Niagara Gazette — A strain of dioxin found in Agent Orange has been linked to birth defects, stillbirths, cancers and other diseases.
Thanks to the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77 in the City of Tonawanda, veterans began learning about ongoing health issues which are associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other harmful chemicals used in the war. At a meeting at the Chapter 77 museum on Main Street in Tonawanda, a group of Vietnam veterans gathered to talk, joke and enjoy friendship carved from their war time experience.
Dennis Stafanski of Pendleton spent a year in Vietnam after his Air National Guard unit was called up.
“I could smell the chemical,” he said. “Even today, the smell of chemicals reminds me of Agent Orange.”
Bob Metz from Elma spent one year in the Army in Vietnam. An electrician by trade, he talked about how many children of veterans have spinal bifida and other birth defects.
“They should be compensated,” he said.
Although Karl Oertel served in Thailand, his unit’s job was to put up a fence around the base. The fence was sprayed with Agent Orange and because his boots had nylon tops, they soaked up the chemical, leaving him with a lesion on the side of his foot.
The veterans agree that the government, the VA and citizens didn’t treat them with dignity when they returned home, but the attitude has changed.
Terry Durkin of North Tonawanda, who spent 21 months and 24 days in Vietnam, said for the past 15 years the VA has come around.
“I was in the Army Aviation and spent most of my time in the Delta,” he explained. “I was one of the few who came home unscathed.”
Tim Aidman, who served in the Army, said his unit’s job was to disrupt the supply line and the unit was often attacked by the Vietnamese.