By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Close to three million American men and women were exposed to a deadly agent while serving in the Vietnam War. Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant, was literally dumped and sprayed throughout Vietnam in an effort to defoliate the jungle. For years, Vietnam Veterans have been suffering the lasting effects of exposure to the deadly chemical, and now evidence exists that it has multigenerational effects.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is hosting a free town hall meeting, which has been organized by the Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143, for all Vietnam Veterans and their families on Saturday, Aug. 1 from 12-6pm at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds exhibit hall. Anyone from the general public interested in the issue is also welcome.
“We have a panel of experts who will be coming to Cherokee, and these individuals are probably the most knowledgeable individuals in the United States on Agent Orange and the effects of that exposure,” said Warren Dupree, Post 143 service officer, who is also a Vietnam Veteran.
Dupree said the panelists will discuss the health effects to Vietnam veterans who were exposed, the health effects to their family members (the multi-generational effects), and the health benefits that are available to both. The following panel of experts is set to attend: Herb Worthington; Tom Berger, Ph.D.; Jack McManus, Operation Ranch Hand; Nancy Switzer; and Anthony Mussolino, Vietnam Veterans Association (VVA) service officer.
Dupree related that the Veterans Administration has declared that all of the 2.7 million Americans who served in the Vietnam War are determined to be “contaminated by Agent Orange”.
“Once you are contaminated, the residual lasts for decades,” he said. “It never goes away. We all know, as Americans, how long this has been going on. When these veterans started coming home with all kinds of skin problems and cancers just bubbling up from their bodies – inside and out – all of this began.”
Dupree said the defoliate was dropped from planes and helicopters and sprayed on the ground from hand-held devices. “Some of our troops were completely saturated in it by the fly-overs. They took a bath in it, and there was no way to decontaminate. It was everywhere – in the ground, on the leaves, in the water.”
According to the VVA, “It is estimated that between 1962 and 1971, almost 11 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam, primarily through an aerial spray program code-named ‘Operation Ranch Hand’.”
“It alters your genetic make-up,” Dupree explained. “It alters your DNA. For up to six generations, your bloodline for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on could suffer horrible birth defects.”
Information from the VVA lists numerous birth defects linked to multi-generational exposure including: Spina Bifada, Congenital Heart Disease, Neural Tube Defects, Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate, and many more. The VVA also lists 50 diseases linked to direct exposure to the chemical including: Hodgkins Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Spina Bifada, and 38 different forms of cancer.