MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Local Vietnam veterans back two pieces of legislation in Washington for the recognition of their exposure to the toxic chemical Agent Orange.
Agent Orange was used by the American military to clear fields and destroy crops during the Vietnam War.
“We didn’t know what it would cost to the human body,” Vietnam veteran Roddy Lewis said.
“Being 18 years old, it didn’t mean nothing to me as long as I could see what I’m going after,” Vietnam veteran Bobby Tyner said.
The toxic chemical caused a host of issues for those exposed.
“I have skimming heart disease, five bypasses, I have half my lungs missing from cancer,” Tyner said.
Tyner is a representative of the Orange Heart Medal Foundation, an organization that gives Vietnam veterans experiencing one of 17 symptoms free medals recognizing their internal suffering.
One House bill would create a government program to take over the foundation’s mission.
Tyner backs the bill, saying it would allow the organization reliant on donations to expand its outreach.
“In the phone calls that we have made, we’re getting some positive out of it, but will they do anything is another question,” he said.
Tyner said he’s made 66 phone calls to congressmen on both sides of the aisle. The bill introduced last August is still in the House Committee on Armed Services.
“It seems as though all our congressmen just don’t care,” Lewis said.
The second piece of legislation the veterans support just needs the president’s signature to become law. The purpose of the PACT Act is “to improve health care and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances, and for other purposes.”
The Senate approved the bill June 16. It includes a provision recognizing the suffering and health care needs of Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange.
Lewis said the fact that the group of veterans has to fight for recognition is a slap across the face.
“We didn’t hide, run,” Lewis said. “We went willingly. So why can’t they do the small deed for us?”