After enduring exposure to toxic herbicides including Agent Orange, Vietnam War veterans face higher incidence of neurological malfunction, respiratory disease and some forms of cancer—and in many cases, their children and grandchildren do, too. This is why Wilmington’s chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America is hosting a town-hall-style meeting tomorrow. Their objective is to spark local support for federal legislation that will better protect such victims—long after their current caretakers, who are usually their parents, have passed on.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes that some diseases can be linked to exposure to Agent Orange, and compensates those veterans whose children are born with spina bifida—but members of the local Vietnam Veterans of America chapter say Agent Orange, also known as dioxin, has affected more children than the government acknowledges. This is according to the group’s veterans’ services officer, Tony Muscolino, who says Agent Orange has the potential to affect gene pools long into the future.
"The Ford Foundation in 1998, I believe it was, made a study for the VA and the title of the study was “Don’t wait until they die, because they never will.” And that meant that the DNA in the system from Agent Orange, or dioxin, was going to be with us forever, I guess."
Muscolino adds that studies on the long-term effects of dioxin have been inconclusive, and he says the stigma attached to the unpopular Vietnam War often prevents its veterans from seeking help. Tomorrow’s meeting aims to inform the public of two federal bills that have sat in committee for a year and a half—the Senate’s “Toxic Exposure Research and Military Family Support Act” and the House’s “Victim of Agent Orange Relief Act”—both of which would further evaluate cases of exposure, and set up assistance for those afflicted.
***The meeting takes place on Saturday, June 28, at the Wilmington Elks Lodge, 5102 Oleander Drive, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Registration starts at 10 a.m., and the event includes several speakers and a hot dog lunch.