Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange

Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange

Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange

Waiting for an Army to Die: The Tragedy of Agent Orange

Synopsis

Telling a tragic and important story, Vietnam War veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange chronicle their discovery of the cause of serious illnesses within their ranks and birth defects among their children, as well as their long battle with a government that refused to listen to their complaints.

Excerpt

In the spring of 1978, a twenty-eight-year-old Vietnam veteran who appeared on the "Today" show shocked many of the program's viewers by announcing: "I died in Vietnam, but I didn't even know it." As a helicopter-crew chief responsible for transporting supplies to the 20th Engineering Brigade, Paul Reutershan flew almost daily through clouds of herbicides being discharged from C-123 cargo planes. He observed the dark swaths cut into the jungle by the spraying, watched the mangrove forests turn brown, sicken and die, but didn't really worry about his own health. Agent Orange, according to the Army, was "relatively nontoxic to humans and animals." On December 14, 1978, Reutershan succumbed to the cancer that had destroyed much of his colon, liver, and abdomen.

In the months before he died, Reutershan founded Agent Orange Victims International, and spent all of his waning energies trying to inform the American people about his belief that his cancer was the result of his exposure to an herbicide called Agent Orange. But the Veterans Administration denied, and still denies, any connection between exposure to Agent Orange and the many illnesses Vietnam veterans suffer. Just three weeks before he died, however, Reutershan did receive a disability check from the VA. "He was even too weak to sign it," his sister told reporters. Two . . .

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