People exposed to Agent Orange have died or become totally incapacitated by diseases that the U.S. government recognizes as related to dioxin exposure for purposes of paying compensation to Vietnam veterans in the United States. Children born to parents exposed to dioxin during the war and people in areas of heavy spraying – “hot spots” – still suffer from horrible deformities.
I served in areas of heavy dioxin spraying in Vietnam, thought I had survived the war and would be able to return to a normal life until my first-born son was hit by friendly fire, a chemical weapon that can cripple or kill. Casey was born with a cleft palate, prune belly, a congenital heart disease, and other birth anomalies. He suffered a seizure that took him from his mother’s arms to a pediatric ICU neonatal center. In a few weeks, my wife and I were able to take Casey home. Our life was anything but normal, what with learning to care for Casey’s special needs and the hundreds of doctors’ appointments. A year later, our second child was born, a healthy beautiful baby girl we named Harmony.
Then came the day for Casey to have heart surgery. Although too painful to tell the whole story, Casey went into a coma for seven weeks and while in my arms, Casey took his last breath and was no more. You think you know pain, but the loss of my son was a bayonet to his heart and I nearly lost my sanity. Grief took me to the depths of hell; but for the love of my wife and daughter, I would have perished.
The ghosts of our children cry out for justice. It is time to repair the damage and to recognize the suffering of families, the Vietnamese and ours.
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