ALBANY, GA (WALB) - WALB and Montlick and Associates would like to recognize the Heroes Among Us.
Each month, we will spotlight an active duty man or woman, a veteran, or a fallen hero whose service to our country goes beyond the battleground.
Dr. Dan Brewer spent nearly three and a half decades serving his country.
Now retired, he continues to serve his fellow veterans, while fighting for change.
"I retired in January 2005. I was recalled in April 2005," Brewer explained.
After more than 25 years in the Army, both active duty and in the reserves, Brewer's country called him back into combat.
This time, it was his environmental background, which included work at Albany’s Procter & Gamble, they needed.
He served as an environmental engineer for multiple U.S. forces for the next seven and a half years.
His job? Overseeing burn pits.
"A lot of smoke, because they were throwing anything and everything in this big hole they dug, which they called a burn pit," Brewer said. "The fumes that were coming out of these burn pits, I could immediately see this was going to be a long term health issue."
So, Brewer reported just that to his higher-ups.
"I did give recommendations that I did not think burn pits was a good solution," he said. "Turns out, I was right."
Back in 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began a registry for people whose health may be impacted by airborne hazards and being exposed to open burn pits.
As of September 28, 2018, more than 157,000 veterans and service members had completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.
The VA's website mentions potential health effects from burn pit smoke including effects to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs.
"I can relate to them because I have my own health issues," Brewer said.
One of those issues: a spot on his own lung doctors found a while back. Brewer recounted the questions health care workers asked that can lead to such a thing.
"Are you a smoker? No. Have you ever been a smoker? No. Have you been around secondhand smoke? No. But I've been around burn pits..."
Brewer plans to go back next month to get that spot checked.
Meanwhile, he works with both veterans at the American Legion Post 30 where he serves as commander, and with Burn Pits 360, a non-profit dedicated to helping service members and veterans who've been effected.
He hopes his experience and a listening ear can help others cope.
"Anger is not going to get me anywhere," Brewer explained. "Sometimes what helps veterans is just to get it out of their system and talk to somebody."
If you would like to nominate your military hero to be featured on ‘Heroes Among Us’ on WALB ABC, click here.