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  • BWN Vets 43 Yrs Later

     

    • Tens of thousands of Navy Veterans are excluded from VA benefits related to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam war.
    • A bill making its way through Congress would extend benefits to cover blue-water Veterans, who were stationed in ships off the Vietnamese coast.
    • Early this month, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie sent a letter to lawmakers asking to stop the bill, saying its provisions are based on sympathy instead of science.
    • Veterans and their advocates are firing back, flooding the Senate with letters supporting the bill.

    Veterans groups are pushing a bill making its way through Congress that would extend VA benefits to tens of thousands US Navy Veterans who were potentially exposed to Agent Orange while serving off the coast of Vietnam. The bill is the latest glimmer of hope for Veterans who have fought for decades to receive the benefit, and would finally recognize their exposure to the toxic herbicide but come at an estimated cost of $5.5 billion to US taxpayers.

    The VA is attempting to delay this provision, saying that this vast increase in health care costs should only come after more study, which is likely to publish next year.

    "Science does not support the presumption that blue water Navy Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a letter to the Senate. The letter is yet another roadblock facing Vietnam Veterans who claim their health has suffered due to exposure.

    But the Veterans are fighting back. As of Thursday morning, Sen. Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Veterans affairs committee, has received at least three letters from advocates urging the Senate to pass the bill. They say the VA is "cherry-picking" evidence and overestimating the bill's true cost.

    Operation Ranch Hand

    Agent Orange was one of several chemical herbicides used during the Vietnam War to destroy enemy cover and food crops. Although primarily delivered via aircraft, the defoliant was also carried on vehicles, back-mounted equipment, and sprayed from ships.

    Operation Ranch Hand lasted about a decade before a scientific study reported that one of the chemicals caused birth defects in lab animals. The military stopped its use of herbicides in 1971; throughout the next decade Veterans began reporting instances of cancer and birth defects in their children.

    The legitimacy of their claims would be argued for the next 20 years, until the Agent Orange Act of 1991 directed the VA to conduct research into the chemical's potential side effects. In the decades since, Vietnam Veterans have slowly started to gain recognition of their Agent Orange exposure and its sometimes life-threatening consequences.

    As recently as 2010, the VA extended the list of diseases it would recognize as being linked to the herbicide. Just three years ago, the agency started accepting claims for Veterans who served in Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft in the post-Vietnam era.

    But since 2002, the VA took what advocates and Veterans say was a step backwards by invalidating claims presented by blue-water Veterans, saying there was no conclusive scientific evidence that the Vets, who served in warships off the coast, were ever exposed to Agent Orange.

    VA: Too much money, not enough science

    The question is whether the Veterans were exposed to the herbicide through chemical runoff that made its way into the South China Sea and was then converted into drinking water through the ships' distillation plants.

    Where the ships were located makes all the difference.

    The VA discredits arguments that US ships made water close enough to land to have used contaminated water. According to the Institute of Medicine, which is now known as the National Academy of Medicine, any chemical runoff would likely have been diluted by coastal waters before reaching the ships' intakes. But, as reported in extensive coverage by ProPublica, Veterans have said ships often distilled water well within that range.

    Surprisingly, both sides of the ordeal - the VA, which claims blue water Veterans were not exposed and Veterans advocacy groups that say they were - use the same IOM study to argue their side.

    That's because the IOM merely states it is "possible" the Navy Vets were exposed.

    The VA now says that's exactly why they should wait before extending benefits to blue-water Veterans.

    In a Senate hearing on August 1, Dr. Paul Lawrence, the VA under secretary for benefits, noted this as just one of three reasons the VA opposes the bill.

    One of the provisions would increase the fee charged to borrowers under the VA's home loan program. Lawrence said the VA is opposed to "increasing the costs that some Veterans must pay to access their benefits."

    He also maintained that the increased loan fees could not offset the costs associated with an extension of Agent Orange-related benefits. Secretary Wilkie's letter reinforced this idea, stating that Congress had underestimated the health care costs by a whopping $5.4 billion. He also argued that the addition of tens of thousands of eligible Veterans would only exacerbate an already extensive backlog of Agent Orange-related claims.

