I'm just one of our approximately 1500 C-123 veterans, and except for conversations with a few other guys such as Paul Bailey and John Harris, I only have Paul's spreadsheet of our veterans and their illnesses to judge by.
But it seems to me I have a full plate of boo-boos, with no way of knowing if any or all are the result of flying our dioxon-contaminated C-123K or my service elsewhere such as Panama, the Azores or the Gulf War or other weird and mysterious places we've flown to. And naturally, trusting in all the VA tells me, I accept that there is no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome, but I do have the following:
- heart disease
- spinal cord injury (traumatic, not disease process, cervical and lumbar)
- prostate cancer
- perhiperial neuropathy
- skin sores
- temporal arteritus
- sleep apnea
- and today's new addition, avascular necrosis (bone cell death) - it seems from what I learned today this likely won't kill me but it is going to be very, very uncomfortable requiring some tough surgeries, and increasingly incapacitating from now on
Again, I'm just one guy. Most of our C-123 veterans that we've located seem to have one or more of the typical Agent Orange-related illnesses, and many have passed. Diseases like soft tissue sarcoma, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lymphoma, heart muscle cancer, Parkinson's, heart disease, ALS...we do seem to have more than our share. Especially considering we began with a healthy working population of flyers, receiving at least annual physicals, subject to drug and weight monitoring, receiving excellent health care, above average incomes and education, etc. We don't have enough veterans to construct any sort of useful epidemiological study, but just anecdotal information seems bad enough.
But I'm blessed. I am retired Air Force and already 100% VA disabled for spinal cord injury, so my medical issues are not financial issues because I can turn to Medicare, TriCare or the VA for treatment and medication and I only have to focus on getting better. Too many of our crew mates, however, are denied VA medical care and didn't retire from the military...they're faced with the financial burden as well as the medical struggle dealing with Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses.
This must change. It can only change with the VA acknowledging that our aircraft were heavily contaminated with dioxin, and that we were exposed to TCDD! My crappy attitude today can't be claimed on Agent Orange, but I believe these other things possibly should be. Or maybe it was that stuff from my drive past Area 51.
Perhaps the VA will suggest next we're sickened by that good old catch-all from the pre-science days of medicine, vapors!
Conclusion: we need all C-123 veterans to contact LtCol Paul Bailey to complete a ten second health statement so we can understand who is healthy, and who isn't and with what illnesses. Paul's email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Conclusion #2: we need all C-123 veterans to call the Agent Orange Registry for a comprehensive exam, whether you are ill or not. Take care of yourselves...and each other!