This is a narrative from a man's point of view about the exposure to Agent Orange and the resulting effects it has on his life over time. It is told only from his point of view, there is no overt sex and I deliberately did not use any dialog between the persons involved. My only thought is to show the conflicts I imagine might be in his mind and express it in a way he might be thinking. I will try to not preach on the subject.
It must be understood that this chemical will have an adverse effect on the lives of other family members, as well as the vets. Many of our countries finest are still suffering from their service and are still making the ultimate sacrifice to this day, after over 40 years.
This is not my story; although I was exposed to Agent Orange when in the service of our country. Please understand I love my country and mean no disrespect to her or the brave veterans who have performed their duty; especially those who have returned maimed or made the ultimate sacrifice.
When commenting on this story please keep this in mind and be gentle.
"Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine. When you gonna let me get sober?" Great tune by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, but I can't get the damn thing out of my head. Now is not the time to have a tune stuck in my head.
We were slowly moving down the trail, about 60 of us total. I was in the middle again. I hate being in the middle. I also hate to be the first or the last. Off in the distance I hear the sound of a plane. Not one of the big things or a jet.
It was one of those little things they use to spray the trees and kill them. It might just be cheaper and easier to bring in a fleet of 'dozers and plow them down.
Lucky for us we got back home without being attacked today. It's 1969 and I am stuck here in this jungle; it's hot and sticky, assholes in black pajamas are sneaking up and shooting at you all the time and they keep spraying the trees with that damn sweet smelling shit.
Which one are they using today? The shit is named for the color of the label on the fucking drums. You have agent white, blue, green, orange; hell, ya probably got agent rainbow too. The generic term is defoliant. In the simplest terms; it kills the leaves on the trees and makes it so that no one can hide in them and shoot at us.
They say it will save lives; I guess we will need to let them do the spraying. If one of my buddies makes it home because they sprayed it will be worth it.
Back in camp we get some warm chow, a shower and time to relax. Until one of those assholes on the other side decides to throw a few mortar shells at us tonight.
Only a month until we get to go home. Tomorrow we can stay in camp, the platoon next door get to party in the jungle. The last 2 times they went out they got attacked; poor buggers get all the bad luck. They only have half of the original members from the states; 12 were killed, the rest were wounded bad enough they got sent home.
You hate to make any more buddies than you need to; you never know when they might leave in a bag or on a stretcher. Most times when you see someone you don't know, you just nod and keep going.
When we returned to the states we were told 86% of the original members of our company made it without injury. We feel fortunate; many got hit a whole lot worse.
It is1996, news reports are talking about Agent Orange, Vietnam, sick and dying former military. What the fuck is this shit? Oh, Hell! I bet it was that sweet stuff they dumped all over us. They are saying you do not need to be directly sprayed; walking through the area, even much later, is enough to expose you.
I hear it is now believed to cause all kinds of problems; Heart, lungs, bones, cancer, diabetes, and more, and more, and more. At least I have not had any problems from it.
I am healthy as a horse, I work as a carpenter. You need to be in good shape to work in the weather we do, to handle the weights we do, to work the hours we do. Thank God I am in good shape.
Last week I slipped in the mud while wrestling with a heavy beam. I had a slight back ache and a couple of cracked ribs from the rock I landed on. But the meds the doctor gave me took care of it, now I can get back to work. I can live through the ribs hurting a little; time off is for sissies.
A few weeks later I am left to wonder why the Hell does my leg feel like it is on fire on one side and numb on the other. The boss wants me to go back and see the doctor again. Time off from work again? I have bills to pay, I don't need this shit. Come on Doc, give me something for the pain; I can work through it.
I am not the sickly one in the family; my wife has had most of the problems. She had her gall bladder and appendix out the 3rd month we were married. She works in an office, spends most of her day parked on her butt. She answers the phone, types, makes coffee, and files things away. She had 4 children for me; she held on to a little of the weight gain from each pregnancy. She has bad knees and a bad back from the extra weight. When you get over 50 it is more difficult to loose the weight.
Me, I have a small paunch. I like my beer. OK? But, I am solid muscle behind my belly; I can lift almost 400 pounds on a regular basis. Now I am home from work; Workman's Comp is for sissies. Give me the meds Doc and I will be able to work through the problems.
WHAT THE FUCK! A herniated disk? Give me some therapy and the right meds, I'll show you I can still work. Come on boss, the doctor is just being a jerk; I can still do the job! I've been your best guy for over 30 years; you know I can do it.
I need surgery? My back feels fine; the problem with the leg just gets worse and worse. Why is the pain in my leg, when the problem is in my back? Therapy makes it feel good for a day or so; then the pains come right back.
I hate needles; they already took 6 gallons of blood out of my arm. How much more do you need to run your tests?
That's only the beginning of the tests! Now I get x-rays and need to run on a treadmill for 3 hours with wires hanging off my chest. Don't this just look fuckin' stupid?
