“Birth Defects: Normal Doesn’t Apply”

Two Vietnam veterans and one spouse discuss their children with birth defects while struggling to keep their pain and anger in check.

Diagnosed with intestinal cancer after returning from Vietnam, Paul Reutershan founded Agent Orange Victims International (AOVI). He encouraged other vets to come forward with their health problems, and initiated the class action lawsuit against the chemical companies that was eventually filed in July, 1978—five months before his death. The suit was settled in January, 1985.

“That was when the veterans started to connect the dots, and realized that these birth defects were not exclusive to their family,” Jacki Ochs recalls. “There was this convergence where vets started to realize, by slowly communicating with each other, that it wasn’t just their individual hardship. ‘This is something that’s happening to all these guys around me who went to war.’ They weren’t alone. We went around the country [conducting interviews], so we were able to show the veteran from New York, the veteran from Louisiana, the veteran from Minnesota.”

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