Tuesday, February 2, 2010
By Jim Belshaw
The Worthington’s story is brought to you by The Missouri Vietnam Veterans Foundation.
Read the entire story at http://www.vva.org/veteran/1209/faces.html
Herb Worthington’s e-mail, meant to provide background on his own Agent Orange-connected diseases and the diseases now afflicting his children, is not yet two sentences long before the words leap off the page.
“It rips me apart with self-hatred every time I tell it,” he writes. “I get so sad, the tears flow like a stream, and it makes it that much more difficult, because the keyboard is totally blurred.” Asked about it later, he says, “I hate myself. Why? For bringing all this pain and suffering to my children. They don’t deserve it.” He has not spoken to his children about it. “I don’t have the courage,” he said.
His daughter, Karen, 35, suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS). His son, Michael, 33, has suffered from bronchitis and allergies since infancy. Michael’s own children also have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, and Herb says the grandchildren also display uncontrolled and inexplicable fits of anger. Herb, himself, is 100 percent disabled, diagnosed with Agent Orange-caused Type II Diabetes. He suffers from “terrible” Peripheral Neuropathy, which the VA recognizes as a service-connected condition.
“It starts out as a tingling, like pins and needles,” he said. “Hands and feet get cold. You think they’re cold, but they could be warm to the touch. As it progresses, they go numb and have stabbing knife-like pains. They say it’s a circulation problem, a secondary condition usually to diabetes. Now the VA in Newark is trying to deny guys because of self-medication because the disease is also symptomatic to alcoholism.”
Gary Jones’s Story
By Jim Belshaw
Gary Jones’s story is brought to you by the California Veterans Benefit Fund.
Read the entire story at http://vva.org/Faces_Of_AO/Jones.pdf
For Gary Jones, the puzzle that is Agent Orange can be explained, or more to the point, not explained, by two words — “circumstantial” and “coincidence.” The words are at once the core and the conundrum of his Agent Orange experience.
“The problem with all this Agent Orange discussion is that everything is circumstantial,” Jones said. “We can’t prove anything. But after awhile, the word ‘coincidence’ just doesn’t work anymore. Something is causing all these different problems.”
He pulled two tours of duty in Vietnam, one blue, the other brown. The first for the young Naval officer came in the deep water off the Vietnam coastline; the second came inland, in the brown water of the Cam Lo River, near the DMZ, where he worked delivering supplies with Marines and an ARVN unit.
“My job was kind of like being on the old Red Ball Express, but on water,” he said.
Before Jones returned to Vietnam with Vietnam Veterans of America in recent years, the dominate memory of the country for him always came with a reddish hue, not the deep, rich green that stretches across Vietnam as far as the eye can see.
“Everything was reddish,” he said. “Red mud, red water. Everything in my mind was red because we’d killed off the vegetation.”
The area in which he operated was heavily saturated with Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant being delivered by air, from the backs of trucks, and by hand. At the time, he said, no one knew much about the defoliant.
Significant numbers of Vietnam veterans have children and grandchildren with birth defects related to exposure to Agent Orange. To alert legislators and the media to this ongoing legacy of the war, we are seeking real stories about real people. If you wish to share your family’s health struggles that you believe are due to Agent Orange/dioxin, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 301-585-4000, Ext. 146.