Feb. 22, 2017, is a date forever etched in my memory. That is the date my younger brother, Ralph, received his heavenly call. He was 68 years old. Ralph died of bone cancer, initially diagnosed this past Nov. 30 — Stage IV and incurable.
The cause of Ralph’s cancer was exposure to Agent Orange, which he experienced while serving in the U.S. Army in South Vietnam in 1968-69. He was one of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of our military personnel who served in the Vietnam War and had Agent Orange rained upon them routinely, myself included.
We were told then simply that it is a defoliant, intended to kill the dense jungle vegetation so prominent across South Vietnam and its neighboring countries. It doesn’t cause any harm to humans, they said. Ralph survived his tour of duty in Vietnam. He earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in the process.
The primary tribute to all who lost their lives in the Vietnam War is “The Wall.” Those who have visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington can attest to its simple beauty and striking impact. Problem is, it is an incomplete testimonial to that place and time, for it does not bear the names of all whose lives were sacrificed. The wall today lists the names of more than 58,000 U.S. military personnel. Many thousands more have joined their ranks in the ensuing years — many if not all a direct result of their service to our nation. May we never forget them as well. For they, too, paid the ultimate sacrifice.
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Ken Manno, Boalsburg