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Before the House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia,
the Pacific, and the Global Environment Regarding
“Agent Orange: What Efforts Are Being Made To Address The Continuing Impact of Dioxin in Vietnam?”

June 4, 2009

Good Afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and Members of this distinguished Subcommittee, on behalf of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) National President John Rowan and all of our officers and members we thank you for the opportunity for VVA to appear here today to share our views on the issue: “Agent Orange: What Efforts Are Being Made To Address The Continuing Impact of Dioxin in Vietnam?” I ask that you enter our full statement in the record, and I will briefly summarize the most important points of our statement.

As I told this distinguished Subcommittee last year VVA took our first mission back to Vietnam after the war in December of 1981. That mission was led by our then President, and founder, Robert O. “Bobby” Muller. The substance was two fold: first, to start the process of securing cooperation of the Vietnamese government in achieving the fullest possible accounting of our POW/MIA from the Vietnam war (or “the American war” as the Vietnamese called it); and, second, to move toward research in Vietnam as the natural laboratory for research into the epidemiological impact of Agent Orange and the other toxins used or inadvertently deposited in Vietnam during our presence there.

VVA has returned to Vietnam many times since, always focusing on these two core missions. Since the early 1990s, VVA has had the “Veterans’ Initiative”(VI) collecting information about graves of North Vietnamese Army casualties after battles with our forces that are contributed by American veterans who fought in Vietnam, including information, artifacts, etc. that VVA has transmitted to the Veterans Association of Vietnam. This veteran to veteran project has, according to the Vietnamese, contributed to the continued high level of cooperation that the Vietnamese have accorded the J-PAC forces searching for American remains in an effort to locate remains of missing American service members, repatriate them, and help bring closure to the families that have waited so long for final word on the fate of their loved one. Additionally, the Vietnamese have used the information imparted to continue their process of locating the remains of their MIA, and bringing closure to the Vietnamese families in a similar fashion. Our most recent VI mission to Vietnam was just last October.

As to Agent Orange, VVA continues to be the leader among American veterans groups in pressing for more research and action regarding the deleterious and adverse health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides and toxic substances such as DDT and Malathion to which we, and Vietnamese forces and population were exposed to during the war. Much of the residue of these toxic substances remains in Vietnam, and continues to expose the population to these dangerous chemicals. The common perception is that it is an “Agent Orange” problem, but that is only one of the herbicides used in Vietnam, and only accounts for about 48% or 49% of the aerial spraying.

 

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