In 1965-66, I was stationed with the 1st Inf. Div. at Di An, Vietnam. Recently, I received an email from the daughter of one of the men I served with. She, now married and a grandmother herself, told me she had read a book that I had written, with her father's name cited in my chapter about Vietnam. Her father has since passed away in 1997 from prostate cancer. She told me how pleased her father would have been to know his name was in my book. I asked if her mother received VA compensation due to her father's death from prostate cancer, especially since he was exposed to Agent Orange. She said that she didn't, but that she would have her husband, a veteran himself, check on the matter. He, in fact, did check on it the next day, and, as a result, her mother will be receiving VA compensation after all. I say all this because, to hear from a voice out of my past--from forty years ago--was like hearing from a long lost relative or friend. I also say it with the hope that some of you may know of someone who has had a relative die as a result of exposure to agent orange, yet their surviving spouse may not be receiving VA compensation as a result.
VA sent me maps showing that I was in the area which received the heaviest concentration of Agent Orange spraying of all. I have severe hypertension, severe panic attacks, depression, Type II diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy. My two sons both take medication for hypertension, anxiety and depression. They are both borderline diabetics. In addition, my oldest son has CML leukemia. VA recognizes CLL leukemia in the offspring of those exposed to Agent Orange. It makes me wonder if my son's leukemia could have been caused by my exposure to Agent Orange as well.
Recently, I received an email regarding a New Zealand graduate student's study on 25 Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. She found that, in all instances, their DNA had been damaged and that it could have been passed on to their children, grandchildren, and future generations. It both angers and saddens me to think of what I may have passed to my sons and grandsons.
If any of you have children with some of the same medical problems you have as a result of your exposure to Agent Orange, please let me know. Together, we may be able to help others. I look forward to hearing from any or all of you in the near future.
David Lee Thompson, Author
River of Memories: An Appalachian Boyhood
Chapter 13, Deliverance