DES MOINES, Iowa — The Vietnam War claimed the lives of more than 800 Iowans. Local veterans hope a special event Wednesday can also honor the soldiers who died years later or are still feeling the deadly effects of a toxin used in combat.
“On the Iowa Vietnam Wall there are 868 combat-related deaths. Their names get on the wall because it is combat-related but along with it we have a tremendous amount of veterans that have died from health issues due to the presumption of Agent Orange and they are not recognized in the same way,” said Dan Gannon, a Vietnam veteran with the Des Moines Chapter of Disabled American Veterans.
It is believed that the herbicide Agent Orange was first used on August 10th, 1961. Agent Orange Awareness Day is a national event each year on August 10th paying tribute to the veterans that developed illnesses, diseases, and cancers from the exposure to Agent Orange.
Gannon served in Vietnam in the United States Marines. After the war, he beat cancer caused by Agent Orange.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are currently 19 presumptive diseases veterans can qualify for. Two were just added this year and the Des Moines Disabled American Veterans hopes the event Wednesday night near the State Capitol can raise awareness and help families and veterans get the medical help they need.
Gannon said, “One is a blood type disease it is a rare one but the big one added is hypertension. Now there are 19 different illnesses and diseases and cancers caused by Agent Orange and those are presumptive. If you served any place in Vietnam it is accepted you can file for any of those cancers or illnesses if you have those health issues.”
The event is Wednesday night from 7:00 to 9:00 at the Vietnam Wall on the State Capitol complex grounds. It is free to attend and guests are asked to bring their own chairs.