“When the Vietnam Reporting Project first called, I’m embarrassed to say this, I said – ‘there’s a problem with Agent Orange in Vietnam, still?’”
These are the words of Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, nationally syndicated columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Creators Syndicate, and a regular essayist for Parade Magazine. She is not alone – millions of Americans do not realize that Agent Orange continues to cause severe hardship in Vietnam.
In October of 2010, Schultz traveled to Vietnam with the Vietnam Reporting Project to investigate the legacy of Agent Orange. The result – “Unfinished Business: Suffering and sickness in the endless wake of Agent Orange” – is a groundbreaking 8-page investigative report which weaves together the stories of American veterans, Vietnamese soldiers and the innocent children caught in the middle.
Like many Americans who grew up in the era of the war in Vietnam, Schultz considered the prospect of visiting the former enemy to be pretty frightening. “I grew up in a small town, Ashtabula Ohio. Our county lost 29 boys in that war,” she says, “It seemed to me at one point every third house had somebody serving… [But] I couldn’t let fear stop me from going. Like I’ve always told my kids, ‘act brave and the courage will come.’”
Far from the war-torn country she feared, Schultz found in Vietnam a spirit of resilience, forgiveness and even hope. The children in the Friendship Village, Schultz writes, are “surrounded by people who care for them, and who don’t avert their eyes at the site of them. Most importantly, they have one another.”
“Most Americans don’t know about this,” Schultz says. “It’s not their fault. I didn’t know about this and I consider myself to be pretty well informed.” It is this reality that motivates Schultz to keep telling these stories and seeking long-term solutions such as cleaning up the dioxin hot spots and expanding services to the disabled.
“I intend to talk about these hot spots until they’re cleaned up or I’m not drawing a breath,” Schultz says, “and I intend to live a long time!”
Please read and share Connie Schultz fantastic report – Unfinished Business: Suffering and sickness in the endless wake of Agent Orange. It is a powerful story that takes the reader into the depths of the problem while showing this is a humanitarian concern we can do something about.