An Essay by Donal Mahoney
This is a true story told to me recently by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. It explains his experience with the legacy of Monsanto and Dow and the ongoing effects of its product, Agent Orange, the lethal spray used in Vietnam during the war.
My friend’s brother died a slow death from the effects of Agent Orange. And the other day while at the mall he met someone now going through what his brother went through prior to his death.
He said a man stepped out of a store wearing an orange T Shirt. On its back was, “I was killed in Vietnam I just haven’t died yet.”
Roy walked up to him and asked if his shirt pertained to Agent Orange. He said that it did, and he began to tell Roy his story. He was just out of high school when he joined the service and was sent to Vietnam. He said he was in the Highlands with the Big Red One. Fighting was intense, snipers were everywhere and Operation Ranch Hand sprayed Agent Orange day after day. He finished his tour, came home and thought he was safe.
But all the symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning except diabetes soon appeared: breathing problems, cancer, genetic problems that he passed on to his children and heart attacks. He has fought the cancers for years. Now the cancer has returned in six locations.
He said when he first reported his health problems, the Veterans Administration denied, denied and continued to deny that they were due to Agent Orange. Finally, they admitted, after analysis proved the danger of dioxin, that he had indeed been poisoned. By this time, he had accumulated debt, had a checkered work record because of all the health episodes and had suffered for years without adequate medical care.
As Roy listened, he found it to be the same refrain other veterans had told him, including his brother. The VA knew about Agent Orange, but they felt if they kept stonewalling, the Vietnam Vets would die or just give up on getting the care they needed and deserved.
Roy said this man at the time didn’t question the morality of the war in Vietnam. He went and fought, got a biological injury he did not get a purple heart for and returned to a nation that turned its back on him. No veterans in the history of this country have been so maligned.
As the man Roy met in the mall said, “The only parade my fellow Vietnam veterans got to honor them started with a hearse and ended up at a graveyard.”
Roy didn’t get much sleep that night as he thought about the truth of that man’s statement and remembered as well the agony of his own brother’s death from Agent Orange.