Who Cares? I Wasn’t Even Born Yet!
By Jim Kuiken
Of course, I’m assuming most people even know what Agent Orange is…my personal bias showing again. Just because I happen to be somewhat of a military history buff doesn’t mean everyone is.
Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that most people think was just used to spray around Vietnam from 1965-1972, to kill the jungle during the war so the enemy had fewer places to hide…and that those who were exposed to it got very sick or died because of their time in the Vietnam War.
Like I said…ancient history! Most folks now-a-days consider Afghanistan and Iraq as the main (current) wars, and even those are getting old! What does Agent Orange have to do with anyone except a few old veterans?
Don’t kid yourself… This is a LOT MORE than that! Toxic exposure to servicemembers has been going on since war began, and still goes on today! Just going back to WWI, there was Mustard Gas, WWII had many more, including radiological exposure and bio-weapon exposure to our own military, Agent Orange (and White, Blue, and others) during Korea and Vietnam, multiple exposures (chemical, biological, radiological) during the Gulf War (developing into Gulf War Syndrome and more), Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with more radiological exposure, asbestos exposure on ships from WWI to now, etc., etc., etc…
And do you think our Government (including both houses of Congress, the Military or Veteran’s Affairs, and others) actually helps, protects, or proactively treats and cares for those exposed!??!
If you do, you have never been exposed and had to deal with multiple decades of neglect, denial, and downright refusal to even recognize the issues that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of veterans are dealing with every single day – if they’re not one of the many actually dying from the results of those exposures, again, every…single…day.
And let’s not forget the many miscarriages or birth defects from the genetic damage suffered by many of these exposures. Or the hundreds of thousands of caregivers who have to deal with their loved ones slowly fading away right before their eyes, long before their time; or dying from cancers and other diseases or maladies caused by their time in service to this Nation.
If you or anyone you know served in the military in any war from WWI on, they have very likely been contaminated with some toxic substance. Let’s just use me as an example. Here are just some of my known or likely exposures:
1973 – 1975, Guam
1991, Gulf War
2005 – 2006, Iraq
And there were other exposures during my 30 years of military service, and subsequent years of federal service in many places around the world – as I served my country.
So what? “They knew what they were signing up for…”, right? Well, yeah. Those who stepped up to protect and serve our country did so with eyes open – BUT – we also did so relying on the promise by our country, government and its citizens that if we did so, and if we suffered harm because of that service, that we and our families would be taken care of. We relied on that solemn promise – which in all too many cases, has not been honored.
I’m not just here to whine and complain about broken promises and victimhood. I’m asking each and every one of you to actually do something to help make sure those promises are kept – specifically as to toxic exposure – the silent but extremely deadly killer, not only of those who served, but their children, spouses and caregivers, and loved ones who not only watch what happens as those affected suffer and die, but who themselves may very well be directly affected by those contaminants and toxic exposures. (see the picture of the leaking Agent Orange barrels on Johnston Atoll, where my own father was stationed – which also had radiological material contamination on the beaches and other areas…).
A small group of representatives from Blue Water Navy Association, the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, and myself (and Freedom, of course!) spent all last week and are spending all this week up on Capitol Hill, making the rounds and talking to almost 80 (or hopefully a few more) Representatives and Senators and their staffs, as well as the staff of a couple of committees (like the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, the House Appropriations Committee, the House Oversight Committee, etc.) – and – participating this Friday in the GAO (Government Accountability Office) investigation / hearing on Agent Orange on Guam.
We’re asking for everyone’s help. It is very likely that during this or previous (and subsequent) extended trips to the Hill, we will be talking to your Representative and/or Senator.
Please help keep the promise that we relied upon when we signed up to serve our country and its citizens…and CALL OR WRITE your Representative and / or Senator, and ask them to support these three bills:
H.R.809 - Fighting for Orange-Stricken Territories in the Eastern Region Act
(Agent Orange on Guam and in Micronesia)
H.R.299 - Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017
(Agent Orange in the coastal and territorial seas of Vietnam)
H.R.4843 - To modify the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the Armed Forces in Thailand during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes.
(Agent Orange on the bases in Thailand)