ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — In 2017, retired Air Force Sgt. LeRoy Foster had a story he needed to tell. Foster had been stationed on the island of Guam during the Vietnam War and personally sprayed the herbicide known as Agent Orange. That spraying, Foster said, is what led to him being bound to a wheelchair and having cancer.
Less than a year later, he passed away.
For Vietnam veterans, the treatment for Agent Orange exposure depends on where they were during the war. Since 1991, Congress has covered veterans who were in Vietnam, but denied those who were stationed in Guam, saying there was no Agent Orange used on the island.
“Once per month or so during the heavy season with the growth of the jungle, they would send crews around and spray (to) get the jungle back away from our compound, and that was maybe 100 yards long,” says Navy vet Frank Ross. “According to the information that the DOD (Department of Defense) put out, if you were within 400 yards of that stuff, you were exposed.”
Ross, like many of his fellow veterans, is now fighting cancer.
“I have lost both kidneys, my bladder, my prostate all to cancer and I’ve put in a request for service disability, and they asked me to prove it; but how do you prove something that happened 50 years ago?,” asks Ross.
For Vietnam veterans like Ross, time is running out. Over the years, veterans who served in Guam have repeatedly asked Congress to recognize their exposure to Agent Orange, but nothing has happened.
“We’re approaching another election cycle, and here we have all of our elected officials, and with the exception of one who sent a representative, none are here,” said Marine Corps veteran Brian Moyer, who recently organized a meeting of vets to discuss agent orange exposure on Guam.
Moyer sent invitations to Florida’s entire Congressional delegation, as well as all of the members of the House Armed Services Committee. With the exception of Florida state Rep. Dan Webster, who sent a staff member to the meeting, none of the other representatives or senators attended or sent staff members.
“It is unfortunate to say this, but in many ways I feel that Congress has betrayed us,” says Moyer.