Wisconsin’s Nearly 51,000 Vietnam and Southeast Asia Veterans and
Families are Invited to Learn and Share Their Stories About Agent Orange
Waukesha, WI – The Wisconsin State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is holding an Agent Orange Townhall Meeting October 26, 2013, at the Johnson Creek Community Center in Johnson Creek. Today, over 51 thousand Wisconsin residents are veterans who served in Vietnam and Southeast Asia between 1961 and 1975. While many of our state’s veterans know the medical effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides on their lives and the lives of their family, tens of thousands of Wisconsin’s Vietnam and Southeast Asia veterans are unaware of the medical effects of Agent Orange. This Townhall Meeting is aimed at educating veterans and their families on the illnesses associated with Agent Orange and to learn from veterans how Agent Orange has affected veterans and their spouses. Moreover, during this Townhall Meeting we want to discuss how our veterans’ children and grandchildren are or may be suffering from abnormalities resulting from the veteran’s exposure to Agent Orange.
In Faces of Agent Orange – VVA’s anecdotal case studies – Mike Demske, a Wisconsin resident and Swift Boat crewman during the Vietnam War, shared that it was 15 years after he returned home that he was simultaneously diagnosed with Type II diabetes and psoriasis. In 2009, Demske was diagnosed with Fournier’s gangrene, but health complications were not just limited to Mike. Mike’s son, Scott, began having seizures due to an abnormality in his frontal lobes. Scott was medically retired from the Air Force. David, Mike’s second son, was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at ten and died at 23 of myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle.
Veterans from Maine to California and North Dakota to Texas are telling stories similar to Demske’s in townhall meetings. Other veterans are sharing their unique medical histories, which focus on their illnesses, their spouse’s illnesses, and the many medical maladies of their children and grandchildren. Veterans like Herb Worthington (New Jersey) whose daughter suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS) and his son who has chronic bronchitis and allergies; Robert Cummings’ (Michigan) son who was born with spina bifida, his daughter born with Bell’s palsy, and another son who has a congenital heart defect; and Jim May (New York) whose son was born with retinoblastoma – cancer of the eye. These same and other veterans from across the country are sharing heartbreaking health stories about their children and grandchildren. As a group of veterans who served in the same war and in the same region, these illnesses and diseases are significantly greater than those men and women who did not serve in country or in theatre.
With nearly 2.12 million in country Vietnam veterans living across the country and coping with dozens of illnesses and nearly 40 unique cancers recognized by the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) as being connected to Agent Orange exposure – it is unconscionable that there is no accurate number of veterans affected and no long-term studies being conducted on these veterans, their families, and extended families. Moreover, among the many possible medical disorders that could be passed onto children, the VA only recognizes Spina Bifida as being connected to Agent Orange among our male veterans – even with hundreds if not thousands of other medical illnesses and diseases being anecdotally recorded among the children and grandchildren of Vietnam War veterans.
Wisconsin’s Agent Orange Townhall Meeting on October 26, 2013, at the Johnson Creek Community Center in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin is more than an opportunity to learn more about Agent Orange. This day is a time for Vietnam and Southeast Asia veterans to share their stories about the effects of Agent Orange. This is a time to share with their fellow veterans and families how Agent Orange has affected not only their lives, but also the lives of their children and grandchildren. This is a call to action for all Wisconsin veterans who were in Vietnam between 1961 and 1975 and where Agent Orange was used at military facilities in and outside the United States mainland, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico, as well as Cambodia, Canada, Korea, and Thailand.
Additional information about Agent Orange and Wisconsin’s Agent Orange Townhall Meeting is available at www.vvawi.org. VVA – the main advocacy group for Agent Orange related maladies – has information available at www.vva.org/Committees/AgentOrange.