‘Doctors weren’t sure if I’d live or die’: Man born disabled after Vietnam vet father got exposed to Agent Orange talks to RT
Josh Kelley was born with serious birth defects after his US Marine father was exposed to Agent Orange, a highly toxic chemical Americans sprayed in Vietnam. He told RT how the war has taken a toll on his whole life.
Kelley was born in 1975, two years after the last-remaining American soldiers left Vietnam. The boy had both arms missing at the elbow down, and his left leg was missing from the knee down.
The hospital that I was born in had never seen anything like that before, so they weren’t sure if I was going to live or die.
“Immediately after I was born, they took me from my mom and flew me to Denver, Colorado. They put me in an incubator with all kinds of needles and monitors,” Kelley told RT. “I spent most of my childhood going in and out of doctors’ offices.”
“It’s made my life pretty difficult growing up because I had to adjust to everything,” he said, recalling how he had to endure bullying in school and struggled to find a job.
In Vietnam, the US Air Force sprayed a toxic chemical known as Agent Orange to destroy plant life on the ground so Viet Cong communist fighters could not hide in the jungle. American troops and locals who were exposed to the toxin developed illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders.
According to some estimates, over 13% of US veterans who sprayed, handled or were sprayed with Agent Orange reported having a child with birth defects born during or after the war. Children with disabilities linked to the chemical have been born in Vietnam, as well as in neighboring Laos, where poisonous herbicides were also used by the Americans.
Josh said his father Daniel Kelley, a US Marine stationed in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, suffered from PTSD. “I believe that the birth defects that I have caused him to feel like he was responsible for it.”
But Kelley blames the US government and Monsanto, one of the manufacturers of Agent Orange, rather than the military. The troops were “just following orders” and had no say in the matter, he believes.
Kelley had visited Vietnam’s Bien Hoa Air Base, which was used by the US during the war.
Agent Orange was still so strong there that you could taste it in the air. And 1972 was the last time they sprayed it.
“They tried to put trees in the ground. And the trees within a couple of weeks would just turn black like they were on fire and die,” he said.
The US began its herbicide warfare in Vietnam exactly 60 years ago in August 1961. In the 1980s, companies involved in the production of Agent Orange agreed to set up a fund for US veterans and their families. Washington has also paid over $100 million in assistance to disabled Vietnamese since 1989, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, and runs a program to help Vietnam re-cultivate contaminated soil.
However, John Wells of the Military Advocacy Group told RT on Tuesday that the US government is too slow in processing the tens of thousands of claims filed by the victims of Agent Orange who seek benefits.Also on rt.com 60 years after use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, US still fails to recognize all its victims even among own troops, veteran tells RT
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