Jaime Reyes Author

Agent Orange


“How people die remains in the memory of those who live on” – Dame Cicely Saunders


The events in this treatise did not begin immediately after the end of my military obligation. In fact, the inexorable consequences had already begun to fester inside me and thousands of unsuspecting American soldiers the minute most set foot in VietNam. Those of us who were fortunate enough to survive the obvious dangers of war did not expect to suffer from actions devised and committed by our own military and governmental leaders.


The US Military Command with approval from the US Government, in their very flawed wisdom sought to hinder the enemy forces’ ability to hide in the thick foliage in the jungles of their land and destroy much of their home-grown food. To accomplish that, they resorted to chemical warfare. Using toxic herbicides spread over most of the land in “crop duster” fashion.

Agent Orange is one of the several types of herbicides used in ‘Nam to defoliate the jungle thereby eliminating forest cover and crops needed by the enemy. American planes poured over 20 million gallons of the poisonous solution over the forests and fields of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. There were various mixtures used and identified by the color of the 55-gallon drums containing Agent White, Agent Pink, Agent Blue, Agent Purple, and Agent Green. The most used and by far, the most dangerous was Agent Orange. It is estimated that more than 3.6 million acres of land were contaminated affecting over four million people, (not sure if that estimate includes the number of American soldiers who served in the war.

A little-known fact is that the toxic element was sprayed in other territories and countries as early as the mid-1950s and 60s and later in 1966 to1968. Several towns and fields in my own home island of Puerto Rico were used as “testing grounds” for the effectiveness of the element. Some of the towns include Mayaguez, Guanica, Luquillo, Las Marias and Rio Grande. KC Degnan, CCK Law LTD 09 2017

Agent Orange and other color-coded toxins were also tested in areas of Canada, American Samoa, Guam, Johnson Atoll, and Thailand, among others.

There are numerous ailments usually referred to as “presumptive diseases” by the Veterans Administration connected to the toxic herbicide. Unfortunately, due to exposure to Agent Orange in the war zone, I acquired several of those diseases while some undiagnosed others may be lurking in my cells waiting their turn to cause more havoc.

What I found unusual is that the real culprit is DIOXIN (TCDD) but that is not part of the recipe used directly in the manufacture of the color-coded herbicides. It is formed as a by-product during manufacture. The manufacturers are also to blame for not evaluating the side effects effectively. The nine companies involved in the production and distribution are: Dow Chemical CompanyMonsanto CompanyDiamond Shamrock CorporationHercules Inc., Thompson Hayward Chemical Co., United States Rubber Company (Uniroyal), Thompson Chemical Co., Hoffman-Taff Chemicals, Inc., and Agriselect. _ Agent Orange – Wikipedia

However, it was made, the problem was that not only did it destroy the foliage but killed the Vietnamese people and American soldiers, just not as quickly as the vegetation. The defoliation program was code named Operation Ranch Hand. What is difficult to fathom is the illogical belief that spraying an entire country with millions of gallons of poison would not affect both friend and foe. This was an extreme version of “friendly fire.”

In 1988, Dr. James Clary, an Air Force researcher associated with Operation Ranch Hand, wrote to Senator Tom Daschle:

“When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide.”- https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/agent-orange-1

That doctor’s conclusion must be among the most idiotic ever voiced by a medical researcher and apparent (incompetent) military advisor. How can this alleged scientist claim that they expect the poison to affect only the enemy? The job of the military is to search for, find and then engage the enemy. To accomplish that, soldiers must end up in the enemy’s environment. The politicians he addressed are or were just as responsible, just as ignorant, and just as responsible for the catastrophic effects.

As my year of duty progressed, I did not know that my internal organs were slowly absorbing contaminants that more than likely would eventually overpower my, at the time, very young immune system.

