Stars and Stripes
Bob Decker, 69, served in the Army in 1963 and is one of a few dozen men... (SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD, Contra Costa (CA) Times)
By John Simerman, Contra Costa Times
Stars and Stripes online edition, Tuesday, February 16, 2010
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Bob Decker fought prostate cancer a decade ago, then three years ago got another jolt, diagnosed with Parkinson's.
He never thought about a link — much less one 45 years in the past, halfway around the world — until he met a Vietnam veteran in 2008 while fishing for tuna off the San Diego coast.
"He had prostate cancer and he said, 'Oh yeah, the VA gave me so much per month,' " said Decker, sitting slightly hunched in his Concord, Calif., home.
"The wheels started turning."
Decker, 69, never fought in Vietnam, yet he worked intimately with Agent Orange, the herbicide and defoliant that the United States military sprayed across the jungle to deny Vietnamese forces crops and cover. Containing a powerful dioxin, it has since been linked to more than a dozen cancers and other illnesses, including prostate cancer and, more recently, Parkinson's.