each of the reunions I have attended, I have paid tribute
to the black flag numbering the deaths of our fallen
brothers. The sacrifices that Blackhorse has made, however,
extend beyond the lives of those lost in battle. Now,
thirty years later, having escaped the jungle and the
enemys bullets, I am far from leaving it all behind.
I may have made it home, but not without being exposed
to the herbicide that is slowly debilitating many Vietnam
veterans: Agent Orange. It is a persistent enemy that
I fear some may soon forget.
For those of us who were there, Agent Orange is an impossibility
to forget. It is the younger generation of soldiers
that needs to know about its terrible effects. Fifty
years from now I want the attendees of our Blackhorse
Reunions to know that our sacrifices extended beyond
the 716 troopers we lost during the Viet Nam War. The
number does not accurately reflect how the survivors
paid with their quality of life.
Young troopers need to know about the Atomic Veteranswho
were knowingly exposed to ionizing radiation from atomic
and nuclear weapons testing. In the fifties, these veterans
were used as lab rats, exposed to atomic blasts in Nevada.
It wasnt until the early 1980s that the government
finally admitted to a connection between the veterans
various cancers and their subjection to government-sanctioned
experiments in radiation. By this time, unfortunately,
most of the vets have died.
There are some people that know about the toxins vets
were exposed to during the Persian Gulf War. Like their
predecessors, these veterans have a syndrome all their
own. The government has yet to determine that a health
problem amongst the Gulf War veterans exists. Someday
they may determine causality but that day may come long
after the veterans have expired.
After almost thirty years, Agent Orange is now recognized
as a harmful herbicide that endangered the lives of
many vets. There are over 300,000 veterans who are on
The Registry, waiting in line for exams
at the V.A., waiting for review boards to verify medical
documentation. These veterans are waiting to be considered
for compensation. Some have been compensated. Most,
however, must endure the claims process and resolutions
will most likely come when most of us have passed on.
Being ill due to my participation in the war upsets
me. It is a great strain on my family. My greater pain,
however, lies in the possibility that my grandchildren
and future generations will be unaware of our true plight.
If the future is ignorant of its past, then it will
repeat its mistakes. The soldiers of tomorrow will become
lab rats once again, continuing the cycle.
I have checked with other Viet Nam organizations and
the 11th ACR organization seems to be making an effort
in uncovering the effects of Agent Orange within its
own unit. Why not prove we are the number one Association
by being the first to analyze this problem more thoroughly.
It is a means of expressing our respect and acknowledging
the dedication we have all demonstrated. We must not
let our future troopers forget the sacrifices that we
made for the war.