President Joe Biden’s recent comments about his son Beau’s death are drawing criticism from some people online.
“I say this as a father of a man who won the Bronze Star, the Conspicuous Service Medal, and lost his life in Iraq. Imagine the courage, the daring, and the genuine sacrifice — genuine sacrifice they all made,” Biden said on Oct. 12 during a visit to Camp Hale near Vail, Colorado.
During a speech in South Florida on Nov. 1, Biden said again that his son died in Iraq.
Some people on social media have claimed that Biden's statements were inaccurate since his son died years after his military service, not while serving in Iraq. VERIFY reader Ian H. also asked the team to fact-check Biden’s statement.
Did President Biden’s son Beau die while serving in Iraq?
No, President Biden’s son Beau did not die while serving in Iraq. He died of brain cancer in 2015, nearly six years after he returned from his military service in the country.
Biden has linked the burn pits that Beau was exposed to during his time in Iraq to his brain cancer diagnosis.
WHAT WE FOUND
Then-Vice President Joe Biden announced his son Beau’s death from brain cancer on May 30, 2015.
“It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life. The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words,” Biden’s statement on Beau’s death read.
The statement also outlined Beau’s service in Iraq as a major in the Delaware National Guard.
Beau’s unit was activated and deployed to Iraq in October 2008, and he returned to the U.S. about one year later. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in the country while also continuing his work as Delaware’s Attorney General, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said.
While Biden’s son Beau did not die during his service in Iraq, and instead died nearly six years after he returned from the country following a battle with brain cancer, Biden has on several occasions linked his son’s military service to his cancer diagnosis.
In a 2018 interview with PBS News Hour and a more recent speech in Texas, Biden expressed his personal belief that toxic burn pits Beau was exposed to during his military service may have contributed to his death from brain cancer.
Burn pits are areas “devoted to open-air combustion of trash,” according to the VA. They were commonly used at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the waste products in burn pits included chemicals, paint, medical and human waste, aluminum cans, ammunition, petroleum, plastic and Styrofoam.
The link between cancer and those pits has not been definitively confirmed, though the VA has recognized that veterans’ exposure to them may have led to certain adverse health effects.
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During that 2018 interview with PBS News Hour, Biden said he believes toxins found in smoke from the military burn pits “play a significant role” in causing veterans’ cancer.
“Science has recognized there are certain carcinogens when people are exposed to them,” he said. “Depending on the quantities and the amount in the water and the air, [they] can have a carcinogenic impact on the body.”
In March 2022, Biden spoke in Fort Worth, Texas, about his work to support veterans. He mentioned Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson, a combat medic who died from a rare form of lung cancer after serving in Iraq with the Army National Guard.
“Stationed at the same bases and at around the same exact time as my son Major Beau Biden, United States Army,” Biden said. “In Baghdad, Sergeant Robinson was stationed yards from burn pits the size of football fields.”
In August 2022, Congress passed the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in an effort to address toxic exposures that have impacted military veterans.
“From Vietnam veterans suffering from Agent Orange to the 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans exposed to burn pits during their deployments, our nation’s veterans and their families will no longer have to fear being turned away from the VA for illnesses connected to toxic exposure,” Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who helped to introduce the legislation, said.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Biden’s most recent statement about Beau.