MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa -- The Vietnam War may have ended decades ago, but many American veterans are still feeling the effects as Agent Orange and other chemicals used in the conflict continue to have deadly consequences on their bodies and the bodies of their loved ones.
“It’s unbelievable what’s happening to our children and grandchildren, and in some instances already, our great grandchildren. We believe genetically we passed that on when we came home from Vietnam when it was in our blood,” said Maynard Kaderlik, Chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Committee.
The chemical was used to kill jungle vegetation and expose the enemy, but it had unintended consequences. According to the VA, there are 14 diseases associated with Agent Orange including prostate cancer, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and others. Many of them showing themselves in the veteran's family tree.
“Some veterans blame themselves, which they can’t blame themselves. I tell them, don't blame yourself. You didn't come up with this mixture or even test it. The government did,” said Kaderlik.
Leaders say reminding the government of that fact is one of the main objectives of these town halls. Veterans say they must continue fighting to make sure government research on Agent Orange stays funded.
“We're all quick to say thank you to our veterans, but sometimes, when it comes to the cost of the veteran, it changes” said Dan Gannon, Chair of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs.
There was a big push for funding in 2016, and veteran leaders say things have improved but can always be better.
“I think funding has gotten better, but the VA takes a lot of bad hits because they're not fully funded,” said Gannon.
In addition, they were able to get a bill passed that directs the VA to conduct research into how Agent Orange affects the children and grandchildren of Vietnam vets. While those are improvements, vets say they have to keep making their voices heard.
“We have to keep talking. Once we quit talking or doing these activities like we're doing here, then we feel it'll be forgotten,” said Gannon.
Leaders at the town hall say they are closely monitoring some of the veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq after they were exposed to their own slew of toxins like oil fires fumes.