Vietnam Vets To Host Agent Orange Town Hall Meeting

The Vietnam Veterans of America David L. Woodburn Chapter 978 will be hosting a town hall meeting on the generational effects of Agent Orange or dioxin, Hepatitis C and toxic substance exposure in May, which will be the first of its kind in the area. Pictured, from left, are the Rev. Robert D. Lewis, state council chaplain and chapter president; Linda Lewis and Stan Collver. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

While war can have a lasting impact due to memories and experiences alone, many veterans have experienced effects that occured after they returned home.

A local veterans organization branch, the Vietnam Veterans of America David L. Woodburn Chapter 978, hopes to shed some light on Agent Orange or dioxin, Hepatitis C and toxic substance exposure during a town hall meeting scheduled for May 13. The meeting, slated to be held from 2-4:30 p.m. at the Samuel L. Derby American Legion Post 556 in Frewsburg, will highlight the impact from exposure to such substances on not only veterans, but also their children and grandchildren.

Rev. Robert D. Lewis, VVA state council chaplain and chapter president, said similar events have occurred in other areas, but this will be the first town hall meeting in this area. The topic is especially pertinent here due to the large number of veterans who reside in Chautauqua County.

“We cannot be silent about the effects our battlefield exposures (have had) on our children in the face of overwhelming evidence connecting many diseases and birth defects to exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals,” Lewis said. “We encourage all veterans and their families to come share this learning experience. We will explore issues surrounding Agent Orange and toxic substance exposure, including health effects and methods for educating the public and elected representatives about the issues of our veterans, their children and their families.

Agent Orange, or dioxin, is a herbicide that was sprayed on the jungles in Vietnam during the war in order to kill the trees and other plants so opposition forces could not hide among them. Lewis said the chemical got into the ground and water in Vietnam, which contaminated the water military personnel used to bath, drink and eat.

There is a large list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure, however, the damage extends to the veterans’ children and grandchildren in some cases as well, Lewis said.

“Our children and grandchildren are innocent victims of our exposure and need the help of our government to cope with these problems,” he said. “We worry who will be there to take care of them when we are gone.”

Lewis said the group has invited County Executive Vince Horrigan, an Air Force veteran himself, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Congressman Tom Reed, R-Corning, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean and Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Jamestown to attend the event. The group is also holding a raffle to finance the event, featuring a Weber gas grill from Everyday True Value and a Ryobi tool set from Home Depot.

For more information on the event, call Rev. Lewis at 569-2115.