One Senior's Opinion: Helping veterans face post-war challenges

Now that Memorial Day's parades, speeches and services are over, it seems like a good time to stop and think what it means to serve in the military. How difficult it must be to leave one's home and family to travel to places unknown. War is cruel. So many lives are taken and those who return often face incredible hardships reintegrating into every day life here at home.

One group in particular came home not as heroes but despised, unwanted and taunted. These are the Vietnam veterans. Most of them are in their sixties by now. A number of them are ill or homeless. Exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide and defoliant used by the U.S. military as a part of its Operation Ranch Hand, these vets are suffering dire consequences from exposure and the lack of support they received when they returned home.

The U.S. sprayed 20 million gallons of this chemical mixed with jet fuel. This defoliant was used to deprive Vietnamese guerrillas ground cover and to deprive them of the support and food supply provided by sympathetic farmers.

Agent Orange can be responsible for illnesses too numerous to list. The most frequent of these illnesses or side effects seems to be cancer and birth defects. Our government has been slow to respond to requests for help and compensation. I believe it is time for Americans to step up and give the Vietnam vets the recognition and compensation they deserve. If you'd like to help you can contact: Vietnam Veterans of America (800-VVA-1316; vva.org), the Veterans Support Foundation (800-882-1316, ext. 126; vsf-usa.org) and Viet Now (800-837-VNOW; vietnow.com).

If you know or happen to meet a veteran, please remember what they have done for our country. Shake their hand, say thank you, offer to buy them a cup of coffee or a meal. That's the least we can do. Hats off to all service men and women. They continue to be the guardians of our country and our future.

Dianne Borowski

Dianne Borowski lives in Bay Village.

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Volume 4, Issue 12, Posted 3:52 PM, 06.21.2012