From 1964 to 1972 over three million American soldiers served in Southeast Asia, most deployed to Vietnam. Over 58,000 names are etched on the black granite wall in memory of those who died in that conflict. More than 150,000 service men received non-mortal wounds. What is not usually discussed, or maybe even realized is that most of the millions that came home, including those that earned Purple Hearts for visible injuries, also received non- discernible wounds that would smolder in their bodies only to flare up when least expected. In time, sometimes years, the “invisible wounds” would begin making their lives miserable, suffering from a variety of ailments that may not have developed if not for the delayed effects of Agent Orange. Veterans of the most unpopular war in American history are dying slowly but faster than they would have if they had not received unapparent and slowly developing medical trauma caused by exposure to poison delivered by our own aircraft under orders from our own high command.

Below is a list of some of the presumptive diseases, some of which are currently challenging my, now fading, survival skills. One or two of them have already temporarily succeeded- (Myocardial Infarctions), Diabetes Mellitus, Ischemic Heart Disease, Multiple Myeloma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Parkinson’s Disease, Peripheral Neuropathy, Early- Onset Porphyria Cutanea Tarda, Prostate and Bladder Cancer, Lung cancer, Respiratory Cancers, Soft Tissue Sarcomas, Hypertension, amyloidosis, chloracne, All chronic B-cell leukemias et al,  More are added on a regular basis.

There is a recently added program called the PACT ACT or Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act. I was recently sent to a VES (Veterans Evaluation Services) center to determine if any of the latest presumptive maladies have attacked my immune system. The answer was, “Yes” One concern is that most, if not all, are progressive and potentially terminal. The greatest concern is the increasing debilitating factor that accompanies these horrific maladies and the possibility that, as underlying conditions, they may become more potent working in tandem. In simpler terms, I become unhealthier and less functional as the months and years pass by.

I do not fear death. I have looked it in the eye too many times to tremble at its approach. What I truly abhor is the possibility of living, but incapacitated, unable to care for myself and depending on others for my every need. I would not wish that on anyone, especially me or members of my family who have displayed great devotion to my care in times of physical stress. Before I am in that helpless, needy condition, I would rather welcome a final encounter with the Angel of Death but definitely not by my own hand.

The Veteran’s Administration is now battling another era of non-battle ailments also caused by toxins, but this time, not Agent Orange or of any other hue. The toxins poisoning American soldiers are now created in “burn pits.” A burn pit is a common military way of getting rid of waste material which may include plastics, fuel, oil, garbage, rubber, and even human waste. Just about anything considered unwanted trash gets thrown in. It is usually an open-air area that can accommodate all kinds of waste in copious quantities. The airborne residue mixes with dust and other pollutants already present in Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s environments. The Military has closed most of the pits and expects to close them all.

It is inconceivable that the so-called experienced military experts and the assemblage of highly educated (?) medical advisers did not absorb any lessons from their imbecilic mismanagement of the catastrophic conflict that was Vietnam. Not only in tactics, strategy, objectives, and leadership, but in much simpler policies like getting rid of trash, or foliage, without jeopardizing the collective health of their entire in-country military force.

No one is sure of the exact numbers of Vietnam Veterans affected by exposure to the silent killer. A recent estimate claims over 400,000 have died. That number is almost five times the number of those killed in combat. There are currently many thousands receiving treatment for one or more of the listed diseases, including me. The death toll will rise as veterans age and the severity of the conditions progress and more presumptive ailments are added to the list. The population of Vietnam suffered or are suffering still. About 4 million Vietnamese citizens have been affected. -Southeastasiaglobe.com

Most of my close friends, including lifelong ones have already passed away, all due to exposure to Agent Orange. One was more like a brother. He was born in the same bed I was born in, but a year earlier. It bothers me that I have outlived many others who were victimized by the same silent killer and even though some were exposed after I was, and some were nearly the same age or younger.

Any veteran that was active in Vietnam and may be suffering from any of the presumptive diseases can still file a claim. There are legal firms that specialize in helping DAV (Disabled American Veterans).

Some veterans are reluctant to file for benefits for various reasons. Consider this, if you were in Vietnam and suffer from a presumptive disease, it is almost indisputable that it began while in-country. You may be eligible for compensation. Nobody wants any of these ailments, but victims are entitled to benefits that can be helpful for the veteran and family.

I’ve messaged CCK Law LTD to see if any action is still available for citizens of Puerto Rico and other American territories. Some Canadian citizens have received compensation from their government.




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