Agent Orange victims honored on Vietnam war anniversary

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - War veterans of different eras reflect on similar war memories. However, only Vietnam veterans share the effects of agent orange.

"We literally went thru hell over there, not just for the other people, but our own country was spraying us with Agent Orange," said George Wilson, a Vietnam veteran effected by the defoliation.

Wilson and others participated in a ceremony at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital marking the 35th anniversary of the end of the controversial conflict.

More Vietnam veterans are dying from Agent Orange than those killed in combat. "Out of the 2-million, 709-thousand, 918 men and women that served in Vietnam, only about 850,000 are alive today. They are dying at a rate of more than 300 a day," shared Michael Bishop, president of the Pineywoods Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America (Chapter 931).

The commemorations are held every year, but each time it touches the heart of those close to the Vietnam war. It did today for Johnnie Johnson. Just three years ago, she buried her husband Jerry M. Johnson. The handsome enlistee served in two military branches. He saved lives as a surgical assistant. Ironically, in years to come, nothing could save his life.

"He had total organ failure from it. The agent orange caused his liver to fail, his kidneys to fail and he was just really, really sick for four years," said Johnson, who is still active with the association.

Retired Air Force Sgt. Richard Graves is still battling numerous ailments caused by the Agent Orange he used state side in training missions. A civilian career as an aerospace engineer was cut short.

"Brain cancer, brain tumors, prostate cancer, skin cancers and nerve damage in my extremities and a few other things, " shared the retired officer.

Today the Order of the Silver Rose, a medal only for Agent Orange victims was presented to Johnson and Graves. It won't change what happened, but it conveys a dignified honor to the innocent victims of war.

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