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Letter to the Editor Addresses Military Service and Agent OrangeDon Bollinger for Salem-News.com
An Editorial Assessment of Agent Orange and Vietnam Veterans as of August 2010
(SEATTLE) - It's comically painful to read and watch comments by some Vietnam Veterans and others (possibly want-to-be vets) and concerned folks on this and other issues relating to Agent Orange.
I'm a Vietnam Veteran who unknowingly bathed regularly in various dilutions of the sprayed AO chemical mixed with our shower water (run off from roofs covering our living quarters). I also had incursions into underbrush, newly sprayed and wilting from drenching by the chemical.
Except for repeated bouts with prostate cancer, 3 types of ischemic heart disease, lung disease, circulatory diseases and approaching Diabetes, I'm in fairly good health. Still unable to 'mechanically' prove service connection to a sufficient level where medical care is fully funded by the VA, I have virtually devastated my life?s savings paying for surgeries, hospital bills, medical tests and treatments, medicines and doctor?s visits.
As a young man (proud and immortal) I allowed the VA, the US Military and American businesses, all in the name of sound economic policies, to tread soundly over me. At first, like other Viet Vets, I suffered more from the vile and hurtful jests of 'well-meaning' Americans and sometimes their spittle as well.
Not knowing what to call the frequently blackouts and extreme back pain I was enduring, I accepted the discharge physician's analysis of a congenital abnormality. Even though deep down I thought that had to be untrue, I was wounded more by my fellow Americans blasts than from that of the hand grenade thrown by a preteen Vietnamese terrorist.
I had agreed to fight and then lose an unwinnable war, even though I was still too young to vote, at the expense and impugned pride of my fellow Americans.
How could I be so vain? Why didn?t I find somewhere else to live? In truth, I felt homeless from the time I returned from SE Asia. Like most Viet Vets, I suffered in silence for many years.
Now, with the experience of age, the frailties of maturity gained a greater grip, the evil substance fully enmeshed into my bodily systems, it holds me firmly by the short and woolies. The more I find out about Dioxin (the primary toxic ingredient in Agent Orange) and how it works on the human system, the more I understand how so many diseases spurn from it loins.
It attaches to and attacks the human immune system with the patience and mindset of a Sequoia seed, spreading and drawing on inherent weaknesses, tirelessly multiplying, doggedly dragging at the ever weakening frame, knowing much sooner than later it will prevail.
Ironically, I'm discovering the original diagnosis by that Army doctor was more accurate than I had at first realized.
It was a congenital abnormally that had attacked me. But it was not one borne within me, rather one born within our country's borders. And, its still very much alive, continuing to serve us well as a horse collar around those unwilling or unable to shout out for the just treatment of those suffering from the ailments of war, all in the name of genuine patriotism or as some have said, in doing what's 'best' for the majority of Americans.
One of our country's greatest heroes and arguably its last truly great American President, Abraham Lincoln recognized all of America's veterans (those that fought for either North or South) and established a commitment to properly care for and treat our country's truest heroes. What greater gift can one give or offer to give up for his country than his life? To allow those who made the ultimate sacrifice be the more fortunate of our country's veterans is not just shameful for the rest of us, but unconscionable in its mildest form.
My suggestion is this, that we as a FREE and presumably well educated society of human beings refuse to fund any future effort that could result in the deaths, mutilations or mental impairment of fellow Americans (i.e. WAR) without an equal funding (dollar for dollar) permanently and inextricably dedicated to financing all of Americas veteran?s medical care, housing, food, habitation and overall well being.
I call that the very least we can abide in the name of equal and just treatment for those predicated to the brunt of our most dangerous folly.
Don Bollinger Seattle, WA
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