Recognizing Agent Orange Awareness Month

When the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., in 1982, it was inscribed with the names of 57,939 members of U.S. armed forces who had died or were missing as a result of the war.

The toll of the Vietnam War was immense, and it continues to grow even today.

Thousands of Vietnam War veterans have died as a result of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides, and thousands more still suffer from cancer and other health disorders caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Veterans with Agent Orange-related health problems live with the knowledge that genetic damage resulting from exposure to Agent Orange may be handed down through generations.

I have signed on to legislation to designate October 2020 as “Agent Orange Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States military developed Agent Orange and other herbicide combinations for use in combat operations to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that provided enemy cover. The name Agent Orange comes from the orange identifying stripes that were used on the 55-gallon drums in which the herbicide was stored. Approximately 19 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides were used during the Vietnam War.

An estimated 172,000 Pennsylvanians directly participated in the Vietnam War.

During the Vietnam War, the ratio of Black combat troops to white combat troops was double that for the U.S. population. Their rate of combat death was likewise higher. At the same time, there were disproportionately fewer Black people serving as officers — they were 5% of the officers but 10% of all Army troops.

Black troops who served on the front lines were put in harm’s way of this chemical agent.