Throughout history we have faced a lot of problems concerning foreign affairs, neighboring countries, and drastic wars. When I say we I really mean those who have served and are serving for our country. They have seen many arguments, confrontations, fights and deaths as well. Veterans are the people who have helped shape our society and make it what it is today. A Veteran is a person who had or has served for the United states Armed Forces(Internal Revenue Service, 2012).Veterans can be any man or woman who has served in any war. There are over two million Veterans in the US today (Rural Assistance Center, 2008). With the many wars that the US has encountered I have based my research on the Vietnam War and how it was one of the most controversial wars. I want to demonstrate through this paper that the problems cause from this war effected and still is effecting Veterans today.
The Vietnam War was the first war that the public resented and misunderstood(Haas, 2012). The Vets from this war did not come home as heroes, they were more like victims of warfare who had no clue of the medical consequences. This war caused over 58,000 deaths in the US troops, and 1.1 million for those who served in the Vietnamese Army. Agent Orange was a chemical that later caused many illnesses to the veterans of the Vietnam war(Haas, 2012).There were over 650,000 Veterans that were affected by the toxic chemical. Spina Bifida, Parkinson’s Disease, and Hodgkin’s Disease are just a few examples of the many diseases that are caused from exposure to Agent Orange(Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). Cancers and other health problems were associated as well(Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012).These illnesses were brought to the public’s attention after the Vietnam war. What caused Agent Orange to be so bad? Agent Orange contained 2, 4-D, which was used for plant and weed growth also known as dioxin. The U.S. thought there was no concern for the pesticide and over the years had sprayed over 20 million gallons over the Vietnam Jungle(Sampley, 2012). According to Sampley, the reaction was supposed to cause an immense growth in the plants which they could not handle and would immediately die(Sampley, 2012). Unfortunately scientists did not know that Agent Orange was so toxic that it would take less than two millionths of an ounce to kill a mouse.This toxic chemical was said to be the worst chemical ever to be used in a time of war. This is because the toxic chemical can enter the body from all routes of entry(Sampley, 2012). Once inside the body, the chemical is transported to the nucleus of the cell where a reaction causes a change in cell production(Sampley, 2012). Besides the physical effects of Agent Orange, there were psychological and sociological disorders. One of the most common was called post traumatic stress syndrome.
Post traumatic stress syndrome also known as battle fatigue or shell shocking(Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012). It was not just from battle experiences or stress from the war, but it was the difference in the terrain that they were not accustomed to. There was also anxiety, the fear of death, and not knowing who was friend or foe(Haas, 2012). This was one of the most thought about questions in the Vietnam War. It could have been that the men who fought in this war were forced to leave the foreign land without claiming a victory(Haas, 2012). In time PSS became PTSD.PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is caused by an extremely traumatic event.Many of the Veterans came home with this dissorder and family members became concerned. Not only did it become a problem to the Vets, but it became and eratic era for the families. Recovery from PTSD varies for many people, and can take a few months or even a few years(Postraumatic Stress Disorder, 2012). It was first brought to attention by the veterans of war, but then branched out to civilians and young children who experienced something traumatic as well(Postraumatic Stress Disorder, 2012).
Not only were there physical and mental disorders to the Veterans, but their families were affected as well. There were over one million families affected by the Vietnam War and Agent Orange. Whether that be someone who served or someone who lost someone in the service. Agent Orange can affect children and grandchildren of Veterans(Rural Assistance Center, 2008). This chemical can be passed down from generation to generation.The long term effects of this chemical were devastating and most of the time fatal. War also brought a lot of stress in to the Veterans families. Families were living without their brothers and fathers; they had to provide for themselves. During the time of the Vietnamese War, the economy was in a recession and nothing was going good. Families were in debt and could no longer afford to provide enough. Many emotions of stress, anger, and sorrow, filled the distressed families. By the time the Veterans were coming home from war, the public had no idea what to do or what to expect next. They had no idea what had happened in Vietnam .It was a time full of tragedy and sorrow. Something that would never be fortten but maybe something they regreted.
I had the chance to interview a brilliant man named Bud Gross. Bud Gross is the organizer of a scholarship program, where he is able to lend out money to students who have Veteran family members. Gross was sent to fight in the Vietnam War. He was almost twenty years old when the war took place and he said he will never forget his experience “Those days in war were the worst days of my life till this day”, Gross states as he explained his story to me. He talked with so much pain and sorrow behind his eyes which led me to argue that the Vietnam War was the worst. He remembered hearing the” moaning of wounded men”, and “smelling the worst smells imaginable”. He did not want to give me every detail of his ordeal, but he did make it clear that it was a dreadful time. I was glad to be able to talk to this courageous man, he gave me a better understanding of the emotions and heartache of that time.
Another advocate I got to speak with was Stephanie Durbin. She has been a friend of mine since the beginning of high school. Our families have known each other for years and we have grown to know quite a bit about each other. Stephanie grew up in a family of military men. Her father, grandfather, and great grandfather have all served in the military and all have been to war. Her great grandfather is a Veteran of the Vietnam War. He lived to tell his son, her grandfather, the experience of war in Vietnam. Unfortunately he was not in great health, and was diagnosed with ALS. ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig ’s disease, was caused from the poisonous chemicals dropped over the jungles in Vietnam. His body fought it for as long as he could, but soon died and was not able to meet his great granddaughter. She explained as much as she could about what she knew about her great grandfather and his journey through war. She reminded me alot of Mr. Gross when she was speaking. The two different descriptions of the war were almost exact. It was crazy to hear the same heartaches from two completely different families who have never even met.
