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March/april 2010

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HR 2254, the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, is languishing in the House of Representatives. It would provide benefits for veterans who served in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Guam. These are Air Force veterans who were in the air space above Vietnam and Navy veterans who served in the waters around Vietnam. We, the widows, join our veterans, who are suffering illnesses and disease due to the Pentagon’s decision to use a rainbow of herbicides with full knowledge of the outcome, in demanding that this bill come to the floor of the House of Representatives.

We, the widows, have suffered the consequences of exposure to Agent Orange for longer than you will ever know. Our husbands returned to this country with no government support system. We nurtured them through the anger, the nightmares, the lifelong stomach problems, the mood swings, and the symptoms of what we now know to be Agent Orange-related illnesses. We lost our loving husbands, our lifelong companions. Our children lost their fathers and our young grandchildren will never experience that special love that only a grandfather can bestow.

When our children were born with structural birth defects never heard of in our families, we had no idea that Agent Orange was the cause. It wasn’t until several months after my husband’s death that I tripped over a web site with a list of birth defects caused by exposure to Agent Orange. 

Our veterans who served outside of the country of Vietnam are required to prove “boots on the ground.” My husband (like many others) was in Saigon for several days prior to his arrival in U-Tapao, Thailand. He also flew in and out of Vietnam frequently. In 2008, many months after my husband’s death, I found out that Agent Orange was used on virtually every air base in Thailand to quell vegetation growth. The bases, including living quarters in Thailand, were extensively sprayed with Malathion for mosquitoes.

Please contact your congressional representatives to demand action on HR 2254 now.

Rita D’Ottavio
York, Pennsylvania


The last two issues of The VVA Veteran have mentioned times when veterans’ ashes or graves have not received the respect they deserve. I am writing to tell about the other side.

I am a member of VVA in Akron, Ohio, and a member of the Summit County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. The Cemetery Chair took on a project to list all veterans buried in Summit County cemeteries. The CD listing those names, along with conflict, rank, branch, unit, cemetery (including grave location, if known), and remarks (battles and awards) was issued in May 2008.

As a Vietnam veteran, I volunteered to take over the project. Another member clips the obituaries from the paper and gives them to me to enter. The state of Ohio provides lists of deceased veterans, which I enter. Also, since the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery is about ten miles outside of Summit County and many veterans choose to be buried there, I insisted that those veterans be included, especially since we include those who are MIA, KIA, and whose bodies were never recovered.

The Veteran Honor Roll spreadsheet has 64,000 names. Unfortunately, the list is growing quickly as World War II and Korean War veterans reach old age. There also are those who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. After an article on our project appeared in the Akron paper, many people wrote for additional information. An updated CD with the information probably will be issued in 2011.

Howland Davis
Akron, Ohio


I’ve spent a lot of time recently at the West Los Angeles VAMC. I’m studying the facility and dealing with my own arthritis, high blood pressure, and other advanced age symptoms. Many of those symptoms have been minimized due to my loss of almost thirty pounds in the last six months. My knee pain and blood pressure is down and even my prostate seems improved.

Which brings me to an important observation: The VA is overwhelmed with veterans like I was, overweight and neglecting their health. My weight was aggravating my arthritis and causing me to take so many drugs that my blood pressure was high and I had to take more drugs for it. I cannot explain why my prostate gives me fewer problems now, but I think it’s associated. Being overweight caused me to take three drugs with all their side effects.

How can we older veterans say we want the returning vets to get the care they deserve when we neglect our health and overwhelm the system with our own care? If we would take some responsibility for our own health and keep our weight down, it would do more to take pressure off the VA health care system than all the complaining and protesting would. This, of course, also applies to the larger health care system. If everyone stayed as fit as Barack Obama and George W. Bush, we would have fewer health care problems (I’m bipartisan, too).

Lane Anderson
Long Beach, California


Sometime in the 1960s my cousin, his wife, and their very young son went from Rhode Island to Alaska to take some courses at the University of Alaska. While there, they adopted a Tlingit baby girl who had been born in 1967. She grew up in Rhode Island, married, and now has two kids of her own.

I plan to send copies of the last issue of The VVA Veteran with the article, “Universes in Wood,” to my cousin, to his American-born son, and to his daughter so that they can learn more about their Tlingit ancestors and about the service that some present-day Tlingits have given to the U.S.A.

Al Willand
By Email


On Friday night, January 29, I read the January/February issue, and was upset with the Letter to the Editor about Bay Pines Cemetery. I sent a letter to my Congressman, Bill Young. Enclosed is his response, which I received on February 2. I still don’t understand why the construction vehicle couldn’t go around the cemetery.

Charles Farrell
St. Petersburg, Florida

Editor’s note: What follows is a lightly edited letter VVA member Farrell received from U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.).

The following information is provided to address the concerns you expressed in your letter regarding the condition of the Bay Pines National Cemetery. This information was provided by the Director, Florida National Cemetery, in response to a previous inquiry I submitted.

The cemetery is undergoing a renovation that has been underway for almost three years. The project involves replacing the turf, and raising and realigning all of the flat markers. During the course of this project, the flat markers are removed from each burial section, cleaned and returned to their original location. Because each section has been carefully measured and surveyed before the project began, we are able to restore each marker to its precise gravesite location.

Our goal is to honor every Veteran interred at Bay Pines National Cemetery by maintaining the cemetery as a national shrine. In fulfillment of our mandate under Public Law 106-117, each flat marker is restored to its proper gravesite location using a semi-permanent foundation system that will maintain the marker’s depth and alignment for years to come. In addition, the turf is being replaced throughout the cemetery.

We have instituted a policy to ensure that the burial sections are dressed and ready for viewing at the end of each workday. In addition, on weekends, all gravesites undergoing renovation will have temporary markers installed to enable visitors to locate their loved one’s grave.

The equipment used in the burial sections under renovation comprises light utility vehicles, similar to the equipment used to mow and maintain the turf throughout the year. Rest assured that no gravesites or remains are disturbed by this type of equipment.

We strive to maintain the cemetery as a national shrine, a place of honor and memory in which each and every Veteran may find a sense of serenity, historic sacrifice and nobility of purpose.


I heard about President Obama’s proposal to end homelessness among veterans. I fear you are correct (“Government Affairs,” January/February) that for some there will be no change. I was homeless for over nineteen years. Also being 100 percent disabled, I am always on the edge of homelessness.

Veterans just want a home that is safe and up to code. I have tried several agencies whose staffs would not help the dear Lord Jesus find a decent home. I have been played by an unscrupulous landlord in order to stay in a 1969 FEMA compact trailer with plumbing leaking, floors giving, and no underpinning.

I was better off in a dumpster because my family is suffering and my credit is not so good. What have I done to be denied a decent dwelling?

Paul Blecke
Avinger, Texas


David Willson’s article in the November/ December issue exposes the VA’s policy in dealing with veterans who make a claim. That policy seems to put as many obstacles as possible before the veteran. Some of these obstacles have very little to do with the veteran’s claim. That policy requires VA staff to be as unhelpful and uncooperative as possible toward the veteran while his claim is being processed. And, most importantly, delay, delay, and delay the veteran’s claim at every chance.

These tactics are used by the VA in the hope that the veteran will give up and withdraw his claim. Or better yet, that the veteran will die while his claim is being processed and it will be made redundant.

Make no mistake: The VA is not a friend of any veteran who lodges a claim.

W.G. Handlin
Woy Woy, New South Wales



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