Legislation needed because exposure effects may last seven generations, veteran says
The war is over, but the fight goes on.
That stark message rang through at the Vietnam Veterans Day program held Sunday at the Forest Lake American Legion.
While veterans holidays are calls to remember sacrifices already made, Vietnam veterans and their families continue to battle an invisible foe: Agent Orange.
During the war, the herbicide/defoliant was sprayed across more than a tenth of Vietnam to clear thick vegetation and create a safer environment for American troops. However, after countless soldiers used infested water for drinking and bathing, it was determined to be a highly toxic dioxin compound.
The ultimate impact of Agent Orange exposure is still being realized, Vietnam veteran Maynard Kaderlick said at Sunday’s program.
Kaderlick in 2010 was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His son was born with a learning disability and a dislocated hip. His granddaughter is autistic. All of these conditions, Kaderlick believes, are due to his exposure to Agent Orange.
Kaderlick now travels the country as part of the Vietnam Veterans of America’s educational campaign, Faces of Agent Orange.
“My son, he’s learning disabled; I thought he was the only one that was born with a dislocated hip,” Kaderlick said. “I heard that three times in our town hall meeting in Bloomington and it keeps going on and on and on about immune disorders, blood disorders, cancer. It’s unbelievable what’s happening to our children and grandchildren.”
Kaderlick shared more grim news regarding Agent Orange with a crowd of approximately 200.
“Our experts think it’s going to be passed on for seven generations,” he said. “In Vietnam, it’s probably going to be forever there.”
With that in mind, Kaderlick is part of a VVA committee actively pushing legislation to benefit those affected by exposure generations down the line.
“Right now, we’re at the point of hopefully getting some legislation together,” Kaderlick said. “We know it’s going to be a tough hill to climb, but you know what? Vietnam veterans fought good fights, and we don’t give up that easy. We’re going to fight the fight until our dying day, especially on this issue. We have to take care of our kids and grandkids.”
For more information on the Faces of Agent Orange Campaign, visit www.vva.org/Committees/AgentOrange.
The sixth-annual Vietnam Veterans Day program also featured the Polaris Sea Cadets, musicians from Forest Lake High School, Neeta Squires of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and Forest Lake Councilmember Susan Young.
Molly Hakko read the winning entry in the annual Vietnam Veterans Memorial Scholarship essay contest, won by a Forest Lake High School student. This year’s theme involved Agent Orange, which contributed to the death of Hakko’s father, Kevin Dale, last year.