    These arguments echo one made in July, just days before the Senate hearing, by former VA Secretary and Vietnam Navy Veteran Anthony Principi. In an op-ed published in USA Today, Principi argued that Congress should stand on the side of science and pass "sensible laws that maintain the integrity of our legislative process."

    Veterans and advocates say that's 'poppycock'

    The Veterans won't face this battle alone.

    The Senate is hearing from a resounding chorus of supporters who say the VA is using a typical stall tactic.

    "These Vietnam Veterans have waited too long. It is time for us as a country to do the right thing," former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin wrote. Dr. Shulkin, who was fired by President Donald Trump in late March, said this bill is not driven by sympathy as the VA claims, but by a conscientious desire to uphold "our country's responsibility for caring for those who have borne the battle."

    Another letter, cosigned by four Veterans organizations, pointed out that it was the VA's "erroneous decision" to disqualify blue-water Veterans in the first place, and that the science is on their side.

    "The IOM found that there is not a scientific basis to exclude blue water Navy Veterans," the letter said.

    In his letter addressed to the Senate, Dr. Shulkin recognized the legitimacy of both sides of this nuanced issue.

    "The answer must not be to simply deny benefits," he wrote. "When there is a deadlock, my personal belief is that the tie should be broken in favor of the brave men and women that put their lives on the line for all of us."

    The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act soared through the House of Representatives with a vote of 382-0. When - or even if - it will become law now rests in the hands of the Senate which, as of Thursday, has yet to decide.

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  • Da Nang

     

    The dioxin contamination of soil in Da Nang was worse than expected, experts said at a conference reviewing the cleanup on Tuesday.

    The event, organized by the National Steering Committee for Post-war Clearance of Ordnance and Toxic chemicals and USAID, shared some details on dioxin cleanup at the Da Nang International Airport, a U.S. air base during the Vietnam War.

    Pham Quang Vu, head of the Air Force and Air Defense’s Military Science Division, said earlier calculations had underestimated the actual contamination at the airport.

    He said the actual amount of contaminated soil is 162,500 cubic meters and not 72,900 cubic meters as earlier estimated.

    Anthony Kolb, chief of USAID’s environmental remediation unit, explained that experts only took soil samples from the surface and from that determined the depth to which the dioxin could have penetrated.

    The dioxin had percolated three meters deeper than expected, he said at the conference in Da Nang.

    Vu said the miscalculation could be attributed to the fact this was the first time this particular technology was used to remove dioxin from the soil on such a large scale. It involves heating the contaminated soil while covering it in concrete.

    The finding could help make future dioxin assessments more accurate, especially at another ongoing cleanup project at the Bien Hoa Air Base in the southern province of Dong Nai. Bien Hoa is considered one of the worst dioxin-contaminated spots, with some 850,000 tons of soil feared contaminated.

    "We expect to cleanse 500,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil in Bien Hoa, meaning 50 hectares of land," Chung said.

    Since 2012, when the Da Nang project was initiated, it has cleaned 94,600 cubic meters of soil at the airport, reducing the dioxin level from 1,200 parts per trillion (ppt) to below 150ppt, and has placed 68,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil in the southwestern part of the airport, which contained less than 1,000ppt of dioxin, under long-term management. Dioxin concentration of 100ppt is considered high.

    Kolb of USAID said 32.4 hectares of land has been cleaned.

    "This project is the most ambitious we have ever undertaken."

    Da Nang has been off the official list of dioxin contaminated spots in Vietnam after the cleanup, Vu said.

    The cost of the work is budgeted at around $108.5 million, with $106 million coming from ODA grants.

    Vietnam still has 28 dioxin hotspots, including airports in several cities and provinces which were used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

    The government hopes to complete the task of decontaminating the country’s soil by 2030.

    Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds were contained in Agent Orange, which was sprayed by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971 to clear jungle hideouts of Vietnamese soldiers. Some 80 million liters of the deadly defoliant are said to have been sprayed over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of Vietnamese territory.

    The chemical, which stays in the soil and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations, was later found to be capable of damaging genes, causing deformities in the offspring of exposed individuals.

    The Vietnam Red Cross estimates 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases since the war.

