Finally, after about 50 years, the government is finally bucking up and taking responsibility for the illnesses that came calling on veterans, as a result of the herbicide and defoliant, Agent Orange. Known as AO by most, it was so called for the orange bands around the fifty-five gallon drums containing the mixture, that was sprayed as a defoliant over the vegetation in South Vietnam during the war. Most was sprayed during Operation Ranch Hand using C-123 aircraft, although a significant amount was sprayed using helicopters as well. Millions of gallons of herbicides of various kinds were sprayed, 21 million gallons alone attributed to Agent Orange.
Oh, there were many other sprayings and releases of this super toxin in the world, and right here in the U.S., but the ones we remember most were those associated with Vietnam. The ones where the droplets fell from the sky like rain, where men slogged through the residue, where ships and patrol boat decks were covered with the mist, yet the government said it never was sprayed in those areas, not at that time, and every excuse to avoid rightfully owning up to the misery caused by this deadly chemical.
Only recently, after lawsuit after lawsuit and delay after delay, has the Veterans Administration stepped up to the plate (more like being bulldozed to the plate according to most) and accepted that so many illnesses are associated with this chemical. Not only to the veterans themselves, but to their children, and perhaps to their children's children. Not to even mention what this did to the people in the country we were trying to bring a sense of democracy to.
Sadly, many who were affected by the ravages of Agent Orange never lived to see any benefits. They died from cancers and other maladies foisted on them by the insidious diseases that this chemical brought. Never expected it, most figured it was probably something they got in Vietnam, since so many were ill. Service in Vietnam was the common denominator. But the government said no, and after all, would the government lie and withhold the truth from our men and women who fought for our country? I want to laugh and cry at the same time when i ask that question. Seems they always have and it seems they always will to cover their collective asses.
Spina Bifida, where the spine of the fetus fails to close during the developmental stages of pregnancy has been shown to be an effect on the unborn children where either parent served in Vietnam or in some cases, Korea, where herbicides were also used in the late 60's to early 70's. The long term effects of spina bifida include care far beyond the formative years, often resulting in permanent physical defects, including paralysis and inability to control bladder and bowel functions. There are also about eighteen other birth defects presently recognized as resultant to Agent Orange exposure by women veterans.
There are over a dozen diseases associated with exposure to AO currently listed by the VA. This does NOT mean that because one has one of these diseases that it was AO caused, but there is now a presumption that if you were in Vietnam during the war, that you were exposed. The old "boots on ground" theory is gone so those on ships and patrol boats can now make claims for the benefits they are rightfully entitled to if their conditions are Agent Orange related.
I'm certainly not anti-war. Guess as I age, I'm just anti-death and destruction when you don't expect it because it's insidious. Much like the current warriors, and the Gulf War syndrome, and the Depleted Uranium issues that nobody gave lots of thought to until after the fact. WTF? Uranium not being a problem? And we pay scientists to figure these things out before the fact? Good Lord!
I am including some links below, and I want to warn you, some of the photos are not nice. They are horrible in fact. Don't look at them if you are squeamish. And, these are not even the worst of the lot. You won't find veterans there, but what we left behind as an unfortunate legacy of war. Yes, many veterans suffer horribly from what this chemical caused, as do their families. Yet the pain that is suffered by others seems to make ours pale in comparison. I suppose that's because those who remained continued to have exposures unabated for so long.
We didn't condone chemical warfare, nor do we now. Yet our children, and the children of those we tried to bring a better life to, are now paying the price, for trying to spread democracy across the treetops of their country. A sad legacy for everyone.
Courtesy of Phillip Jones Griffiths: http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0401/pjg_thumbs.html