealing with the after-effects of living in Baghdad for a year. Campbell recalls the polluted air in Iraq as well as leaky sewage on Joint Security Station Salam in Baghdad, which was a shared base with Iraqi soldiers. “The Iraqis would burn things on their side of the base regularly. I remember the climate, dust storms and dirty air all being issues.”
Campbell says he’d been following the issue since Jon Stewart started advocating for it. A Veterans Services Officer helped him with the claims process; he registered online and says “It was easy…it took an hour at the most.”
Under the law, over five million Veterans are eligible for services, yet many have not submitted a claim, which starts the process.ﾠ
Campbell says Veterans can feel that “everyone knows someone who had it worse than they had it,” and so they may be ambivalent about stepping forward.
“I believe signing up will help you heal. It will benefit you for the rest of your life. Your employer, your community and your family will stand behind you. You just have to do it.”
Campbell has received an official letter acknowledging he’s submitted a claim. Next, he’ll be scheduled for an appointment for a toxic exposure screening at a VA health facility.
Campell now serves as security manager at Brighton Marine, where he works every day to help Veterans and their families feel safe. He says sharing his message about the PACT Act is just another way he can add to that feeling of safety for his fellow Veterans.
You can find out more information about the PACT Act Here.