I’m one of those people who reads obituaries. I zone in on ages and wonder what caused the death of those who are in their 50s or 60s. Since my brother died of prostate cancer in his 50s as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War, I’m particularly interested in whether the person died of cancer and, if so, was it due to exposure to Agent Orange.
Hopefully, this letter will reach the families of those whose deaths were due to illnesses that resulted from exposure to Agent Orange. There is an “In Memory Honor Roll” that contains the names of Vietnam veterans whose deaths were due to this exposure.
On April 18, 2011, I attended a ceremony in Washington, D.C. in which my brother, Gregory Patrick Russell, was inducted, along with 92 others, into the “In Memory Honor Roll.” To be an honoree, one must have served in the military in Vietnam. The veteran must have died of a disease or committed suicide that was traceable to the time spent there and his or her death does not meet the Department of Defense’s criteria for being added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“The Wall”). There are more than 2,100 people on the honor roll and 58,000-plus names etched into the black granite wall.
Greg’s disease was prostate cancer that was traced to exposure to Agent Orange. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in Bennington, Vt. He served in Vietnam in 1970-1971. Greg never complained and enjoyed life to the fullest even though his disease spread and riddled his body with sores and pain. He lost the battle on Thanksgiving Day, 2010, when his body could no longer overcome pneumonia and kidney problems.
If you have a loved one who was in Vietnam and died due to complications from exposure to Agent Orange or other causes attributed to being in Vietnam, fill out an application to have him or her added to the “In Memory Honor Roll.” The ceremony gave my siblings, my sister-in-law and me yet another chance to grieve the life of this remarkable man and allowed us to meet other families who lost their loved ones, too. A description of the program and the application are on this website: http://www.vvmf.org/InMemoryProgram
I thank all the veterans for their service to our country and salute them this Veterans Day and every day.
Eileen Russell Zanarini