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  • Monsanto Court Ruling

     

    Viet Nam News - HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have once again had their hopes for justice rekindled. But despite the recent landmark ruling against Monsanto in a San Francisco court, major obstacles remain on the path towards justice.

    On August 11, the US court ruled that the multinational agrochemical corporation was liable for the health issues of a former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who claims that Monsato’s weed-killer product (Roundup) contains carcinogens that cause his cancers.

    The company was ordered to pay US$289 million as compensation for past and future economic losses and punitive damages to the American citizen, in a closely watched case that bears many similarities to the legal battle waged on behalf of Vietnamese victims.

    The US chemical group Monsanto has long been associated with the Agent Orange devastation in Việt Nam.

    It was one of the main suppliers of more than 80 million litres of herbicides which contain Agent Orange that US troops sprayed over southern Việt Nam in the period from 1961-71, to clear out the dense tracts of tropical jungles that served as the hideouts of the Vietnamese military forces.

    Of the total volume, 44 million litres were Agent Orange, containing nearly 370 kilograms of dioxin. Studies have showed that only 80 grams of dioxin in the water supply system of a city of 8 million could kill off the entire population, still, Monsanto and other chemical groups insist that their products were not harmful to humans’ health.

    The Government of Việt Nam estimates that around 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic substance. Three million people have grappled with debilitating diseases including various types of cancers, neural damage and reproductive failures. Birth deformities and mental impairments continue to haunt even the third and fourth generation of descendants of those originally exposed to dioxin, fourty years after the war ended.

    Legal fight

    Quách Thành Vinh, Chief of Office and Director of Liaison Lawyers Office for the Hà Nội-based Việt Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), said that the court ruling set a fortuitous legal precedent that will help settle similar cases in which victims of chemical toxins seek compensation, including the association’s own case.

    The association filed its first class-action suit in 2004, which pinned the blame on a total of 37 US chemical manufacturers – including Dow Chemical and Monsanto. However, the case was rejected three times by American courts, which claimed that there was no legal basis for the plaintiff’s claims. The courts said that since the chemical companies produced these herbicides on request by the federal Government, they could not be held liable for their effects.

    The court also ruled that at that time, there was little concrete evidence establishing a causal relation between the herbicide Agent Orange and the health issues of the victims.

    Fortunately, recent scientific achievements have made it much easier to identify whether the illnesses were caused by the dioxin.

    In the US, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has identified 13 diseases related to Agent Orange occurring in American Veterans after their service in Việt Nam. Vietnamese-based researchers established a list of 17 diseases caused by exposure to dioxin, signed by Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến in 2008.

    In addition, as their immune systems were debilitated by the toxin, the Vietnamese victims also easily fell ill to a siege of other diseases that a healthy person could easily overcome.

    The association is gearing up for the next legal endeavours on behalf of nearly 3 million Vietnamese victims.

    But numerous American lawyers sympathetic to the cause and persistent in their pursuit of justice have urged Vietnamese plaintiffs to wait for a second lawsuit, Vinh from VAVA said.

    The enlisting of American lawyers was critical as the case involves complaints against US-based companies, according to US laws and US judges will be presiding, according to Vinh.

    “Their expertise with the US legal system and their support for us will certainly help tip the scales in our favour.”

    Next steps

    The association, aside from litigation attempts, is still tirelessly working to bring justice to the Vietnamese victims by seeking support from influential politicians, scientists and progressive-minded people across the world, and lobbying sympathetic lawmakers in the US to draft bills asking the US Government to accept responsibility for the devastation in Việt Nam as well as to take part in clean-up efforts and help the victims.

    Merle Ratner, the American co-ordinator of the US-based Việt Nam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, agreed that the ruling given by the US court holds “historical significance” and important implications.

    Frequently hailed by Vietnamese media as a faithful friend of the Vietnamese people, Ratner has been a constant presence in the years-long legal battles against chemical manufacturers.

    However, the fight against Monsanto still has a long way to go, at least until the final verdict of the appellate court is handed down, as Monsanto has already announced its intention to appeal the decision, she said in an interview.

    In 2009, an international court opened in France to deal with the AO matter and Vietnamese victims. However, both the US Government and sued companies refused to appear.

