“I’m beyond thrilled and thankful that the Supreme Court agrees with our position and upheld the rights of service members like myself,” Iraq veteran Le Roy Torres told Fox News in an interview afer learning about the SC ruling. “You come back from war, and you think your job is protected. Today’s vote brings a sense of peace and some type of closure for me, as well as the things that I’ve been dealing with for these four or five years with my job loss.”
Torres’s victory means a lot to his family and other servicemen like him whose health have suffered from their dangerous war assignments.
In Torres’s case, he was dismissed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), where he had resumed his work as a state trooper, after he experienced worsening symptoms of lung damage.
The Plight of War Veteran Le Roy Torres Started in Iraq
In 2007, Torres was a state trooper in Texas when he was called for duty from the reserves.
He was assigned to Iraq, where part of the ordeal he suffered was continual exposure to burn pits at their base in Balad. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this harmful practice of burning wastes produced at the bases was rampant.
Using jet fuel, various wastes were incinerated in the pits 24 hours a day, which included batteries, plastics, medicines, appliances, dead animals, human waste, and amputated body parts. Aside from the hazardous chemicals coming from these wastes, the use of jet fuel posed another grave danger, which, based on scientific studies, could impact the nervous system, respiratory system, cardiac health, and other aspects of the human body.
Coming back home from the war, Torres returned to his work as a state trooper after his honorable discharge.
Supreme Court Upholds Torres’s Right Under the Uniformed Services and Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994
A year after returning to his work, Torres started experiencing severe headaches and chest pain.
In 2009, while pursuing a suspect, it finally hit Torres that his health has deteriorated too far.
“I was in a lot of pain with chest pressure. I was afraid that I was having a stroke, and I had no backup until like 10 minutes later,” Torres told Fox News back in March. “I felt really horrible that day, and that’s when I knew that there was something going on.”
More symptoms like persistent cough and vertigo assailed Torres, and his diagnosis showed that he has sustained a number of lung illnesses and brain injury from his burn pit exposure in Iraq.
This condition affected Torres’s job performance, and he was compelled to request his superior to transfer him to a desk job, since he was no longer effective at patrolling. Instead, his request was denied, and he was warned that if he could not continue with his original position, he would get fired.
Torres was forced to let go of his work at the DPS. But he decided to fight for his right to work, which led to the Supreme Court. But the state of Texas and the DPS argued that they have immunity against such lawsuits.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court rejected Texas’s argument and upheld Torres’s right as a worker, which was violated by the unjust job termination.
“Text, history, and precedent show that the States, in coming together to form a Union, agreed to sacrifice their sovereign immunity for the good of the common defense,” penned Justice Stephen Breyer for the court.
It was a triumph that Torres and his supporters, like American TV celebrity Jon Stewart, have been hoping for. Now, the Texas court is under obligation to hear Torres’s case, which has been stalled since its filing in 2017.
“The way Leroy was treated – he was stripped of his dignity, of the honor of him serving our state. The way they approached it was heart-wrenching for him, and to see SCOTUS side with what is right gives us hope,” remarked his wife, Rose Torres, upon receiving the good news. “Future generations will say, ‘You know what? Now I do feel confident enough to join the Army, to defend our freedom, because I know that our jobs will be protected.'”
Torres has also founded Burn Pits 360, a non-profit organization that aims to help war veterans who have been exposed to dangerous burn pits through outreach, education, research, and advocacy.Whizzco