WICHITA, Kansas — A national group of Vietnam veterans gathered in Wichita Thursday to discuss issues with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Among the issues discussed at the Vietnam Veterans of America Kansas State Council town hall meeting, were the medical effects of exposure to Agent Orange on veterans and their families. Agent Orange is a defoliant that the United States used against Vietcong forces in war.
The toxic chemical has been proven to have devastating medical consequences on those who came in contact with it and on generations afterward; including birth defects, learning disabilities, and diseases.
Thursday’s “Vietnam Veterans of America” forum, held in downtown Wichita, was the fifth town hall meeting of its kind in Kansas. More than 100 veterans were in attendance.
Larry MacIntire, of the Hays chapter Kansas State Council president of Vietnam Veterans of America, was exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam.
MacIntire was only 19 years old when he received his first assignment. MacIntire served on swift boats in Hanoi from 1967 – 1968.
MacIntire was there, “when they sprayed the whole island, so in case any prisoners escaped, they could find ‘em,” he explained.
Larry MacIntire has a long list of medical problems including prostate cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. His son, as a newborn, experienced serious medical issues believed to have been caused by the exposure.
“One of my sons was born with what they call Esophageal Tracheal Fistula, and that’s where wind pipe and throat pipe connected… I just thought it was some kind of fluke. That’s one of the causes,” said MacIntire.
“We cannot be silent about the effects of our battlefield exposures on our children in the face of overwhelming evidence connecting many diseases and birth defects to exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals,” said Ron Zink, VVA Kansas State Council President, as written in a press release distributed by the group.
Republican U.S. Senator Jerry Moran addressed the audience at the town hall meeting, offering remarks about the current state of the VA.
“Americans, Congress, the president, [they] can’t look the other way. The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot look the other way with the circumstances that so many families are now facing,” said Sen. Moran.
Sen. Moran spoke about the current need by family members of Vietnam vets for assistance due to the medical conditions caused by Agent Orange exposure.
“Our responsibility remains to see that we care for those who served our country, and now that there’s an additional requirement, that we care for their children and grandchildren,” said Moran.
The senator has introduced a bipartisan bill called the ‘Toxic Exposure Act.’ If passed, it would fund research into the long-term effects of Agent Orange; with the hope of eventually also covering the family members suffering from the effects of the toxic chemical.
“What really matters is that we do the medical research that prevents more and more veterans, and their family members from experiencing the consequences of war,” said Moran.