- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions»
Agent Orange and Esophageal Cancer
The Chief's Story Continues
My father has been battling esophageal cancer now for 26 months. The risk factors for this cancer are: heavy drinking, obesity, smoking, and asbestos exposure. My 73 year old father had none of the risk factors for developing this cancer. As a matter of fact, I have not been able to find a single case of cancer in either side of his family going back 5 generations. Something in my father's life had put him at risk for this disease and I spent all of 2 minutes on the computer finding it.
My father is a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran. He was stationed there during Operation ranch Hand, the name of the Agent Orange campaign. Agent Orange and Agent Yellow were used to defoliate the jungle and riverbanks in Vietnam. This operation undoubtedly saved American lives by denying the Viet Cong coverage for attacks on US troops. However these agents were known dioxins and the government and the chemical companies knew of their dangers. This information was suppressed and veterans from this war and the Korean war were unaware of the exposure to these dioxins for years.
In one of those quirky ironies of war, it was Admiral Elmo Zumwalt who sounded the alarm about the health hazards of agents orange and the other dioxins used in Vietnam and to a lesser extent in Korea, he was also the Admiral who ordered its use during the Vietnam war! His own son died of lymphoma in 1988, and Admiral Zumwalt was convinced that the cancer was the result of exposure to agent orange. Admiral Zumwalt used his rank and reputation to make congress and the public aware of the deadly side effects of Agent Orange.
I knew my father had been exposed during Operation Ranch Hand, but Esophageal Cancer is not listed as a presumptive illness, so he will not receive any compensation for this cancer. I googled "Agent Orange and Esophageal Cancer" and was shocked by the number of Vietnam Vets who have developed this cancer. I read message boards and comments off of Vet sites and I am now thoroughly convinced that Agent Orange played a significant role in my father's esophageal cancer. I one of thousands who believe all gastric cancers must be added to the presumptive diseases list. H.R. Bill 6798 would do just that.
Of course none of that will help my father right now. He still fights on like the good soldier he is and will always be. The courage and bravery that served him well in Vietnam now help him and us in this war we wage on his cancer. It is very strange and very sad that after all these years, Vietnam is killing my father.