Rigo Gonzalez, 39, proudly talks about the medals and awards he received during combat, but now the U.S. veteran is in a whole new battle.
"When I got home, the fatigue continued. I started getting pains in my side. I still didn't think much of it," Gonzalez said.
During 2002 and 2005, Gonzalez was part of the National Guard and was eventually deployed to Iraq. There, he was ordered to burn items in makeshift dump sites know as burn pits. Some of the items disposed included toxic chemicals, medical supplies, and even flesh and bone.
"They were burning human parts in these pits to where there was an incident where they had a suicide bomber, they would take the human parts to these pits," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez began to feel tired during his tour, but it wasn't until he returned to the states that he realized something was wrong. So Gonzalez went to get a physical checkup, and in October 2005, he was diagnosed with leukemia. "At that point the only thing you think about is just your life. You think about your children. You think about why? How did this happen," Gonzalez tearfully said.
Confused and scared, Gonzalez started looking for answers on the internet.
"I couldn't put my finger on it until just recently when soldiers started coming out of the wood work, and they were diagnosed with leukemias and cancers with respiratory problems, and it was attributed to these burn pits," Gonzalez said.
Several troops claim to have suffered and some have even died from health problems and chronic illnesses from these burn pits ran by companies Haliburton and KBR.
"If you're taking shortcuts, and you don't care about human life and safety, then you need to be held accountable for your actions," Gonzalez said.
A preliminary hearing has been set for June 4, 2010. That's when Gonzalez and other plaintiffs will know if the case goes to court or if a settlement will be reached.
For more information on burn pits and the lawsuit visit www.burnpitlawsuit.com