POSTED: 7:46 pm MST May 13, 2011
UPDATED: 10:21 pm MST May 13, 2011
PHOENIX -- It's a secret the military does not want you to know -- something so dangerous that a Valley man says it's slowly killing him and could be poisoning countless others. "Yeah, it haunts me," said veteran Steve House. "We basically buried our garbage in their back yard."
The year was 1978. Spc. Steve House was stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea. He worked as a heavy equipment operator, and one day, says he got orders to dig a ditch - nearly the length of a city block. "They just told us it was going to be used for disposal," said House.
But it was what House buried that he's never been able to forget. "Fifty-five gallon drums with bright yellow, some of them bright orange, writing on them," said House. "And some of the cans said Province of Vietnam, Compound Orange."
Compound Orange, also known as Agent Orange, is a toxic herbicide that was used to wipe out the jungles during the Vietnam War. The military also admitted using it years later around demilitarized zones in Korea. The government says the leftover Agent Orange was incinerated at sea.
House claims that's not the whole truth. But 30 years later, it's one man's word. Unless other soldiers remember the same thing. "I can tell them what we did with it," said Robert Travis, who served side-by-side with House and now lives in West Virginia. "There were approximately 250 drums, all OD green," said Travis. "On the barrels it said 'chemicals type Agent Orange.' It had a stripe around the barrel dated 1967 for the Republic of Vietnam."
Travis said he remembers hand-wheeling each barrel out of the warehouse. "This stuff was just seeping through the barrels," he said. "There was a smell; I couldn't even describe it, just sickly sweet."
And shortly after, Travis said he developed a red rash all over his body. His health has since deteriorated. "I have arthritis in my neck and back," he said. "My wrists and feet, I don't know how many times they just snap because they're weak."
Dr. Nanette Auriemma decides which soldiers qualify for the National Agent Orange registry. "There's no way to specifically diagnose a patient (who) has been exposed to Agent Orange," said Auriemma, who works for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Clinics. "
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