What is on my mind: Vietnam veterans and Agent Orange

navy
 

At the moment, I cannot help but complain about the Vietnam War veterans, specifically the Navy’s continual struggle with the Veterans Administration over proper funding for Agent Orange-related illnesses.

For those who are not familiar with the term Agent Orange, it is a plant-killing chemical that the United States used during the Vietnam War in order to kill plants, crops and forest cover, according to cancer.org.

Many of our military forces during that time were exposed to this defoliant.

The Veterans Administration, also known as the VA, provides funding for all service members who served in the Vietnam War when it comes to Agent Orange-related illnesses as long as their “boots were on the ground,” or they had proof that they were there. For the Navy, however, it is a constant battle to get the proper funding these veterans deserve.

Sadly, some Navy veterans do get the benefits they deserve after an uphill battle with the VA, yet many are still awaiting approval.

After the Bush administration made a change in its policy excluding any persons from receiving benefits that could not provide proper documentation that they were in Vietnam, our Navy veterans stopped receiving funding if they could not prove that they were there.

Something they were all previously entitled to under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, according to legion.org.

This should not be the case at all. According to legion.org, Navy veterans were potentially at a higher risk to suffer from exposure to Agent Orange than soldiers who actually had their boots on the ground because of the water-desalination systems on the ships.

Additionally, according to the article “Find in My Favor” in the American Legion Magazine, many Navy veterans have documentation from doctors explaining that the cancers or other diseases they have are directly related to the chemical Agent Orange — yet their requests for funding are still denied.

This story hits home pretty hard for me.

My father, Gregory Sipes, 61, served in the Navy from 1970 to 1972 and is also a Vietnam veteran.
He was what many will call a “Blue Water Sailor” and a “Brown Water Veteran.” Meaning, he not only served off the coast of Vietnam, but also in the inland waterways and rivers.

My father and I never really talked about his service in Vietnam until a couple years ago when I was old enough to understand what many of those veterans went through while overseas.

But now, we talk about it. In some way or another, I feel that it does him some good.

However, this story enraged him. He was actually the one who pointed this article out to me.
When talking to my dad about this issue, I think it is safe to say that though he left the service in 1972, his “mouth like a sailor” never left him.

So, much of what I gained from our conversation cannot be used. But, he did make a statement that has continued to stick out to me over the past couple days.

“A lot of us were there,” he continued, “How much more river water does there need to be?”
This is my exact point. I am proud of my father, I always have been and I always will be.
I hope that my dad never has to experience anything like this.

Even more so, I hope my mother, who is happily retired alongside my father, never has to go through what some of the widows of the veterans have endured.

Financial struggles, as well as crippling medical bills are leaving some families left out in the cold. That I cannot stand by.

Service is service, and I know my father, as well as all Navy veterans, were sent over to do a job and they did it to the fullest.

The least the VA could do is compensate them for their sacrifice. For full coverage about this issue, or to read the article in which this information is derived from, visit legion.org.

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