A Mountain to Climb
We were kids really many of us just out of high school and the war seemed so far away. We became airmen, coast guardsmen, marines, soldiers and sailors. Our orders came and we went by air or by sea figuratively and literally to the other side of the world. Our world centered on a 365 day calendar as the countdown began when our feet touched down on dry land.
Oh our jobs were vastly different and often required a learning curve which we soon mastered to a certain degree. In most cases we ate, slept and worked within the confines of our company or unit areas and our assigned work stations. The weather was either: hot, wet or hot and wet with occasional dry spells in between.
There were the bases, camps and sites which all varied in size from the larger air bases with runways, aprons, main facilities and outreaches to the fuel and munitions storage areas and the water treatment and storage facilities. These bases had shuttle buses and base taxis along specified routes and schedules. The smaller camps were tailored to logistical storage or down to individual units with attachments. Many of the sites were remote mountaintop locations with a self-contained unit operated independently from others nearby. Others were in the urban areas of the capital city, with sights, sounds and the busy streets of South East Asia. Lastly there were those whose jobs were to train, but not be visible. They could be anywhere at any time and on a moment’s notice prepared to face danger.
The tropical environment contained all types of hidden hazards from insects, reptiles, wild animals as well as enemy forces and the dangers of friendly fire. One enemy was not known at the time and came home to roost long after the conflict had ended. In fact this enemy was beyond that of friendly fire because it was actually sent from to us from the states. It was very effective for its intended purpose yet it had severe and unintended consequences which could lay dormant for years, even decades when it became deadly. Given many names, titles or its chemical composition we know it best by its color Orange as one of the rainbow herbicides which are chemicals created to fight insects, plants and many types of vegetation around the world.
We came home unexpectedly to a hostile world where we were seen as the enemy. Many were shunned or cast aside by family and friends. We had become the square pegs attempting to fit in round holes. We adapted to suit our circumstances, while many did not. We found solace in our sacred brotherhood of Veterans who shared the same or similar experiences.
When we began to feel safe and a bit more secure in ourselves and our ability to provide for our families and thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. We began losing our brothers at an alarming rate and on a daily basis due to those herbicides we were exposed to in the service of our country. Our body began being attacked in the cells and physical systems that enabled us to function and live normal lives. Our hearts, blood pressure, diabetes and many types of cancers had been invaded by these herbicides. Some are treatable through surgery and/or a lifetime of drugs, while others are not easily discovered until it is often too late. Even the mind is affected and quite often suicide seems the only way out.
When we turn to the Veterans Administration for help, assistance and answers we are often met with rejection and roadblocks which seem designed to delay us until the point of death overtakes us.
We encounter the governmental red tape that amounts to an inefficient cost analysis for compensation of the number of surviving Veterans from that war so long ago. We find ourselves in a playing field with constantly moving goal posts. First we prove boots on the ground. Then the ground our boots were on is geographically not sufficient. Next we must prove boots on, at or near the perimeter fence line of “certain” VA recognized bases, camps or sites. Our Veterans statements are not enough. Our statements of support for our brothers are often not enough. Our pictures and orders are often not enough. Not even the death of our brothers due to herbicide exposure is enough.
Our nation focuses on cleaning up contamination on bases in other places while ignoring and/or making it difficult to impossible for Americas Veterans who are being denied until we die. This presents a most difficult mountain to climb! – I am the Real Truckmaster!