Meeting to discuss effects toxin has across generations
ALPENA-A veteran’s group will host a comprehensive talk about the generational effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in Vietnam from 1965-1970.
One of the key issues is that cancer and other diseases have been showing up in the daughters and grandsons of soldiers exposed to the dioxin, said Ed Dahn, who is organizing the June 1 event on behalf of the Agent Orange Riders. Dahn served in the U.S. Navy and was on active duty in the Mediterranean aboard the USS Fremont out of Norfolk, Va.
Although Dahn never served in-country, the 65-year-old said he had cousins and other family members in Vietnam, and became aware of health problems, especially in the daughters and grandsons of Vietnam veterans.
“We want every child of a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange to get a card that gives them free VA medical care,” he said.
But he said the idea is ambitious. An estimated 4.5 million soldiers in all branches of the service were exposed to the toxin, putting more than 6 million of their children and millions more of their grandchildren at risk, he said. Soldiers in Korea also were exposed to the chemical in the 1950s.
Dahn said another goal is to get the word out to veterans and their descendants about health issues, which include diabetes, heart disease and cancer in men. For approximately 12,000 women who served, the diseases include breast and uterine cancer, thyroid problems and other issues.
Bill Walton is involved in the group. At the age of 19, he was on a team that cleared mountain tops in Vietnam so that artillery bases could be set up. He said he now has a thyroid problem and a spot on his lung. His 14-year-old granddaughter has spina bifida, and he knows six daughters of fellow veterans coping with thyroid problems.
“Our war is never going to be over as long as our kids have this,” Walton said. “That’s the shame of it.”
Speakers at the June 1 event include Herb Worthington, National Agent Orange chairman; Mokie Porter, National Vietnam Veterans of America director of communications; George Claxton, with the VVA Agent Orange/dioxin committee; Sandy Wilson, VVA Region 5 director; Betty Mekdeci of Agent Orange Research; Steve House, a Korean veteran, and three others.
Dahn said Mekdeci maintains the Birth Defect Research for Children registry to collect information on people who have been effected. Her site at www.birthdefects.org also contains links to blogs, news and prevention resources.
According to the groups’ brochure, the chemical was developed during World War II and was designed to destroy Japanese rice crops. However, it was not used until President John F. Kennedy approved a more aggressive version for Vietnam and Korea in 1961.
In Vietnam, other herbicides were used, including Agent Purple, Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent White and Agent Blue.
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.