Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

June 26, 2013

Agent Orange also affects veterans’ families

Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance Inc., is an organization that was founded to address the specialized needs of the children and grand children of Vietnam Veterans who have been negatively affected by their parent’s exposure to the herbicide, Agent Orange, during the Vietnam war.

They educate veterans, their families, the general public, and lawmakers about Agent Orange and its negative effect on lives.

COVVHA was founded by two children of Vietnam Veterans, Heather A. Bowser and Kelly L. Derricks. Both of their lives have been significantly affected by Agent Orange.

Derricks lost her father, Harry C. Mackel (Philadelphia) at age 7 due to Agent Orange illnesses. Kelly currently suffers from 28 unexplained illnesses that forced her to retire from her career in the mental health field.

Bowser was born with several birth defects, including missing her right leg below the knee, several of her fingers, and big toe on her left foot. Her father, Bill A. Morris (Steubenville, Ohio), is also deceased.

Bowser’s father had five bypasses on his heart at age 38, subsequently he died at age 50, from a massive heart attack. His death was service related due to his Agent Orange exposure.

We founded COVVHA because many needs are not being met in their peer group. The most pressing is the U.S. government’s denial of the devastating birth defects and illnesses in the children of male Vietnam veterans.

Currently, the government acknowledges 18-plus birth defects in the children of female Vietnam Veterans. They only acknowledge one birth defect in the children of male Vietnam veterans, spina bifida. We feel this is discrimination. Due to the hundreds of reports of similar birth defects and illness.

COVVHA has built a private support community for only children of Vietnam Veterans. It has 700 members. It educates and supports each other in this group.

We want members to understand they are not alone. Many members have lost, or are in the process of losing their Vietnam Veteran, plus they are dealing with birth defects or unexplained illnesses.

COVVHA is seeing an influx of children of Vietnam Veterans researching Agent Orange because their child, the grandchild of the Vietnam Veteran has been born with an issue, or suddenly has a rare illness.

COVVHA deals with a lot of issues, like grief, living with chronic illness, anger and the like. The group enjoys each other’s company. Many members find similar anecdotes of what it was like growing up with a Vietnam Veteran.

COVVHA is involved in supporting international efforts in cleaning up, and disclosing locations of buried herbicide.

Bowser has traveled three times to Vietnam. She has visited several of the most poisonous hot spots still contaminated with Agent Orange in Vietnam.

She collaborates her efforts with organizations in Vietnam who support the ongoing health care of the Vietnamese children who are being born today with birth defects due to their parents or grandparents exposure, and the continued environmental pollutants.

Recently, Bowser traveled to Okinawa, Japan to educate those seeking answers about reports that Agent Orange herbicide was stored, used and buried on the island of Okinawa.

Building community with those internationally who may have suffered due to Agent Orange is very important to the organization.

COVVHA seeks unity with all who have been affected by Agent Orange dioxin so the community may build strength in numbers and have their voices heard by those who make decisions. Website: www.CovvHa.net - Email: COVVHA@gmail.com

Kelly L. Derricks, Langhorne, Pa.

Heather A. Bowser, Kittanning, Pa.

Founders, national coordinators, Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance Inc.

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