LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Las Vegas-area veteran who survived two tours in Afghanistan and an IED blast — who battled brain cancer and who advocated for the federal government to recognize the health threat burn pits pose to our military — has died.

Mathew Whetnall, 42, died on Jan. 22 in Ohio, his family told 8 News Now on Sunday. Whetnall blamed burn pits, small trash-fueled fires spewing toxic chemicals, as the cause of his metastatic brain and lung cancer.

A photo of Mathew Whetnall in the hospital around the time he received his cancer diagnosis. (Cassandra Whetnall/KLAS)

Whetnall was unable to communicate nor see in his final months alive, his wife, Cassandra Whetnall, said. A month before his death, doctors diagnosed Mathew Whetnall with Leptomeningeal Disease as the cancer cells spread to his spinal cord, Cassandra said.

Whetnall enlisted at 26, serving eight years in active duty and later joining the Army Reserves. He deployed twice to Afghanistan: first from 2008 to 2009, where he served mainly in an office role as a forward observer, and then again from 2010 to 2011, where he saw combat.

“I wanted to do something to contribute,” he told the 8 News Now Investigators from his Henderson home in 2021. “I’m glad I did it. It gave me the maturity and the perspective I needed in life to kind of set myself where I wanted to be and where I wanted to be with my family. It gave me a lot of good experiences.”

It also may have given him cancer.

The flames of a burn pit pick up with the winds as a storm approaches Combat Outpost Tangi in the Tangi Valley, Afghanistan. (DOD)

Whetnall survived an IED blast during his second tour and suffered headaches as a result. But in March 2021, after years of pain, it became too much to handle. A trip to the emergency room reviewed golf ball-sized masses on the back of his brain and his lung. Doctors diagnosed him with Stage 4 cancer.

At the time of the 2021 story, Whetnall was advocating for the Department of Veterans Affairs to link burn pits with cancer. At the time, the agency did not respond to requests for comment.

The agency had instead run a registry for veterans who believe they were adversely affected by burn pits, but it did not acknowledge a connection.

A photo of Mathew Whetnall (left) shortly before his death in January 2022. (Cassandra Whetnall/KLAS)

Last year, President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill into law that expanded health care access to veterans exposed to burn pits. The PACT Act made many conditions, including brain cancer, a “presumptive condition” for veterans exposed to the toxic burning piles. Senators said as many as 3 million veterans were exposed to burn pits.

Cassandra Whetnall is working to get an award for heroism her husband received re-evaluated for a valor award, she said.

In addition to Cassandra Whetnall, Mathew Whetnall is survived by his sons and daughter.