    On April 18, 2017, the Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, after six months of investigation and two days of testimony, decided that Monsanto was guilty of ecocide, causing long-term consequences on the ecosystem of various nations, including Việt Nam.

    But Monsanto rejected the ruling.

    The multinational giant, no stranger to controversy and legal suits, has always denied that it is to blame for the consequences of Agent Orange, saying that the weapon “was only produced for, and used by, the government,” and pointing out that it was just one of nine manufacturers of the same toxin supplied to the army during the period of 1965-69.

    Despite claiming blamelessness, the chemical giant still agreed to settle out of court to compensate American war Veterans who filed a class-action suit against the company with $180 million. Meanwhile, Vietnamese suffering continues to be disregarded.

    The Vietnamese Government each year spends more than VNĐ10 trillion ($431.1 million) to provide monthly allowance and cover health care and physical rehabilitation expenses for victims of Agent Orange.

    Currently, the US has organised several clean-up operations at some of their former military bases such as the Đà Nẵng airport or Biên Hoà airport, provide humanitarian assistance for people with disabilities in Việt Nam, including victims of Agent Orange, but these efforts still can not fully make up for the devastation, pain and loss that Agent Orange causes in Việt Nam.

    The Government of Việt Nam, in an official response last week, said it welcomed the $289 million verdict against Monsanto and asked that Monsanto, along with other suppliers of herbicides for the US Army during the bloody war in Việt Nam, offer proper redress for the Vietnamese victims.

    “No matter how difficult and prolonged this case might be, we won’t ever give up on it, for the sake of the millions of Vietnamese victims,” said Vinh of the Agent Orange Victims’ Association said. — VNS

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  • Vet with HBP

     

    WASHINGTON — New research linking Veterans’ high blood pressure with wartime exposure to chemical defoliants could dramatically expand federal disability benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era troops.

    The findings, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, conclude that “sufficient evidence” exists linking hypertension and related illnesses in Veterans to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.

    They recommend adding the condition to the list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, a group that includes Hodgkin’s Disease, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. That’s an upgrade from past research that showed a possible but not conclusive link between the toxic exposures and high blood pressure problems later in life.

    If Veterans Affairs officials follow through with the recommendation, it could open up new or additional disability benefits to thousands of aging Veterans who served in those areas and who are now struggling with heart problems.

    Veterans who struggle with high blood pressure issues are eligible for health care at VA facilities. But the illness is eligible for disability benefits in only select cases.

    Adding an illness to VA’s presumptive list means that Veterans applying for disability benefits need not prove that their sickness is directly connected to their time in service. Instead, they only need show that they served in areas where the defoliant was used and that they now suffer from the diseases.

    That’s a significant difference, since proving direct exposure and clear health links can be nearly impossible for ailing Veterans searching for decades-old paper records.

    A change in the designation of hypertension by VA could also add significant new costs to the department’s disability payout expenses.

    In 2010, when then Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki expanded the list of presumptive illnesses for Agent Orange exposure to include ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's, the department estimated additional costs of more than $42 billion over a decade.

    It’s unclear how many Veterans suffer from high blood pressure and would be eligible for disability payments if the change is made. In a statement, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the department “is in the process of evaluating this report and appreciates the work” of the group.

    Regardless the cost, officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars are already calling for VA officials to move ahead with adding hypertension to the list.

    “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Agent Orange made Veterans sick, it made their children sick, and it brought pain and suffering and premature death to many,” VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement. “Even though it’s been a half century since they were exposed, the results of that exposure is something they continue to live with daily.”

    Over the last year, advocates for “blue water” Navy Veterans — sailors who served in ships off the coastline of Vietnam — have been fighting with department officials over a decision to deny them presumptive status in Agent Orange related claims.

    VA officials have insisted that scientific evidence does not exist linking their illnesses to exposure to the defoliant miles away from the Vietnam mainland.

    The new study is available at the National Academies Press website.

    Source

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  • Pfc Milton L. Olive

     

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnished the first Medal of Honor (MOH) Medallion for the private headstone of Pfc. Milton L. Olive III, a decorated Vietnam-era war hero, during a ceremony Nov. 1 at West Grove Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi.

