GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A chemical sprayed on troops by the US military during the Vietnam War is continuing to impact the lives of veterans and their families. One Michigan Vietnam veteran is teaming up with the group Vietnam Veterans of America to do something about it.
Philip Smith conducts meetings like this one Saturday in Grand Rapids throughout Michigan to warn veterans about a silent killer many of them are unaware of Agent Orange.
Smith serves as the director for Vietnam Veterans of America.
“When Admiral Zumwalt was alive and he was the Admiral of the Navy.” “’He says don’t spray that stuff ‘well guess what we did and the ultimate factor is the disease that came down with it afterward,” he said.
It was a herbicide used to eliminate forest cover and crops during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange is a toxic chemical that’s known to be associated with several illnesses and diseases. Many of them are considered deadly.
“I’ve got a charcoal foot now because of it which went crooked. I had open heart surgery a little less than two years ago because of it,” said Jeron Hendricks, a Vietnam War Veteran.
Hendricks served in Vietnam and says he now suffers from a number of illnesses impacting his legs and heart, but he was only able to receive compensation from the Veterans Administration four years after being able to prove his conditions were in fact related to the herbicide Agent Orange.
“If things start happening to you, your family members, or relatives and nobody can figure it out well it’s a good chance if you were in service that this is part of that reason,” Hendricks said.
And the chemical is just one of the Tactical Use rainbow herbicides impacting America’s veterans. Information that the Vietnam Veterans of America are sharing by setting up presentations such as this in hopes of getting veterans the knowledge they need to get the proper care and money that they deserve.
“A lot of them are coming forward now saying ‘well I got some of these symptoms what do we do,” and that’s where Phil comes in he helps them get a claim into the VA and they get compensated for it and it also puts them on the record that they’re Agent Orange,” said Ken Rogge, the VVA Michigan first vice president.
Over the last few years, more veterans have come forward with claims about Agent Orange related illnesses and now signs of its impact are reaching past the veterans to children, grandchildren and into further generations.
To learn more about Agent Orange click here.