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Lloyd Blair joined the Marine Corps as an 18-year-old itching for a fight after hijacked planes rocketed into the World Trade Center towers and set the world on fire. He pulled two tours in Iraq. The first landed him in the hell of Fallujah where some of the bloodiest fighting took place.

There he was, not long out of high school, fighting in the desert, ducking bullets while carrying 40, 50 pounds of full battle rattle on his back.

The stench of human feces flowing out of Fallujah in shallow creeks suffocated the air. There was smoke everywhere. "I mean, there was stuff burning all the time in Fallujah," says Blair, who is 35.

He didn't give a second thought to the smoke billowing from the burn pits where the military torched its own trash, not until he was diagnosed with testicular cancer after he came home.

Cancer doesn't run in his family, said Blair, who lives in Lee's Summit. So he was confused about why the cancer that befell Lance Armstrong had found him. Looking for answers online, he came across hundreds of other worried veterans with the same diagnosis.

A McClatchy investigation of cancer among veterans during nearly two decades of war shows a significant increase in cancer cases —like Blair's — treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away a bid by U.S. troops sickened by smoke from open-air pits used to burn waste in Iraq and Afghanistan to revive a lawsuit against defense contractors KBR Inc and Halliburton Co.

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Retired Army Gen. David Petraeus urged Congress in an interview with Fox News on Monday to make good on its "sacred obligation" to support the growing number of veterans sickened by exposure to burn pits at U.S military bases abroad.

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U.S. Marine Corps photo

It was known as “Operation Ranch Hand” while the Vietnam War simmered, then boiled. From the skies and the roadways, the U.S. military sprayed almost 19 million gallons of herbicide over a period of nine years to clear away jungle. Eleven million gallons of that was a chemical called “Agent Orange.’’

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Jared Keller

Editor’s Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.

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U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz

A recent court decision by an administrative law judge for the Department of Labor found burn-pit exposure was linked to lung disease in a federal contractor’s case, Fox News reported on Thursday.

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