To the Editor:
It never ends. Agent Orange destroys everything in its shadow. I was told once “Kelly, I’m sorry, but your father never had a chance.”
He died only one month after turning 37 in 1982. I was the 7-year-old, only child, he left behind. It appears to me now that I never had a chance either.
Recently, a University of Oregon student was interviewing me about Agent Orange for an assignment. She asked one final question, “What aspect of your childhood did Agent Orange have the most impact?”
The painful memory that formed my answer flashed in front of me. My father died when I was in second grade, one day on the bus going home from school, a girl started arguing with me.
As the bus began to make its turn to my stop, I began moving to the front so that I could get off and escape her harassment. I didn’t know in the 10 seconds to follow that turn, I would want to run for my life and never stop.
The last words that came from my tormentor’s mouth would pierce my eardrums for the rest of my life, “Hey Kelly, at least I still have a father.”
I answered my interviewer question solemnly, “in every way, shape, and form of my childhood, my father’s death is what impacted me the most in regards to Agent Orange.”
Life events like graduating high school, college, my first job, and my wedding all missed an important piece of the puzzle, my father. Every choice, every decision, every twist, every turn, every illness, every fear, every tear, every relationship, were affected.
There’s nothing, not one moment, of my life that hasn’t been impacted by Agent Orange and the death of my father.
I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m sick , and at age 38 and I’m fighting a physical war with my own body everyday because of my father’s Agent Orange exposure.
Long after the protests, boots on the ground, and clearing of the jungles have ended, I am still fighting the Vietnam War.
Agent Orange, the defoliant used to clear the jungles of Vietnam so our soldiers could have an “advantage over the enemy”, is continuing to destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of children of Vietnam Veterans like me.
In my father’s obituary, he is as quoted as saying, he knew he had a bomb ticking inside of him.
He knew the bomb was Agent Orange. He knew. I know. We all know.
Millions of us know all over the world and yet, until the United States Government publicly states they knew, and take responsibility, we will continue spinning on this never ending hamster wheel of life, the life of Agent Orange.
I co-founded the organization (COVVHA) Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance Inc., with Heather A. Bowser, also a child of a deceased Vietnam Veteran.
We will never stop fighting for the millions of us that are sick and dying because of Agent Orange and Dioxin exposure.
There are veterans, their children like me, and the innocent all over this world who have been affected by this nightmare. We suffer unacknowledged, without support watching our loved ones die.
Agent Orange is a colorless, silent, ruthless killer. It is by every definition of the word, a murderer, a serial killer.
In essence, those of us still living are walking crime scenes.
I maybe a walking, breathing human being but, Agent Orange murdered the very best of me on Oct. 14, 1982, the same date it murdered my father, Harry C. Mackel Jr.
Kelly L. Derricks
(COVVHA) Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance Inc.