Finally the testing is over the heart doctor is going to give me the OK for my surgery this afternoon and we will do it next week and then I can get back to work. It is about time!
DIABETES? How in the Hell can I have diabetes! Dad has 6 siblings, Mom has 4; I have 3 brothers and 5 sisters and 42 cousins; none of them have diabetes. Diabetes is not in my family; it runs rampant in my wife's family. I know can't get it from them. What the hell do you mean I have diabetes?
The surgery is finally over, thank God! About 5 months of recovery and I can get back to work. Lordy, I feel great! Get this morphine away from me; that shit is for sissies. Compared to how I felt before surgery I am doing wonderful.
OK Doc, I will fill out that box of forms. I know it is not really that much; but it might as well be. Am I allowed to carry that much weight yet? Just kidding Doc.
I get up every morning, eat a bowl of cereal, and then take 5 pills to control my blood sugar. Before bed I get 3 more.
My back no longer hurts; hey Sweetie lets fuck tonight. I'm so horny I could rape a pile of rocks if I thought there might be a snake under it.
All right, it's hard! Let's go Baby.
AW, COME ON! Don't go soft, I didn't finish yet. That's it Baby you're the best. We're back in the saddle again. I know you didn't get off, I just barely did myself. I don't like the way it tastes; can't we do something else. I know you had mine in your mouth! OK, if that is what it takes to get you off I guess I need to do it.
I only did it because I love you.
Thank God for those blue pills; we can do it now. OH, Baby that was great again; wasn't it?
Doc, I am strong as an ox, why can't I go back to work? Yeah, I heard about Agent Orange; what does it have to do with me?
Diabetes, I know I have that. Degenerative disks in my back; what are you talking about?
Beginning heart disease? How do you figure that Doc?
What do you mean no more blue pills? Why is my heart not healthy enough for them? I need them to keep the wife happy. We don't do it enough to keep her happy now.
I am now on disability for the last 6 months. Thank God; the kids are all out of college, the house is almost paid off and we have a couple of reliable cars.
The doctor does not like it; but if I skip the pills for a day or so and sneak a blue pill I can get it up for long enough to make her happy. Immediately after sex I take the pills I should have done before. At least I will die with a smile on my face.
The VA is dragging their feet on approval for compensation for exposure to Agent Orange. I've filled out a mountain of paperwork and waited over 12 months and no word yet from them. When approved I will, at least, get the money I should have gotten all along in the first payment. We are planning to spend 3 weeks at the beach when the money comes in. That's if there is enough money left to do it.
Today the wife mentioned that she might have to get a boyfriend if I can't keep her happy. I ripped her a new asshole over that remark. She started to blubber about only kidding and ran from the room. I hollered at her about not needing to hear shit like that; I feel bad enough about it. As she went up the stairs I was telling her about all the times I needed to be considerate of her health problems when I really wanted sex. I finished up with yelling that this was my turn to have a health problem and she would need to deal with it.
I might get an implant in my pecker and see if it will help.
The house was like a cold storage unit for the next 2 days; I did not have much to say to her because I was so mad about how insensitive her remark was. I have no idea what she is thinking. I slept in the den both days.
I came in from another medical appointment and the house was cleaned from top to bottom, my favorite meal was cooking in the kitchen and she was dressed in her finest clothes. I just walked into the den and sat down to read the paper. She brought me a drink and asked if there was anything else I needed.
Finally she called me in for dinner. When it was done she apologized for the unkind remark. I could see her eyes were swollen and red. She had talked to a counselor at a Vet Center and had told her about how our life had gone to hell. She knew as soon as the words left her lips that they were wrong. She missed the closeness we had and wanted it back. She only wants me and she will take what I can offer.
I told her I accepted her apology but if she ever followed through with any sort of idea even similar we would be finished.
No, she had no intention of ever doing such a thing.
She continued to talk to the counselor at Vet Center a few more times. She now goes down every so often to give the guys there, a wife's perspective of the damages done when exposed to the residuals of war and the chemicals they used in it. I accompany her and wait outside as she talks with them. Most guys have no idea how much their moods and actions are affecting their wives and children.
It took some time to rearrange our lives so we were comfortable with each other again.
We both understand the damage a few poorly chosen words can do to a couple. The ravages of being exposed to a chemical that should never have been used in a populated area continue to make my life more and more difficult as time goes on.
We are committed to being together to the end. We are willing to take as little or as much as the other can offer.
There are many papers written on how toxic the chemicals were. They caused rubber hoses to become brittle and leak, so imagine what it does to bodies. There are many HOT SPOTS where the chemicals are there in concentrations strong enough to still be toxic. Do not forget the persons who still live where we have sprayed this stuff.
As a former sailor one of the documents I found interesting is called DANANGCOMBO2 If you have the time and inclination to read all 47 or so pages you will get an idea just how horrid this stuff really was.