- By Bruce Lloyd
Guam demonstration plugs Agent Orange awareness
It's not exactly a big secret that the United States made free use of the defoliant, Agent Orange, during and after the Vietnam War. It was used throughout the theatre of that war, as those who served in Vietnam, Okinawa and Guam were well aware at the time.
What was not known about Dow Chemical's famous product was its eventual impacts on the uniformed humans who applied it to airfields and sprayed it to clear jungle growth, depriving the enemy of cover during the shooting war.
Reports of various cancers and other diseases developing in veterans of that era have increasingly tracked back to AO exposure. Even more disturbing, civilians living in the areas once drenched by AO appear to have plenty of exposure to the chemical through water lenses and still contaminated soil.
However, the U.S. government and the Veterans Administration have been slow to make this connection and its impact on the veterans and affected civilians.
U.S. House Resolution 809, is reportedly nicknamed the FOSTER Act, after Leroy Foster, who claimed to have sprayed the chemical widely on sites on and near Andersen Air Force Base. Foster has worked hard to publicize this chemical contamination.
Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo joined a small group of demonstrators along Marine Corps Drive Thursday afternoon in support of H.R. 809 and the older H.R. 299, which covers some of the same ground.
Bordallo said she's optimistic about the prospects of the legislation, given that more than 300 House members are co-sponsors of H.R. 299 and 16 including Bordallo are co-sponsoring H.R. 809. It's a rare Washington instance of bi-partisanship in 2018.
Agent Orange is not an abstract issue for John Quidachay of Agat. During Vietnam, Quidachay worked on the trucks hauling bombs from the Commercial Port to Andersen "We unload that bomb, the B-52 bomb. We unload it and then we put it in the ground and some of it, we're rolling it and stacking together. But the people were there, they were spraying it and I found out it was Agent Orange and the grass was dying all over the place. I remember. If I went up there again, I'd find that place."
Quidachay went on to join the Army and spent three years as a combat infantryman in Vietnam.
"When they spray it from the air, the grass was dying. Following morning, the grass was clear, the leaves on the tree was down."
According to a summary, H.R. 809 "provides presumptive service connection to herbicide exposure, for purposes of eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs health benefits, for veterans who served in the Republic of Vietnam, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa during the Vietnam War and who show symptoms of medical conditions associated with such exposure."
Read related stories: Terlaje seeks justice for veterans affected by Agent Orange
Guam veterans' registry starting again
Ross, Bordallo applaud legislature for passage of Ao resolution
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