The number of Vietnam veterans affected by the chemical Agent Orange is astonishing. Roughly 300-thousand veterans have died from Agent Orange exposure -- that's almost five times as many as the 58-thousand who died in combat.
“Did it save lives? No doubt. Over there it did, but nobody knew it was going to be taking them later,” said Dan Stenvold, President of the North Dakota branch of the VVA.
The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) define Agent Orange as a highly toxic herbicide used by the U.S. military to kill vegetation during the Vietnam War.
"You know we killed the jungle with back packs, sprayed so we had a good perimeter," said Stenvold.
According to Stenvold, one tablespoon of Agent Orange in the drinking water of Los Angeles would kill the entire city. That toxicity is coming back to haunt veterans and it's also affecting their children...
“Well my dad was a Vietnam veteran, my brother has brain cancer believed to be caused by Agent Orange passed through my father,” said Ashely Busby, daughter of a Vietnam Vet.
…And their children's children.
“Our daughters that can't have children, there's a lot of them. I was telling Ashley I know of at least 70 in North Dakota alone where the daughters can't have kids,” said Stenvold.
11 million gallons of Agent Orange were sprayed in Vietnam over 20 million acres, putting three million Vietnam veterans and their families at risk.
"It’s an everyday question kind of, you know, what's passed on, what's not passed on," said Busby.
Stenvold did three tours in Vietnam and in 2002 he was diagnosed with diabetes linked to Agent Orange. Since then he says he's made a vow to raise awareness.
Two years ago, the VVA received 50 thousand dollars from the state to do just that.
"It’s amazing how many Vietnam veterans don't know about it and you know it's really opened the eyes, I gotta thank the North Dakota legislature because two years ago they had enough faith in us to go out and do what we're doing and it's working," said Stenvold.
There are about 50 diseases connected agent orange exposure and nearly 20 birth defects recognized in the children of Vietnam veterans.
"I had a close friend who died a five years ago from lymphoma and he's laying in Minot, he's from Minot, dying and he says, "you know we all took a bullet over there, some of us just didn't know it. We're all going to die from it, eventually, or a lot of us will," said Stenvold.
Mcneilus steel in Fargo made history as the first corporation in North Dakota to donate money to the VVA. The employees and the company gave a total of $1,500 dollars to this cause.
By Haley Foster
Valley News Live
Published March 19, 2015