BY DONNA WESTFALL
CREDIT TO: CHILDREN OF VIETNAM VETERAN’S HEALTH ALLIANCE (COVVHA)
In January 1973, representatives from the U.S., South and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords. While fighting continued until the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Accords marked the end of direct U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In the 60 days following the signing of the agreement, the U.S. withdrew its remaining combat troops. My husband credits former President Richard Nixon with saving his life and getting him out of Vietnam.
40 years ago, over 2.8 million men and about 8,000 women served in the military in Vietnam. 40 years ago, many of those enlisted were exposed to Agent Orange. When they returned home, their health deteriorated. Many have already died. I’ve known several that have now passed on, and one in particular here in Del Norte County who I am very fond of that continues to press on, but knows his time is limited.
Part of the difficulty of fighting the war in Vietnam was the dense jungle foliage. That was the impetus for using the herbicide, Agent Orange: to kill the vegetation and make Vietnam desert-like so it would be easier to spot the Viet Cong. MONSANTO created Agent Orange, of which over 50% of the compound was Arsenic. Monsanto and six other companies produced these herbicides. The Agent Orange produced by Monsanto had dioxin levels many times higher than that produced by Dow Chemicals, the other major supplier of Agent Orange to Vietnam.
Today, 2nd and 3rd generation children of Vietnam Vets now suffer from a conglomeration of birth defects and health issues. Here’s the issue. While these 18 birth defects are covered for female veterans, most are not covered for male veterans.
Cleft lip and cleft palate
Congenital heart disease
Esophageal and intestinal atresia
Hydrocephalus due to aqueductal stenosis
Neural tube defects
Kelly Derricks, now 38 years old, President of Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance (COVVHA) watched her father die when she was 7. Some of her illnesses, presumed to be associated with the inter-generational effects of Agent Orange, include but are not limited to the following:
● Chronic kidney disease ● Crohn’s disease ● Addison’s disease ● Congenital adrenal hyperplaysia ● Intersticial cystitis ● Degenerative disk disease
Her complete list of illnesses covers 32 different things. I caught one of her video’s where she was talking to a group of veterans. She explained that due to her illnesses, she has to take antibiotics and antiviral medications before going into a group to speak otherwise she’ll get sick.
The main emphasis of her organization is to get our government to recognize and approve help for those male veterans, their children and grandchildren that suffer from these illnesses. For decades our government has been in denial about the illnesses to our Vietnam vets’ offspring.
And, what’s Monsanto got to say about all this: Monsanto has said that while “sympathetic” with the victims “reliable scientific evidence indicates that Agent Orange is not the cause of serious long-term health effects.”
For further information about Kelly Derricks and her group, please visit www.COVVHA.com.