August 1 marks the start of Agent Orange Awareness Month.
What is Agent Orange? And why is there an entire month dedicated to the remembrance of it?
The answer begins back in 1961.
December 1961, the Kennedy administration approved the testing of Agent Orange on foliage. In 1962, Operation Ranch Hand began with the U.S. Air Force using “Agent Orange” to defoliate enemy territory. This continued from 1962 through the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Throughout this almost ten-year period the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of the herbicide across Vietnam.
“Agent Orange” accounted for over half of those herbicide defoliants.
Hundreds of U.S. service members as well as Vietnam civilians were exposed to the toxin and later would develop dangerous side effects.
When veterans began approaching the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) with unusual health problems, President Jimmy Carter then authorized the VA to research the issues. It was discovered that exposure to “Agent Orange” was the root of it, and thus it was recognized as a health crisis.
The VA began taking urgent steps to care for veterans with exposure to “Agent Orange”.
Additionally, the U.S. government began efforts to help combat agent orange side effects in Vietnam.
Through the years, Agent Orange has claimed the lives of countless Vietnam veterans, and even though medical help has improved, it is still one of the leading causes of death for Vietnam veterans.
In honor of Agent Orange Awareness Month, the Arkansas Air and Military Museum will be posting special blogs about the Vietnam War and the Veterans who served.