By Sally Haase.
(March 30, 2020) — I was surprised Sunday to hear President Trump honor the Vietnam veterans on Vietnam Veterans Day. The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which the President signed into law in 2017, designating March 29 of each year as National Vietnam War Veterans Day, honored those who fought and sacrificed in that war. I somehow missed the day of recognition. I do remember, during the war, the nightly news with daily body counts and the anti-war demonstrations. Who can forget the picture of the naked little girl running and screaming from her napalm burns? Digging through the internet I found that March 29, 1973 was the day that we pulled out of Vietnam. President Nixon ended our involvement in this unpopular war, signing an agreement with the North Vietnam in January 1973. Some will say that we might have won had we stayed a few months longer.
There are approximately 58,000 names of U.S. armed military soldiers inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The Vietnam War Library estimates that 610,000 Americans who served on Land and 164,000 who sailors are still alive today.
But for many the VN war is not over; many are still suffering. I write specifically about Agent Orange (the toxic herbicide dioxin). A Connecticut man, Gerry Wright, who served two tours of duty in Nam, has worked for the last few years to create support for veterans who were “sprayed and betrayed” to the Veterans Administration. Twenty million tons of Agent Orange was sprayed in Vietnam over jungles and waterways in an attempt to expose the enemy. An 8/22/2018 Hartford Courant article about him recounts his motorcycle ride through 35 states in his quest to bring awareness to the general public. In the news article, Wright describes dead vegetation, dead monkeys and even snakes. The parched land stirred up dust where our men ate, slept, and drank. They were told it was safe.
Fourteen diseases are recognized by the Veterans Administration as being linked to Agent Orange, but there are three diseases that the Vet needs to show that the effects of AO “manifested” within a year of leaving the service. During the last 50 years, many VN Vets have suffered with skin rashes that don’t heal to multiple types of cancers and autoimmune diseases. Many medical claims submitted by VN Vets are rejected as not matching the profiles or not showing enough proof. It all boils down to a form and a VA administrator making a decision. Gerry Wright’s mission is to collect signatures and support to spur Congress into recognizing the latent effects of AO.
In June of 2019, Congressman Joe Courtney was able to get a bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, through Congress. It extended benefits to off shore Vets on ships and patrol boots within 14 miles of the coast of VN.
In 2018, Rep. Courtney introduced the Agent Orange Exposure Fairness Act, to remove some of the obstacles to benefits for the “boots on the ground” soldiers, where it sat in committee. He then reintroduced the bill in January of 2019. Today, after speaking with one of his staff members, I was told the Bill (HR566) is discussed weekly. The Congressman is currently seeking co-sponsors for the bill to bring pressure on the Veterans Affairs Committee to consider it. In the current situation of COVID-19, the staffer feels that it may be take longer than they’d like.
So, if you didn’t know about National Vietnam War Veterans Day, give a Vietnam Veteran a belated virtual hug, call or send an email. And don’t forget to fly your flag in their honor.
Support our AO Vets. Call your representatives. Search Sprayed & Betrayed on Facebook.
Image: Google Free to Share and Use: Vietnam Wall.