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Step up for Agent Orange vets

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Letter to the Editor
Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Friendly fire in combat operations occurs due to misdirection and errors in distinguishing between friendly and enemy forces. Incidences have occurred in the use of all weapon types in wartime.

Often the incident of friendly fire is investigated by higher authorities. This hopefully results finding ways to better identify friendly and enemy troops. The grim outcome of friendly fire ranges from injury to death, albeit unintentionally.

Weapons used in war come in many forms, including unconventional. One such weapon is the use of chemicals and the most recognizable chemical weapon used during the Vietnam War was various types of herbicides used to defoliate the forests and jungles to eliminate enemy hiding places and lessen food supply. The most common was Agent Orange, which contained dioxin — a deadly compound.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has concluded presumptive exposure to Agent Orange can cause crippling and life-threatening health conditions. This undermines previous statements by the U.S. Defense Department stating Agent Orange is relatively nontoxic to humans and took no precautions to prevent exposure.

The use of these herbicides as a chemical weapon caused — and continues to cause — illness and death among our troops on land, at sea and in the air.

This does not fit the definition of friendly fire. Our government should be held responsible and accountable for its actions.

Congress needs to recognize this by passing a non-loophole law affording care and compensation to all Vietnam veterans who are infected with Agent Orange poisoning.

John Bury

Media, Delaware County

The writer is a retired from the U.S. Navy, a Vietnam veteran and a veterans activist.

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