President Joe Biden made a presidential visit to the Fort Worth VA Clinic in southeast Fort Worth on Tuesday.
The president made the trip to the clinic “to speak with veterans, caregivers and survivors about addressing the health effects of environmental exposures such as burn pits,” according to a White House news release.
At the VA Clinic, Biden was briefed on the veterans' primary care and specialty health services. He also delivered remarks at the nearby Tarrant County Resource Connection about “expanding access to health care and benefits for veterans effected by environmental exposures,” the White House release said.
Burn pits, which were used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of tires, batteries, medical waste and other materials, have been a recent focus for Biden. In his State of the Union speech last week, Biden said his son, Beau, who died of cancer, may have been among the many veterans who suffered from toxic exposure injuries from the burn pits.
Last week, the U.S. House approved a bill that would dramatically boost health care services and disability benefits for veterans who were exposed to the burn pits. If passed into law, it would increase spending by more than $300 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Locals greet Biden
Among the Fort Worth residents who greeted Biden upon his arrival:
Zachary Briseno. The Fort Worth Police Department officer is the second known double amputee to become a police officer in the U.S. On his second tour in November 2007, Cpl. Briseno was riding in a Humvee in Fallujah when an IED detonated directly beneath his seat, blowing off his legs. Briseno graduated from the Fort Worth Police Academy on Dec. 11, 2020.
Vester Owens. The World War II veteran was born in South Carolina and drafted into the Army at age 19. He fought on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Owens transitioned to the U.S. Air Force, retiring after 27 years of service and made Texas his home. The retired businessman owned what is believed to be the first Black-owned vending company in Tarrant County. A tremendous advocate of upward mobility, Owens loves to share how he has sponsored a huge number of family members to relocate to Texas, scholarships for others to attend Texas colleges and universities or to make Texas their home.
Elizabeth Beck. The Fort Worth City Councilmember graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Army Reserves, where she spent eight and a half years in the 223rd Maintenance Company based in Grand Prairie. In 2005, she deployed as a sergeant to Taji, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Beck was elected to the Fort Worth City Council in June 2021 and serves District 9, which includes downtown Fort Worth.
Opal Lee. The Grandmother of Juneteenth is a retired Fort Worth ISD teacher and counselor and an activist in the movement to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday. Lee campaigned for the holiday by leading a 2.5-mile walk each year, representing the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas. In 2016, at age 89, she conducted a symbolic walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. On June 17, 2021, Biden signed Senate Bill S. 475 making Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday. In February, 33 members of Congress, led by Congressman Marc Veasey, signed a letter nominating Lee for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
Brad Hunstable. Linear Labs was founded by Brad Hunstable in 2014 with his father, Fred Hunstable. Linear Labs created an electric motor that operates more efficiently, costs less to manufacture and can be used in cars, scooters, robotics, wind turbines and more. Brad is also the co-founder and former CEO of UStream, which was sold to IBM in 2016 for $150 million. Ustream was born when the founders wanted a way for their friends in the Army, who were deployed overseas in Iraq during the war, to be able to communicate with their families back home. Hunstable served in various capacities around the world, working jobs both for the Army and the Department of Defense.