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Husband of fallen local veteran talks dangers of burn pits

The husband of a local veteran, who died after a long battle with cancer, continued to raise awareness for her cause in Washington D.C., at the State of the Union address.

Cathedral City veteran Jennifer Kepner died on October 18, 2017, after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. Kepner was a mother of two who served in the Air Force in Iraq where burn pits were used to dispose of all waste on base including Styrofoam and other carcinogens.

Kepner spoke with News Channel 3’s John White about the burn pits. She believed the exposure to the burn pits is what caused her cancer.

Her husband, Ben Kepner, was invited to attend President Trump’s State of the Union address by Rep. Raul Ruiz. Ben used the opportunity to continue to raise awareness for his wife’s cause.

“It was her main goal to bring awareness and to change how we operate and not using these burn pits that we still use today,” Ben said. He says he’s doing all he can to share his wife’s story.

Congressman Ruiz spoke at Jennifer’s funeral, promising to press the issue on capitol hill. Ruiz says Ben helped make the case tonight.

Watch: Rep. Ruiz honors local veteran that passed away following long cancer battle

“I found no stronger voice than her husband Ben being here together and we were telling Jennifer’s story to so many other members of Congress and Senators and this is what it’s about,” Ruiz said.

Jennifer called this a defining issue for veterans who’ve served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“This is the Agent Orange of my generation of vets, this is the Agent Orange,” Jennifer said before her death.

Read: Documentary made about Kepner fight against burn pits

Ben Kepner is still waiting for VA benefits to help raise his children, without their mother, benefits she spent months fighting for.

“Got an e-mail today actually saying my benefits will be accepted. I did get a denial letter that this office has helped me on as well, so it’s been a struggle even after the fact,” Ben said.

“We owe it to Ben, we owe it to Jenn to everyone who made a sacrifice that she made and we’ll work our butts off to make sure they and their children gets what’s owed to them,” Ruiz said.

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