NORFOLK — Americans Supporting Armed Services in Potsdam was the recipient of funds raised Saturday at the 17th Annual American Legion Riders of Post 925 Norfolk Motorcycle Charity Race.
Americans Supporting Armed Services is advocating for more resources and help for veterans impacted by burn pit exposure.
Tamie M. Sauve, president of Americans Supporting Armed Services, said the 501(c)(3) raises money through fundraisers like Saturday’s run to support communities and provide financial, emotional and morale to veterans and their families.
“Our theme this year is to raise awareness of fire pit exposure, which causes extreme health problems for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and were exposed to fire pit toxins. Today is a very important day for us to raise awareness of our cause. We hope everyone will be a little more aware of what our veterans are going through,” she said.
Among those present were Cassie and Jacob Brown from North Carolina. Mr Brown, a veteran, is suffering from exposure to a burn hearth and his wife said that, like Agent Orange, it was a mystery to doctors.
“I have personally traveled 85,000 miles and counting for medical reasons for Jacob and trying to seek answers,” Ms Brown said.
She said they traveled to facilities in areas including Jacksonville, Florida, and Rochester, Minnesota, and underwent experimental treatments that failed in the process.
“After another failed treatment, the Mayo Clinic says, ‘We don’t know what’s wrong with you. It’s a medical mystery. We can’t do anything else for him,” she said.
The VA was also unable to help them, Ms Brown said.
“We talked to a lot of different people,” she said. “I need help with him. I don’t care about money. My grandmother always said that no amount of money can buy a second of time. Honestly, that’s all we want is to just make him better so he can be a fully functioning 35-year-old man who can enjoy his kids, who can enjoy his wife, who can get back to work. , which can drive again.”
They eventually joined Madame Sauve and Americans Supporting Armed Services.
“They mean it when they talk about moral, financial and physical support. They also made sure we could come here today and stay on the St. Lawrence River, which we are so grateful for. It has been the best experience,” Ms. Brown said.
She said helping her husband recover would not be an easy task, as would helping others suffering from Agent Orange exposure.
“It won’t happen overnight,” she said. “It’s a big deal. How the hell do you fix it? With a system that’s so broken and flawed and just for itself and not for the veteran, how the hell are we going to climb that mountain to make it go better? It’s a marathon. It’s not a sprint.”
“Exposure to fire pits is certainly a major illness that stems from war. Jacob’s story is inspiring, while simply understanding the dangers they faced as they served our country and fought for our country,” said Jefferson County Legislator and 116th Assembly District candidate , Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, who was also on hand to speak Saturday.
Fred L. Cockayne, commander of AMVETS Post 4 and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 171 at Massena, said Americans Supporting the Armed Services were leading the effort to bring the exposure to the burning pit to the fore. . But, he said, the Department of Veterans Affairs could do more.
“The VA is a huge bureaucracy that doesn’t care about veterans. They only think about protecting themselves. They are not friends of veterans. I’ve told young veterans before, they’re just another enemy you’ll have to fight to get what you deserve, and that’s an uphill battle. The VA has a motto, I call it the three Bs – Delay, Refuse, Die,” he said.
He said acknowledgment by the Department of Veterans Affairs of the burn pit exposure would not happen overnight.
“The public doesn’t know what hotspots are,” Cockayne said. “I can tell you right now as I speak, there are men and women who are suffering or dying right now who have already been exposed to illnesses as a direct result of the burning fireplaces. This gentleman is a prime example.
He said that according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, open burning of trash in burn pits was common in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of Southwest Asia.
“There was a burn pit in Afghanistan that covered over 10 acres. The fumes from this burning pit were daily above this base. Everyone was exposed to it. They burned all their waste – chemicals, clothes, weapons, communications equipment, etc. said Mr. Cockayne.
He said the Department of Veterans Affairs has a registry of airborne dangerous and open fires.
“Any veteran exposed to burning fireplaces, even those without medical conditions, are encouraged to register to help the VA better understand the long-term effects,” he said. . “Like I said, it’s going to be a long road. It’s been 47 years since Vietnam and they’re still finding different illnesses related to Agent Orange.
Thomas Morrison, manager of the Norfolk American Legion Riders, said exposure to the burn pit was a cause worth riding and raising money for. He said Ms. Sauve reached out and asked if they would consider fundraising for Americans Supporting the Armed Services, as they have done for other organizations over the years with their annual run.
“We do one every year for a different group. So we put it to the vote. We had a few other suitors. It was overwhelmingly in favor of his, mostly because we love how local they are. She’s based in Potsdam and she helps people all over St. Lawrence County,” Mr. Morrison said.
Saturday’s ride took them to VFW Ogdensburg, Waddington American Legion, Colton AMVETS, Norwood American Legion and Norfolk for dinner.
He said they typically think 70 to 100 bikes go to fundraisers.
“Today we invited not only bikes, but also cars and trucks. Today we expect 200, but it could be bigger,” he said.
It’s been 17 years since the first fundraising motorcycle ride took place. The Legion Riders chapter was organized in 2005.
“They’ve put on the books that we’ll be doing a big hike every other Saturday in July and raising money for deserving groups,” Mr Morrison said.
These groups include the Children’s Miracle Network, Make-A-Wish, Fort Drum Wounded Warriors and Project Lifesaver. He said they thought each ride was worth $5,000 to $10,000.
“This year I think we are on track to be at that top end. We have had incredible support from individuals, and especially our local American Legions, AMVETS and VFW have really stepped up with lots of money. They know how important it is. For example, we are based at the Norfolk Legion and our host, Reggie Monroe, the Commanding Officer, presented us with a check for $1,000 this morning. In Massena, AMVETS and the Legion have made very significant donations to us,” Mr. Morrison said.