    With the passage of Public Law 114-315 on Dec. 16, 2016, Congress authorized VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA) to issue, upon request, a medallion, headstone or marker signifying a Veteran as an MOH recipient who served on or after April 6, 1917, and is buried in a private cemetery with a private headstone or marker.

    VA Secretary Robert Wilkie saluted Olive for his selfless bravery during a battle in the Vietnam conflict.

    “Private First Class Olive was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War after he heroically used his body to cover a grenade to save the life of his fellow soldiers,” Wilkie said. “The Medal of Honor Medallion illustrates VA’s commitment to ensuring all who see this symbol will know of the courageous sacrifice of our nation’s distinguished service members.”

    For information on applying for the MOH Medallion, visit this link. Information on all types of VA headstones, markers and medallions can be found at this link.

    VA operates 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico. More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve and maintain 111 Veterans cemeteries in 48 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam, and Saipan. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service.

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  • Vietnam Veterans 001

     

    I wonder how many out there lived through Vietnam. A war we couldn't win. Played out politically as much as in Southeast Asia's dense and malaria-ridden jungles. Extreme heat one day, relentless and soaking rain the next.

    Drift back 50 years. It's 1968. The week of February 11.

    The place: Vietnam. And the streets of America.

    As war raged in Vietnam, passions raged on America's streets.

    February 11 to February 17 was the deadliest of the war. The Tet Offensive it was called. I can still hear Walter Cronkite saying it. Night after night. I didn't know what Tet meant, but I knew the offensive was very bad.

    North Vietnam and the Viet Cong staged surprise attacks at military and civilian command centers. Turns out it was named after the Vietnamese New Year - the day the attacks were launched.

    Dead Americans: 543. Wounded: 2,547.

    Many, maybe most, were convinced the war was lost in '68. College campuses exploded and pro- and anti-war protestors battled on the streets of America. The White House and Lyndon Johnson were in crisis mode.

    Meanwhile, by the end of 1968, 16,592 American soldiers were dead.

    That's a slice of the horror our men and women in Vietnam experienced.

    The last American troops left on March 29, 1973.

    Fifty-eight-thousand-two-hundred-twenty Americans didn't make it home with them.

    No Hero's Welcome for those who did. Americans took out their hatred for the war on them. Veterans were spat upon. Assaulted. Cursed. Treated like the enemy. "Those who died deserved to die," bitter Americans shouted at them.

    Drift back home, to 2018.

    Frank Siller is a Staten Island guy who does good things. You might have heard of his brother, Stephen. Frank was supposed to play golf with his off-duty firefighter brother on Sept. 11, 2001. Except he didn't because Stephen had the guts to forget he had the day off and run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to save lives at a flaming World Trade Center, only to lose his own.

    Frank and his family turned that horrible loss into an organization - the Tunnel to Towers Foundation - that does good things.

    Vietnam is 8,653 miles from Staten Island. But the place lives in the minds of many Staten Islanders still today. It lives within 85 families who lost a Staten Island son in Vietnam. It lives in the minds of Staten Island Viet Veterans fortunate to come home, thought to be about 1,000.

    Frank wants Staten Island Vietnam Veterans to know we care, and salute what they did for their country, when their country challenged them to serve. He is using his annual Veterans' Day Golf Classic & Dinner to do just that.

    This year, Veterans' Day is a Sunday so Frank is doing his event the following day, Monday, Nov. 12.

    He wants every Vietnam Veteran on Staten Island to attend. Frank and his team have been working with Veterans groups like the Marine Corps League and Tori Chapter, Vietnam Veterans of America, to spread the word.

    I'm writing this note to Staten Island to do the same. If you know a Veteran, share this. If you know a family who lost their hero in the war, share this. If you are a Veteran, come Nov. 12. There's a very special price break for Veterans who want to play golf, or just go to the dinner in the Hilton Garden Inn.

    Veterans - or anyone who wants to attend to salute them - can call or email Gene DiGiacomo at 917-693-7834 or /My%20Documents/VFC%20Newsletters/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Gene will give you all the particulars.

    What makes this year's event extra special is that money raised goes toward building "smart homes" for catastrophically injured service members.

    The Sillers are slated to build a "smart home" for a Staten Island Vietnam Veteran - Sgt. Michael Sulsona, the first Vietnam Vet to get one. It'll be in New Dorp.

