Entries for September, 2014

VVA165 Hosts Very Successful Agent Orange Town Hall Meeting

VVA Chapter 165 of Bellingham held a Town Hall meeting on the “Faces of Agent Orange” on Friday, September 19th which almost overwhelmed the auditorium at the St. Luke’s Health, Education Community Center in Bellingham. Just over 300 attendees from BC to Whatcom and Skagit Counties and even as far away as Lacey came to hear compelling testimonials on Vietnam Veterans who themselves and children alike suffer from the effects of Agent Orange.

After appropriate introductions were made , which included honoring the POW / MIA national recognition day, the audience had the unique opportunity to hear from Jack McManus who himself was a crew chief in Operation Ranch Hand which sprayed the chemical dioxin known as Agent Orange during the peak years of dispersion — ’67-’68. The effects of Agent Orange that he not only incurred but what he saw as impact on the troops who came into contact with the substance –  paved a road that led him to do further research over the years into what has been recognized as a medical travesty to Veteran’s and their families. His understanding of the situation and issues along with his strong advocacy to “right” the situation has helped lead VVA National to be the foremost Veteran organization in helping to create legislation on toxic exposure research and military family support. He captivated the audience.

The other guest speaker who was great to have present was the Founder of the AVVA – Nancy Switzer. A wife of a Vietnam Vet impacted by Agent Orange himself, led to effects that have since transcended to her daughter, son and grandchildren. Her heartfelt experiences and determination to “do something about the impact” given her nursing background has since created an outspoken advocate for Veterans suffering from the effects of agent orange and the impact on their families. She is the Chairman of the AVVA Agent Orange Committee and is also a longtime advisor to the Vietnam Veterans of America legislative and health committees. Her story was  captivating as well and was  followed by a video of recent Senate legislation presented from Senator Moran of Kansas S. 2738 – Toxic Exposure Research Act of 2014.

There were over 35 testimonials that were registered or just over 10% of the attendees. Besides Vietnam Veterans offering testimony, there were numerous wives who provided testimony along with several children of Vets who told there story of impacting developments on themselves.

After the meeting was concluded, many positive comments in holding this type of town hall format were taken in by the members of our chapter who themselves were very highly motivated in making this event a successful outreach to the veteran community. We can attribute the success of this event in the support VVA National provided. There have now been over 110 town hall meetings around the country and we were the 111th – some say a lucky number — but as Nancy Switzer said (who has attended many of these meetings) probably one of the highest attended Town Hall meetings she has seen – and the quality of testimonials was tremendous. We will be supplying VVA National with some good solid information on “getting the word out” and “Vets helping Vets”.