DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) - Sailors from a U.S. aircraft carrier on Wednesday visited a Vietnamese shelter for people suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to destroy foliage.
Of the 4.8 million people who were exposed to Agent Orange, some three million are still suffering from its effects, including children born with severe disabilities or other health issues years after their parents were exposed, according to the Hanoi-based Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange.
“I think it’s very powerful to see the circumstances in which we’re here today compared to, say, 40 years ago,” said Gordon Watkins, a sailor from the visiting USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier who was at the shelter in Danang.
“I’m here in a T-shirt and shorts, and I’m playing with children,” said Watkins, who was holding a young Vietnamese boy in his arms.
“I think that’s a really good step,” said Watkins, who along with other sailors made incense sticks and plastic flowers with the children at the shelter.
On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy band visiting Vietnam with the carrier performed a rendition of “Noi Vong Tay Lon”, a Vietnamese song about national unity which was popular during the war.The United States will soon finish a five-year, $110 million program designed to clean soil contaminated by Agent Orange at Danang International Airport.