The federal government owes the Guam community, and veterans who served here, a full investigation into whether Agent Orange was used on Guam during the Vietnam War.
The Veterans Administration recognizes more than a dozen “health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service,” according to its website, including chronic B-cell leukemias, Hodgkin lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, respiratory cancer and prostate cancer, among others.
Last week, two Air Force veterans who served on Guam during the 1960s and 1970s said Agent Orange was used here. Leroy Foster, 68, told a Florida news station that he sprayed the herbicide while serving on Andersen Air Force Base. Gerard Laitres, 72, who was stationed at Andersen Air Force Base from September 1963 to March 1965, also said the defoliant was used on Guam.
Guam was a transshipment point for the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange and other chemicals were stored here before being shipped to Vietnam. However, Agent Orange's use on Guam has never been officially verified.
That lack of verification means veterans with health problems related to Agent Orange who served on Guam could be denied benefits they rightly deserve.
Guam Del. Madeleine Bordallo has requested a briefing from the military on the handling of Agent Orange at Andersen Air Force Base. But this community, and the nation’s veterans, requires more.
What’s needed is a full investigation into the reports by veterans that Agent Orange was used on Guam. It should be conducted by a federal body outside of the military, perhaps the Environmental Protection Agency, to better ensure full disclosure and transparency.
If it’s determined Agent Orange was used here, the Veterans Administration must follow through and ensure veterans exposed to the herbicide on Guam get the treatment and other benefits they are due.