Lake Havasu City, AZ – Americans across the country gathered on Memorial Day this past month to honor those who have died fighting for our country while serving in the country’s armed forces. Supervisor Buster Johnson, a Vietnam Veteran, attended Lake Havasu’s Memorial Day Celebration held at the Memorial Garden’s Cemetery to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for America’s freedom.
For many Vietnam Veteran’s, the day is a remembrance of those brothers and sisters lost, and a reminder of the battle many Naval Vietnam Veterans are still fighting today. “We are losing more blue water Vietnam veterans every day,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “At a time when these individuals should be at Memorial Day Ceremonies across the U.S., they are instead lying next to their fallen brothers because medical treatment was denied to them by the federal government,” Johnson continued.
Blue water veterans are those who served off the coast of Vietnam but never actually set foot inside the country. Due to this technicality, these veterans are not covered under current VA benefits for Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange was a powerful chemical mixture of chemical defoliants used by the U.S. military to eliminate forest coverage for North Vietnamese and Vietnam Cong troops. Over 21 million gallons were sprayed during the late 1960s and early 1970s exposing military personal to harmful chemicals. According to Vietnam Veteran Rick Wooley, soldiers were told back then that the chemical wouldn’t “harm anything but the green foliage.”
The chemical mixture contained herbicide mixtures, the most common one known as dioxin, which while effective in removing the footage, was later revealed to cause over 14 serious health issues such as tumors, cancer, heart disease and even certain psychological conditions. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 covered herbicide-related diseases and disabilities for those veterans who physically touched foot on the soil of Vietnam, but not for the American veterans who served not even ten miles off the coast.
Today many of those considered blue water veterans are suffering from heart disease and cancer. They are being denied VA benefits for the treatment of these diseases because the 1991 Act didn’t cover them. In February, New York Representative Chris Gibson along with the signatures of 131 strongly bipartisan co-sponsors introduced the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. This legislation would return the presumption of exposure to herbicides to Navy and Marine veterans who served in the off shore waters of Vietnam. The legislation has yet to be moved through the House. “The federal government forces the Affordable Care Act on everyone and makes a few pay for the many, but cannot pass a bill to take care of our veterans,” Johnson said.
Supervisor Johnson is urging those in support of this legislation to contact their Congressmen and Senators for support. “This should not be a political issue and should be pushed through on a unanimous vote,” Johnson ended.
For more information on the legislation and the navy blue veterans, please visit: http://www.bluewaternavy.org/