Not On My Watch (Ep. 316)

Of all the Dirty Jobs pitched to me by fans of the show over the years, the most frequently repeated suggestion came from Marines and Soldiers who were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, usually in the form of just two words – “Burn Pits!”

It wasn’t made clear to me exactly what was being burned in these pits, or why they were so dirty, but everyone who wrote in described them as positively hellish and promised me that I’d never forget the experience of tending to them. Well, Dirty Jobs never made it to the Middle East, and I’m sorry for that. I would have loved the opportunity to work with our men and women stationed over there. But I don’t regret missing out on the burn pits, especially after my conversation with this week’s guest.

Dan Clare works for the Disabled American Veterans, and when it comes to burn pits, this Marine has been there and done that. In fact, he’s known today as the whistleblower who forced the people in Washington to finally start paying attention to the damage these burn pits were causing. Dan worked in a hospital over there, and saw firsthand the horrific impact of breathing smoke generated from burning endless tons of medical waste, human waste, plastic products, styrofoam products, ammunition boxes, bloody uniforms, and various amputated body parts in large, open pits.Then, he saw a report that definitively proved the danger was directly linked to these pits.

It wasn’t easy. His commander at the time had seen the same data that Dan had seen, but didn’t want to be the guy in charge when the shit hit the fan. “Not on my watch,” he told Dan. “Don’t report any of this while I’m in charge.”

Happily, Dan ignored that order. In fact, when he was told to stay quiet, he said precisely what his commander said, but for a very different reason. “Not on my watch.”
Dan Clare blew the whistle over a decade ago, and today, he’s still fully committed to doing all he can to assist any veteran suffering from any disability. It’s a really good and important conversation, and one that I hope you’ll share. You can listen to the whole thing here.

Incidentally, the DAV is not the only organization of its kind, but they are certainly the most experienced. They’ve been around since the end of WW1 – back before there was a VA – and became the first organization dedicated to assisting the overwhelming numbers of wounded warriors returning home. In fact, Dan spends a lot of his time today helping people navigate the mind-boggling bureaucracy the VA has become. What he and the DAV are doing for wounded servicemen and women is unexampled, and worthy of your support.

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