A Battle Unending: The Vietnam War and Agent Orange

A Battle Unending: The Vietnam War and Agent Orange

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Nguyen Nguc Phuong is 33 years of age and a confident, articulate public speaker – comfortable on a podium in front of an audience. He is resourceful and self-motivated, as seen in his decision to leave school at 16 and relocate to Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, to learn to be a mechanic and an electrician.

Nguyen later returned to his hometown of Danang, one of Vietnam’s touristy cities, and opened his own repair shop. However, after seeing the impact of Agent Orange – a defoliant sprayed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to destroy the crops and jungle upon which the Viet Cong relied for food and cover – he decided he wanted to volunteer his time to help the children born mentally or physically handicapped due to the herbicide’s tragic and grotesque effects.

“I wanted to become a teacher to do something for them,” he says, pointing out to over 40 children and teenagers at the Danang Peace Village – a center run by the Danang Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin to care for children and teenagers affected by Agent Orange.

But Nguyen’s story is not typical of a thirty-something bored with a day-job and seeking a socially-responsible career break.

Nguyen Nguc Phuong’s father fought in central and southern Vietnam for 10 years up to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, and sometime, somewhere along the way, came in contact with some of the 76 million liters of Agent Orange that was sprayed on the Vietnamese countryside up.

As a result, Nguyen is only 95 centimeters (a little over 3 feet) tall and weighs in at a meager 20 kilograms (approximately 44 pounds). “My sister is the same size like me” he says. “When I was born I weighed only 800 grams and was less than 20cm long.”

I was very angry because I did not know when I was younger why I was left like this. I wanted, I still want, to be a normal person but I know I am not in a good condition,” says Nguyen. “The salary is very little here but I don’t care, I know the center doesn’t have much money,” he says. “But I want to help the other kids who are worse off than I am and help them have a better future.”

Some of Nguyen’s colleagues share similar stories. Now 24, Hoang Kim Nguyen lifts a blouse sleeve to show blotchy, discolored arms. “I don’t know why I have this,” she says, “but my mother worked at Danang airport during the war so I guess it is from Agent Orange.”

Comments
43
Nancy
November 22, 2013 at 09:12

You seem to forget, the US may recognize the use of Agent Orange and it’s effects on the vets and yes the children of the vets, but, the children of the vets are NOT being taken care of. They receive no help from our government. Just a rejection letter whenever they try to get medical help from the VA. I know that for a fact, I have a daughter that has had 14 brain surgeries due to her fathers exposure to AO. They keep denying her. And, we lost her father in 2011 due to lung cancer from his exposure to AO. At least the Vietnamese govt is admitting the problem they have there and are doing something for the victims. More than we can say of our own government.

Sunny Krownd
July 30, 2013 at 15:30

I am from Vietnam, a generation born in 1970s, now turn to 40’s. I understand, in a war, each side has their own interest. For today, after 70 years of thriving under communist regime, a major of Vietnamese recognize the true face of the robbery.  In my opinion, they have no right to claim the reopen of Orange Agent phenomenon.

Vietnam is one of land with longest history on agriculture experience. They, more than any one else even recent scientist, know how the wild plants can survive and be harmed. As I usually heard they said “nhổ cỏ phải nhổ tận gốc” while glairing at opponents in formal meeting. (To state that I had a very sort time work for a Vietnamese government owned corporation).  This means making devastating to opponent’s family, even newly born children.

So how the orange agent, which was ejected from above the air, can any how have a meaning affect? Not to mention, historically, Vietnamese, in general, have regular of an animal tribe as seen in a fairy tail “Tấm Cám”. In this tail, one sister tortured her younger half-blood and sent back the part to the mother to eat as a way of revenge.

Nowadays, let’s see how they treat people inside the country, who are not on their side? Especially, wealthy people who intent to emigrate?

For those American people or American, who made any agreement to recent Vietnam government regarding orange agent: You are totally mental dullness and are incapable of protecting and governing the human’s civilizations against savage gorilla tribe?

I, for myself and others, hope you and your politicians to call for the power of the upper opponent class people inside Vietnam rather than a treaty for a savage gorilla class.

Sunny Krownd
July 30, 2013 at 15:07

I am from Vietnam, a generation born in 1970s, now turn to 40’s. I understand, in a war, each side has their own interest. For today, after 70 years of thriving under communist regime, a major of Vietnamese recognize the true face of the robbery.  In my opinion, they have no right to claim the reopen of Orange Agent phenomenon.

Vietnam is one of land with longest history on agriculture experience. They, more than any one else even recent scientist, know how the wild plants can survive and be harmed. As I usually heard they said “nhổ cỏ phải nhổ tận gốc” while glairing at opponents in formal meeting. (To state that I had a very sort time work for a Vietnamese government owned corporation).  This means making devastating to opponent’s family, even newly born children.

So how the orange agent, which was ejected from above the air, can any how have a meaning affect? Not to mention, historically, Vietnamese, in general, have regular of an animal tribe as seen in a fairy tail “Tấm Cám”. In this tail, one sister tortured her younger half-blood and sent back the part to the mother to eat as a way of revenge.

Nowadays, let’s see how they treat people inside the country, who are not on their side? Especially, wealthy people who intent to emigrate?

For those American people or American, who made any agreement to recent Vietnam government regarding orange agent: You are totally mental dullness and are incapable of protecting and governing the human’s civilizations against savage gorilla tribe?

I, for myself and others, hope you and your politicians to call for the power of the upper opponent class people inside Vietnam rather than a treaty for a savage gorilla class.

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