With my research, I was able to attend a Veteran’s Society Club Meeting. The meeting took place on October 11, 2012 In the Bate building on ECU’s Campus. It is held on the first Wednesday of every month at three thirty. This meeting is for Veterans here on campus. It is a group of surrounding Veterans that help other Veterans adjust to the college life. They are a support group and do as much as they can to help veterans feel like they can make it in the civilian life. They provide friendship and guidance to Vets as well as connections with other people in the same situations. The meeting held much information about support groups and hotlines for any suicidal Veterans. Since war experiences are very personal and can bring back a lot of emotions and harsh feelings, I was not able to learn more about every ones experience.The discussion at this event was mainly on the side effects that war can cause and relating to the emotions from that time to now. They are there to check up on the Veterans and to lend an extra ear. Attending this meeting opened me to all of the needs that Veterans have and how much the experience of war can affect their lives and the lives of people around them. It was sad to hear about the variety of feelings that were felt during the time of war and after. I was moved by everyone’s words and it touched my heart.
Another observation I took advantage of, was on campus at the Hendrix Theatre. I attended a speech from the inspiring Eric Alva. Although he is not a Vietnam Veteran, he too has suffered because of war. He was a boy at the time of the first attack on Iraq. At only nineteen he was an E-6 Supply Manager, heading towards Baghdad after they had just left Kuwait. Without any problems in Kuwait, they proceeded to enter the new country. His Squadron decided to take a rest before making the move, and Alva started prepping an MRE. Before he knew it he took a step in the sanded lot and an explosion had gone off. He was suddenly filled with fear and pain. As he looked down he saw that blood had covered his body and he could not hear or move. He had triggered a land mine and the soldiers were on guard. After a couple more bombs went off, a helicopter came to fly out the injured soldiers. Needless to say Eric Alva survived the explosion with a broken leg, a broken arm, and a deformed hand so he thought. As he looked down he noticed his right leg had been amputated above the knee. Eric Alva was the first American soldier injured in the Iraqi war and had lived to tell his story to others. Although he had a life changing experience in the Iraqi War, he was able to conclude that this war now is much different from previous wars. “It definitely is not the worst, but it definitely took the worst toll on my body”(Alva). He is an inspiring speaker and is proud of the person he is today.
From all of the resources I have used, information I have obtained, and the interviews I have held, I am able to stand by my argument that the Vietnam War was the most controversial. My interview with Mr. Gross showed me the pain of sharing those horrible memories. My interview with Alva made it easy to say that war was a devastating, life changing event. It showed the pride and courage of young soldiers and the respect they gain for serving our country. Stephanie helped me to conclude that the aftermath effects of the war still affect the familys of those who have served. She was emotional during the interview just thinking about what her father, grandfather, and great grandfather went through, not to mention her family and the wives of those gentleman. Having the opportunity to talk with these kind people not only educated me about war, it taught me how coping with personal problems can be very difficult.
In my paper I have explained the illnesses and diseases that the war had caused. Not only did this stone cold war mentally and physically changed the lives of Veterans, but it has scarred them forever. From diseases that passed down through the generations of war veteran’s children are still being affected today when the war was years ago. Agent Orange and other chemical warfare created many obstacles for Veterans as well as their families. The chemicals caused so much damage that the aftermath of war would continue for years.
In conlusion, Vietnam was one of the most controversial wars in history. With all the facts I have gathered and the knowledge I have gained from my interviewees, I am able to say that this paper has really helped me relate to Veterans and their families. Although I am not a Veteran or any of my close relatives, I do have friends and more distant relatives who have dealt with these controversies over the years. I am proud to say I am a supporter of the Veterans of Vietnam and I will forever be thankful for their time attributions during the war. This war did not cause the most debt,or have the most fatalities, but it sure did take a toll for the worst for Americans and the Vietnamese. No war will ever compare to the tragic events that took place in Vietnam. Vietnam will never be forgotten, but it will always be remembered as the traumatic, unforgettable war. The men and women of our country are well respected for their actions. Our Veterans have shaped society in to what it is today, and their actions will always be remembered as courageous, brave, and patriotic.
“Soldiers and Veterans .” Rural Assistance Center. Health and Human Services Information, 29 Aug. 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2012.
“Rules and Regulations.” Internal Revenue Service. Veteran’s Organization, 2012. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.
Haas, Werner. “The Effect of the Vietnam War on Veterans.” Yahoo Voices. N.p., 5 May 2008. Web. 23 Sept. 2012.
“Veterans’ Diseases Associated with Agent Orange.” Department of Veterans Affairs. Public Health, 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 3 Oct. 2012.
“The Story of Agent Orange.” The US Veteran Dispatch. Ed. Ted Sampley. N.p., 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 Oct. 2012.
“Postraumatic Stress Disorder.” Web MD. Diagnoses and Treatments, 10 June 2012. Web. 8 Sept. 2012.
Gross, Bud. “His experience in Vietnam.” Message to the author. 5 Oct. 2012. Web.
Durbin, Stephanie R. Personal interview. 6 Oct. 2012.