Von Jones sits at a conference room table, a yellow legal
pad in his hands. On it are written the names of 40 of his former
co-workers at Vitro Services, a defense contractor that once managed the
test ranges on Eglin Air Force Base’s reservation.
to Jones, many of the people on the list died from illnesses that
scientists have linked to exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide made
with the toxic chemical compound dioxin.
are probably more than this,” the Crestview resident said as he flipped
through the pages. “Of course, some folks might have gotten some of
these conditions whether they were exposed or not. But it sure is
interesting that so many people got sick, don’t you think?”
‘What went on’
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the term “Agent Orange”?
many people, the word is probably Vietnam, where an estimated 2 million
American service members and 4 million Vietnamese citizens were exposed
to the powerful herbicide and others like it between 1962 and 1971.
men like Jones and his fellow range technicians at Vitro, however, the
term brings back memories of a very different place, far from the
jungles of Vietnam. For them, “Agent Orange” will always be synonymous
with Eglin Air Force Base’s Site C-52A, where the herbicide was tested
from 1962 to 1970.
“Everybody always talks about
the guys in Vietnam,” said DeFuniak Springs resident Jody Mitchem, one
of Jones’ former co-workers at Vitro. “No one ever talks about what went
on down here.”