Archive for April, 2011

Suffer the little children

 

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[Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Rick Weidman, Executive Director for Policy & Government Affairs on the national staff of Vietnam Veterans of America. Weidman served as an Army Medic with the AMERICAL Division in I-Corps Vietnam in 1969.]

When I served as an Army medic in Vietnam, I often saw a 19-year-old soldier whose job was to spray an herbicide called Agent Orange on anything green inside my base. The same was true around the perimeter, to deny cover to any enemy intruders and to ensure a clear line of fire in case of enemy attack.

As I visited numerous American military bases in Vietnam during the war, they all looked like moonscapes. They were stripped of grass and foliage by the same chemical for the same reasons.

AgentOrange_dioxin_Vietnam_PledgeImage4

Young children affected by Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Now, more than 40 years after the war, we know that Agent Orange contained dioxin, which is among the world’s most lethal toxins. American veterans of Vietnam fought a long, hard postwar struggle to get our Veterans Administration to compensate troops for a dozen diseases associated with Agent Orange/dioxin. But what about the Vietnamese who were also exposed? And what about the leftover “hot spots” of dioxin that still exist there and continue to harm people to this very day?

The U.S. military shipped, stored, and sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange/dioxin over a quarter of the former South Vietnam, both for crop destruction and to deny cover to the enemy. In this country we know from our own experiences with dioxin at Love Canal and Times Beach that these toxic hot spots can cause death and disease to those who come in contact with the chemical. The diseases range from spina bifida to Parkinson’s and certain forms of cancer.

However, the political battle still rages in Washington. VA Secretary Shinseki has classified three additional diseases as associated with Agent Orange/dioxin, thereby making veterans with those conditions eligible for compensation. In addition, women who served in Vietnam can receive compensation if their children are disabled with any of 14 birth anomalies. That’s because Agent Orange/dioxin can cause DNA damage for generations.

The struggle is far from over. We have reason to believe that many additional adverse medical conditions in Vietnam veterans of both sexes also are caused by these exposures, including possible genetic problems in grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, Agent Orange/dioxin damage also lingers. While we have made some progress for Americans harmed by these exposures, our friends in Vietnam have a long way to go to match our modest gains. The Vietnamese Red Cross estimates that 3 million people, including more than 150,000 of today’s children, are disabled because of the chemical. Former airbases like Da Nang contain dangerous toxic hot spots where Agent Orange was stored and handled and spilled into the ground. Dioxin is hard to break up in the soil and it lasts in human body tissue for years.

Unlike the United States government, the Vietnamese recognized that Agent Orange/dioxin might cause chromosomal damage in the second and third generations of original victims. My own experience is that families of American veterans also suffer. But the VA recognizes no health consequences from Agent Orange/dioxin in disabled daughters and sons of male veterans who served in Vietnam.

It’s time to put this legacy of the war in Vietnam to rest once and for all. A blue-ribbon commission of prominent Americans and Vietnamese has called for a 10-year, $300 million cleanup of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam. The resources would eliminate the hot spots, restore damaged ecosystems and provide humanitarian assistance to the Vietnamese disabled population, including those second- and third-generation children affected by the chemical.

It seems to me that $30 million a year for 10 years, from governments, foundation and private sources, is a small price to pay to help remedy the damage caused.

This is a humanitarian concern we can do something about. Recent progress in methods of treating contaminated soils and helping Vietnam’s disabled population shows that America is at its best when it steps up to heal past wounds.

If we make progress on nothing else regarding the ravages of Agent Orange and other toxic substances used in Vietnam, we must properly care for our future generations — on both sides of the Pacific.

 

Action Alert: Support the Plan

 

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Agent Orange_dioxin_Vietnam_Ly by Window March 2010

Ly is 9-years old, energetic and bright. She has a congenital heart defect and facial deformity. Ly is lucky, she has help from the nongovermental organization Children of Vietnam.

Decades after the war, Agent Orange continues to impact millions in Vietnam. Babies are still being born with severe birth defects, the food chain is still poisoned at the hot spots and people are still getting sick from the dioxin. It’s tragic, but the cycle can be broken.

In June 2010, the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group laid out a comprehensive 10-year Plan of Action calling on a shared investment of $300 million dollars over ten years to provide critical healthcare and rehabilitative services and clean up the dioxin hot spots.

Show you care: Pledge your support for the Plan of Action today »

Agent Orange has damaged the health of at least three million Vietnamese, hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers and has destroyed nearly 5 million acres of forest. The impact is heart breaking, but the solutions are within our grasp.

This Earth Day, help us show the world that Agent Orange is a humanitarian concern we can do something about. Pledge your support for the Plan of Action and make your voices heard. Our goal is to get 300 pledges by April 22 (Earth Day) so please share with friends and family.

Join the call to give Vietnam the future it deserves – a healthier, cleaner future free from the effects of Agent Orange »

 

Sweet Deal from Socola Chocolates

 

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MAOH_Agent Orange_dioxin_Vietnam_Socola Chocolatier Boxes and Chocolate Truffles

Socola Chocolatier Boxes and Chocolate Truffles

The tragic impact of Agent Orange affects not just the sick and disabled, but also those who care for them. Many mothers have made countless sacrifices for their children who are affected by Agent Orange.

That’s why Make Agent Orange History and the War Legacies Project have partnered with the San Francisco-based Socola Chocolatier, which has announced that 5% of all online chocolate purchases using the code “ORANGE” will go toward providing economic support for mothers who are caring for disabled children. This promotion is valid from April 5 to May 31, 2011.

Honor these unsung heroes of Agent Orange with some delicious gourmet chocolates from Socola Chocolatier »

MAOH_Vietnam_AgentOrange_dioxin_Socola Chocolate Signature Selection

Socola Chocolate Signature Selection

Proceeds will be donated to the War Legacies Project, which will in turn use the funds to support small businesses in Vietnam that  provide work-at-home opportunities for women who cannot easily leave the house due to their caregiving duties or their own disability. Whether it is sewing specialty items such as herbal pillows or school uniforms, or growing loofah for cosmetics, there are many opportunities to affirm the dignity of these resilient women.

With unique flavors like Vietnamese espresso and bacon chocolate, we couldn’t think of a sweeter way to honor and support the women we admire. Check out Socola Chocolatier’s online selection and spread a little sweetness today »