    A "smart home" is designed so a Veteran in a wheelchair, for example, can function easily through how the home is designed with specially designed appliances.

    And it is totally mortgage-free.

    Sgt. Sulsona stepped on a land mine in Vietnam in 1971. He lost both legs above the knees.

    But he survived. And because he did, he went on to get a master's degree, has written 23 plays, many of them award-winners, appeared in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July," and now is an ambassador for Tunnel to Towers, providing guidance to other injured service members.

    That's why the Nov. 12 event is so important. Without the support of giants like Home Depot and General Motors and without the support of Staten Islanders like you, people like Staten Island's Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Sulsona, who gave of himself to our country because our country called, might erase the sad homecoming Vietnam Veterans received so many years ago.

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  • VN War Mem Vandalized

     

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - A vandal in San Jose has defaced a memorial dedicated to honor local fallen heroes of the Vietnam War. The “Sons of San Jose” memorial is located on West Santa Clara Street, near the SAP Center.

    Whoever defaced the memorial used some sort of paint, that's etched into the black granite. It will likely cost thousands of dollars to restore it back to its original state.

    Mike Salas served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He’s part of the San Jose War Memorial Foundation, which helped erect the monument.

    “These are sacred grounds,” said Salas. “This is where people come to have closure and it should be left alone.”

    Salas rushed over Sunday morning as soon as he heard a vandal tagged the front panel sometime overnight Saturday.

    “If they only understood the cost of freedom and the cost of courage that these men died for so they can be out here, they wouldn't touch it,” said Salas.

    Dennis Fernandez is the foundation's president. He also served in Vietnam in the U.S. Army. He said, the memorial was erected in 2013 to recognize 142 servicemen from San Jose. It cost almost half a million dollars from in-kind donations.

    “I’m hurt both for all the work that's been put into it and for not respecting those people that are on that wall and their families who are still here. It's a slap in the face,” said Fernandez.

    The vandalism comes as the country is in mourning over the passing of Senator John McCain, a celebrated Vietnam War hero.

    “I don't think there's any correlation between the two,” said Fernandez. “I just think it's some gang bangers. They knew that was facing the street. My guess is that they don't even know there was a Vietnam War. “

    Eight of the fallen were classmates of Salas's and Fernandez’s at San Jose High School. The foundation hopes to have it repaired by Veteran’s Day.

    “When I look at this, I’m representing the names,” said Salas. “I get angry inside. It hurts.”

    Two years ago, a vandal slapped red paint on the memorial costing $3,000 to fix it. Anyone who wants to help donate can contact the foundation at www.sjwarmemorial.com.

    Source

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  • VNV Donates Kidney

     

    Two Vietnam Veterans who reunited nearly 50 years after they served in the Air Force together now share more than war stories.

    Doug Coffman donated a kidney to Jim McGee on Tuesday, just three months after they reunited since last seeing each other in 1971 at training in California, FOX5DC reported. The two U.S. airmen were catching up at a memorial service for a fellow Vietnam Veteran when Coffman learned McGee needed a new kidney.

    “We have not seen each other face-to-face until we met in Monterey [California] about three months ago, which was an excellent time," McGee told FOX5DC. "Doug, at that point, volunteered a kidney, and to me, it's the gift of life."

    McGee — a retired foreign service officer from Florida and former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe and Madagascar — underwent dialysis three times per week while waiting for a new kidney. He added that he could’ve waited another three to five years if he didn’t reconnect with Coffman.

    "Our blood and tissue type match is good," Coffman said. "And to me, it just is living proof that we're all part of one human family. The chances of our match — I don't know what the odds were, but we beat them."

    Coffman and McGee were admitted MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and underwent the operation on Tuesday. The surgeon said Coffman, 70, had kidneys “like a 35-year-old.”

    McGee told FOX5DC that he’s grateful for the kidney transplant.

    "It means that I can continue the things that I'm so passionate about trying to move ahead," McGee said, about the operation. "One of the things that I'm most passionate about right now is making certain that everyone understands that there's a national crisis — 100,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants, another 15,000 for liver transplants.

    “It's people like Doug who stepped forward and make the difference. That's the real story here today,” he said.

    Source

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