Battles are still being fought by Vietnam veterans, but this time from home. For Vietnam veterans in Bradley, McMinn, Meigs and Polk counties, across our state and nation, the Vietnam conflict isn’t over as the effects of exposure to Agent Orange takes its toll on them, their children and grandchildren.
“Operation Ranch Hand” was the code name for the spraying of a host of herbicides, primarily Agent Orange, by the U.S. military in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to protect American and allied troops by defoliating the dense jungle vegetation hiding enemy positions.
Approximately 8,000-plus area veterans served in Vietnam, and no one knows for sure how many of them were exposed to Agent Orange. Some were deployed in areas during and immediately after spraying operations while others actually handled Agent Orange and did the spraying.
Over the past few decades, a substantial body of scientific and medical research has shown that Agent Orange and other herbicides containing dioxin have an elevated probability of causing, or contributing to, a variety of sometimes fatal illnesses being suffered by veterans who served in Vietnam between January 1962 and May 1975.
The list of diseases related to veterans’ exposure to Agent Orange is ever-growing. The evidence for inclusion of diabetes mellitus type II as a presumptive disease is very strong and the same is true of prostate cancer and other service-connected presumptive conditions such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and respiratory cancers (of the lung, bronchus, larynx or trachea).
It has also been reported that 3 to 6 percent of Vietnam veterans’ children are born with some kind of birth defect (Emory University School of Medicine reports a 3 to 4 percent birth defect rate among the general population). Scientific evidence also points to increases in birth defects and developmental problems in the children of Vietnam veterans and others exposed to dioxin-like chemicals.
The Tennessee State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America, along with co-sponsor Bradley County VVA Chapter 596, are pleased to announce that an Agent Orange Town Hall Meeting will be presented on May 20, 6 to 9 p.m., at Keith Street Ministries, 4000 Keith St. N.W., Cleveland.
The Town Hall will educate and provide a platform for asking questions and an opportunity for veterans, their children, grandchildren or surviving spouse to speak with Veterans Service Officers about filing claims for VA benefits. All veterans from all conflicts are urged to attend.
For further information, contact D.L. Wilson, president, Chapter 596 at 423-472-0903.
— D.L. Wilson
President, VVA Chapter 596
— Barry Rice
President, Tennessee State Council VVA