KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and their family members were honored in Kinston Monday.
Agent Orange was a chemical used during the Vietnam War to weed out the jungle so troops could engage the enemy. Vietnam Veterans are dying at a rate of 597 per day. That means in about six to seven years, there will be no more Vietnam Veterans left.
The Orange Heart Medal Foundation wants to honor those veterans and their families who are now sick and dying because of being exposed to Agent Orange.
“The downfall to that was Agent Orange covered not only the enemy, but it covered our troops as well,” said NC Representative for the Orange Heart Medal Foundation, Robin Spence.
Generations later, people exposed to this chemical can face more than a dozen life-threatening diseases.
“We do not want their sacrifice and their service to go unnoticed, to go forgotten, nor to allow their family members who also generationally have been affected by those toxins, to not be taken care of,” said Spence.
Monday’s event was held at the G.I. Joe Military Living History Museum in Kinston. It featured multiple different veterans and descendants receiving orange heart medals for their experience dealing with agent orange.
“You’re finally being recognized for the fact that what you did expose you to some pretty nasty stuff. So, the metal itself is a recognition that you that you did your job,” said Vietnam veteran and helicopter pilot Allan Hoffman.
The founder of the museum, Eric Cantu, fought in the Vietnam War. He was exposed to Agent Orange and now has lung diseases and thyroid cancer. He said he hopes this event spreads awareness about the effects the chemical had.
“I would like to have people understand and realize is that this is a disease very much like post-traumatic stress in the fact that it is not a visible wound most of the time,” said Cantu.