Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The many faces of Agent Orange


Steve Dudich was a fresh-faced teenager not far removed from East High School in Akron, Ohio, when he had his first experience with Agent Orange.
Dudich’s parents allowed him to join the U.S. Marine Corps when he was only 17, and after boot camp in South Carolina he found himself in the first of two tours of duty in Hue, Vietnam, near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the north and south.
It was 1962 and it was Dudich’s job to call in map coordinates for Naval artillery strikes.
“Going into Agent Orange was like it had a musty smell to it. It was a reddish-brown-colored fog that would be in the air,” said Dudich, who served much of his first tour with troops of the Republic of Vietnam. “We were in combat and I ran through a bamboo thicket. It kind of gave me hundreds of little injections with (Agent Orange). Within five minutes I looked like I had been burned by acid. I didn’t know what to do. I tore my clothes off and fought in my skivvies. I got hit with a huge dose on that occasion.”
That was the first of too many encounters with the toxic herbicide over the following four years. He said soldiers would eat food from the jungle or local hamlets that had been contaminated. They would drink the water and bunk down in the foliage that had been sprayed. The chemical exposure along with post traumatic stress disorder has left Dudich permanently disabled.
The 66-year-old Arroyo Grande resident has suffered from polycythemia, a rare blood disease that increases the number of red blood cells, and he has had superventricular tachycardia, a condition where his heartbeat increases to dangerous levels — 250 beats per minute, Dudich said.
“The last time, I thought ‘I’ve just had enough of this.’ I thought I would just go guard the gates up in heaven,” he said. “To die isn't a bad thing. I've had all of these health problems. I was just tired out. I'd had enough.”
READ MORE: http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/the-many-faces-of-agent-orange/article_0a787f2c-2b09-11e2-9406-001a4bcf887a.html

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