Wednesday, August 10, 2011

U.S. Needs to Address Lingering Legacy of Agent Orange

As We Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War

( Washington , D.C. ) – “On August 10, 1961, the U.S. Air Force began spraying chemical defoliants, dessicants, and herbicides over wide swaths of land in South Vietnam . This was done, first and foremost, to protect our troops – to clear vegetation from the perimeter of fire bases and other outposts, to deny those we were fighting cover and concealment, and to deny food to our enemy,” said John Rowan , National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). “By the time we left Vietnam , some 19 million gallons of dioxin-containing Agent Orange had been sprayed.

“Agent Orange did more than its job, however. It is now known to be associated with a variety of health conditions in those who served there as well as those who lived there,” Rowan said.

“This year we commence the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of America ’s involvement in Vietnam . We, at VVA, hope this will be more than a rehash of key events and battles in the war. We hope it will recognize that, as we remember the service and sacrifices of those who gave of themselves during the years of the war, we also need to focus attention and address the lingering legacy of the spraying of Agent Orange and other defoliants,” Rowan said.

“We believe that the saturation of Agent Orange is now affecting the health of the children – and even the grandchildren – of those who were there between 1961 and 1975. We will insist, loudly and clearly, that the Department of Veterans Affairs support research into the potential intergenerational effects of exposure to dioxin. And we will work to enact legislation that will establish centers where the progeny of Vietnam veterans who are afflicted with birth defects and learning disabilities that we believe are associated with the veteran’s exposure to dioxin can go for health assessments and treatment at no cost to the veteran and the family.

“We, as a nation, need to accept our responsibility and address both the ecological destruction and the human agonies that resulted from our spraying of defoliants in southern Vietnam ,” Rowan said. “Maybe then we can finally have some closure to our war.”

Vietnam Veterans of America is the nation’s only congressionally chartered veterans’ service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and our families. VVA’s founding principle is, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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